Last week the House of Lords debated the Brexit Bill as currently proposed by the British Government and sent it back to House of Commons demanding it be amended to assure the rights of EU nationals living in the UK within three months of triggering Article 50.
While I applaud the Lords for doing the decent thing, the British Government has vowed to plough on with their Bill and remove this amendment. One reason cited for refusing to give assurances to EU citizens in the UK that they will be able to continue living, working and contributing to the UK is that a one-sided guarantee could be damaging for the rights of British people living in other European countries.
Speaking in the European Parliament last week, I called on both the UK Government and the EU authorities to end this scandalous situation which is causing immense stress and uncertainty to British and EU citizens, who took up the opportunities free movement offered in good faith and who are now left in complete limbo.
A quarter of applications by EU nationals for UK residency made since the EU referendum have been rejected, with the 85 page document required proving massively onerous and difficult to complete. I have, as a result, formally asked the European Commission to look at whether this unnecessary red-tape is a breach of current freedom of movement rights of EU citizens residing in the UK.
Likewise British citizens in EU countries are also in an impossible situation, with minimum communication from their national government and no knowledge as to how and if their rights might be protected. In the current situation basic decisions about whether, for example, a UK national could return to Britain temporarily to look after an elderly parent, take employment in another EU country or even send children to university in the UK without risking the loss of acquired rights associated with long-term EU residence are unknown.
This sense that EU nationals in the UK and British nationals in other EU countries are bargaining chips to be played against each other is massively insulting and demeaning. These people are in very similar positions, the various support groups set up are in communication with each other and each understands the enormous strain they are all enduring. If only the British government and EU authorities could extend the same empathy to bring this injustice to an end. These people exercised their right of free movement and are now being punished for one of the greatest achievements of the EU and I, and my Green colleagues, will not stop challenging the appropriate authorities until this matter is quickly and fairly resolved.
P.S. Yes, I am aware that UK nationals are still EU citizens but, for the purposes of this article, I have made a separation between the UK and EU27.
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