Raymond Finch, MEP, Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy Group
It is estimated that there are approximately 3.5 million non-UK EU citizens in the UK and around 1.2 million UK citizens in other EU nations. These people are, at present uncertain of their post-Brexit status. This unfair and illogical position should not continue. It is easy to solve and subject to adult behaviour on both sides, can be resolved in a day. However the problem is that we are talking about politicians here.
The main stumbling block appears to be the EU’s insistence that no negotiations can take place until Prime Minister Theresa May initiates Article 50. This is taking considerably longer than anticipated, mainly due to the PMs dithering and also due to more or less spurious legal challenges in the UK courts designed to overturn the result. However there is absolutely no reason why the UK Government should not show their good intentions by stating immediately that, without exception, all EEA citizens resident in the UK by the time of the triggering of Article 50 will qualify for permanent resident rights. This then, if we were to look at it from the UK’s point of view, gives the moral high ground to the UK government in subsequent negotiations and would impel, even if only to save face, the EU to make the same commitment to UK citizens in the EU.
The legal situation is that at present, according to the Home Office, 80% of EU nationals living in the UK will have permanent resident rights anyway as they will have lived continuously and lawfully here for 5 years. This means that the overwhelming majority resident here have no issue anyway despite the shouting from those who wish to cause disruption and fear. To extend that right to the remainder would be an act of goodwill that should show the bona fides of the UK in forthcoming negotiations.
There appears anyway to be a position which would soothe the nerves of UK residents in the EU. Article 19, section 1 of the EUs charter of fundamental rights states “Collective expulsions are prohibited”. Any removal of the right to live unhindered in the EU for the 1.2 million UK citizens could be considered a violation of this charter.
To conclude. The present hullaballoo around this issue is entirely the fault of those who wish to make political capital from the lives of almost 5 million people but good sense, good will and moral duty tells all concerned to act quickly to settle this amicably and fairly. Hopefully this will enable all concerned to get the painful and contentious issues regarding the exit of the UK from the European Union underway in the right spirit. Because if those at the centre continue to act in the spirit of treating the negotiations as a win/lose scenario then it will not just be the EU and UK that suffers. The entire world economy risks a meltdown of the proportions not seen for decades. It is time for our politicians to become States people in the truest sense of the word to ensure we all leave this parting stronger and better friends than ever before.