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Brighton and Hove Liberal Democrats

Draft EU Withdrawal Agreement and citizens’ rights

March 5, 2018 12:45 PM
By Beatrice Bass

It is now over a year since the UK voted to leave the EU and it does not feel like anyone is any wiser as to what Brexit actually entails. We heard numerous different speeches about the UK's road or, more likely, footpath or wonky rope bridge to Brexit whilst our highway to the EU is slowly being taken apart. Phase one of the Brexit negotiations have now concluded and the EU has published its first draft of the EU Withdrawal Agreement. After a year of negotiation, it is good to finally have a draft treaty on paper - even though it is only a first draft. This draft is a good indication of who is holding the cards in these negotiations and what the post Brexit future might look like for the UK. As most people probably will not spend their evenings reading through draft treaties I have summarised the key points in respect to citizens' rights for you.

The Liberal Democrats have long fought for EU citizens' rights in the UK and for UK citizens' rights in the EU. The provisions in the draft treaty are quite positive in this respect. UK citizens who have been residing in an EU member state up until the end of the transition period will continue to have the right to reside there until the end of their lives, subject to current EU law. However they can no longer move to another EU member state and enjoy those same rights there (see Article 32). That means that people who have been residing in Spain for example may continue to do so but they will not be able to move to France, Portugal or anywhere else in the EU under the same rights. Similarly EU citizens who reside in the UK up until the end of the transition period will be happy to hear that they can continue to do so during their life-times, subject to current EU legislation and restrictions. Citizens have the right of entry and exit to their host state with a valid passport or national identity card without the need for a Visa. Current legislation also continues to apply in terms of permanent residency. UK citizens in an EU state or EU citizens in the UK can generally apply for permanent residence once they lived in their host state for more than five years. Again, current exemptions and restrictions apply. Most importantly citizens continue to enjoy the right to work in their host state and professional qualifications obtained prior to the end of the transition period will continue to be recognised.

In short EU citizens in the UK or UK citizens in another EU member state prior to the end of the transition period continue to enjoy similar rights as in current legislation. It is quite significant that EU citizens who arrive in the UK during the transition period shall be treated in the same way as those who arrived in the UK prior to the transition period, as this appears to clash with our government's proposals. In contrast to the government's wishes, the EU does not seem to accept any discrimination between EU citizens who come to the UK before the transition and those that come during it. EU citizens will be relieved to hear this and we can only hope that the UK government accepts those draft provisions. Another interesting point is that the transition period is held to end on 31 December 2020 in the current draft which seems a rather short period. My guess is that this will be one of the elements that will change during the negotiations and the transition period will be lengthened.

In the meantime, the Brighton and Hove Liberal Democrats will keep campaigning for an Exit from Brexit. We hold EU street stalls on the fourth Tuesday every month from 6pm outside the Unitarian Church in New Road to campaign for a referendum on the facts. Join us if you can!

EU Stall Feb 18