Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Archive for May 11th, 2017

Protect Our EU Citizenship Rights

Posted by jonathanfryer on Thursday, 11th May, 2017

Retaining European CitizenshipThis morning I was contacted by a lady living in France who is registered to vote in the UK constituency of Dagenham & Rainham where I am standing as the Liberal Democrat candidate in next month’s general election. I suspect she will be the first of many, as hundreds of thousands of British expats on the Continent are concerned about what the future holds for them once Brexit happens. One of my sisters and her husband are among that number, having retired to Spain some years ago but now left wondering if their rights (including access to health care) that have been guaranteed under our common EU citizenship will continue. Similarly, a significant proportion of the teachers I work with at London University’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) are nationals of other EU member states and they are understandably worried about their future status. It is unforgivable of Theresa May’s Conservative government to present these people on both sides of the Channel as bargaining chips in the Brexit negotiations. Key negotiators on the EU27 side, such as Guy Verhofstadt on behalf of the European Parliament, have indicated their willingness to find a formula that would allow those Brits who wished to to preserve elements of EU citizenship and certainly they are keen that the position of EU citizens in the UK and British citizens on the Continent is clarified quickly. The constituent in France who contacted me asked for a pledge of support for two specific things, which I was delighted to be able to give, namely:

  1. the lifetime continuation of UK and EU citizens’ rights, as proposed in the EU negotiating directive*; and
  2. the ring-fencing of the agreement on these rights from the rest of the negotiations

These demands strike me as not only reasonable but essentially humane. The result of last year’s EU Referendum has been unsettling in many ways, from the fall in the value of the pound sterling to the recent slowing of UK industrial growth. But the most critical thing to get settled first is to put the minds at rest of those people who are British citizens living in other EU member states and of EU citizens based here. Mrs May and your three Brexit Minsters: can you demonstrate that you actually care?

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