EP threatens to scupper Brexit deal over citizens’ rights

Five of the main groups in the European parliament have intervened to say that the EP will not back a deal that grants EU citizens in the UK fewer rights than is the case today. In an open letter in the Guardian newspaper the presidents of the five groups warn that they will never support a Brexit accord that removes existing rights from EU citizens in the UK.
Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

One of the bones of contention is the UK's wish for British courts to be the highest authority with regard to EU rights in the UK. EU figures find this unacceptable. The EU's Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier earlier called for greater ambition, clarity and guarantees with regard to the rights of EU citizens in the UK and that EU citizens in the UK should enjoy the same protection as afforded by EU law.

EP figures now warn that UK PM May's proposals unveiled so far cast a shadow of vagueness and uncertainty over the lives of millions of Europeans. Ms May's plans it is claimed fail to realise the ambition of putting the citizen first.

The open letter was drawn up by the EP's Brexit negotiator, the former Belgian PM Guy Verhofstadt. It has the backing of Christian democrats, socialists, greens, the Free European Alliance as well as the far left in the EP representing a big majority. The letter was published in several newspapers today including the Guardian, Le Soir, El Pais, La Reppublica, but not in any Flemish dailies.

The EP representatives say that the answer provided by the UK to the EU's proposal to retain existing rights and protection is a cold shower. EU citizens will lose the right to vote in local elections in the UK. There are fears on the European mainland that EU citizens will become second class citizens in the UK.

Instead of taking a relaxed approach like in the UK, EP voices are clearly in a huff and a puff. In the letter the groups castigate the continuing uncertainty. Over a year after the British decision to leave the bloc many questions remain unanswered it is said. Will EU students have to pay more for their tuition even if they have registered for 2019-20? Will EU doctors still be able to practice? Why is there no mention of EU workers working in the UK but living overseas?

As Britain prepares to leave the EU Euro MPs will get a say on the exit deal. Euro MPs favour an ambitious and progressive accord that provides headway on citizenship and a financial settlement. The EP is not minded to extend the negotiation period beyond March 2019 as this would mean the UK participating in the European elections planned for May 2019.