Call for rights of EU cit­i­zens to be treated as sep­a­rate side deal

The Guardian - - NATIONAL - Lisa O’Car­roll and Jes­sica El­got A rally at Westminster yes­ter­day lob­bies MPs on rights of EU cit­i­zens in the UK

Do­minic Grieve, the Con­ser­va­tive MP and for­mer at­tor­ney gen­eral, has called for an ur­gent side-deal on EU cit­i­zens’ rights af­ter Brexit in the event that Bri­tain crashes out of the bloc with­out an agree­ment with Brus­sels.

Grieve said it was para­mount to ringfence a deal that se­cured em­ploy­ment and so­cial rights so as to pro­tect both the es­ti­mated 3.2 mil­lion EU cit­i­zens in the UK and the 1.2 mil­lion Bri­tish na­tion­als on the con­ti­nent from fur­ther un­cer­tainty.

“I would re­gard it as es­sen­tial to be able to ringfence a deal, oth­er­wise it is go­ing to be a se­ri­ous prob­lem for both EU na­tion­als and UK na­tion­als, which I think is un­ac­cept­able,” he said.

Grieve, the MP for Bea­cons­field, was speak­ing af­ter ad­dress­ing hun­dreds of anx­ious EU cit­i­zens who had as­sem­bled in Westminster to lobby MPs to se­cure their rights as part of a cam­paign day or­gan­ised by the grass­roots or­gan­i­sa­tion the3mil­lion.

He is one of a hand­ful of Tory MPs call­ing for sig­nif­i­cant amend­ments to the EU with­drawal bill, which passed its sec­ond read­ing in the Com­mons on Tues­day.

Among those gath­ered in Westminster were Peter and Sabine Klep­sch, two Ger­man medical con­sul­tants who have lived in the UK for the past 12 years.

“We are think­ing a bit more about go­ing back to Ger­many,” said Peter, 51, who is an anaes­thetist in Bris­tol. He said he did not be­lieve the “golden, shiny, prom­ises” made by politi­cians about their fu­ture rights and that though he and his wife, a neu­ro­sci­en­tist, were free to leave the coun­try he feared for the fu­ture of the NHS. “I know a lot of EU doc­tors and nurses who are say­ing, ‘I’m not go­ing to stay very much longer’. With the NHS on its knees, los­ing any­one is a dis­as­ter.”

EU and UK lead­ers have tried to re­as­sure EU cit­i­zens on both sides of the chan­nel that their rights will be se­cured, but there was an over­whelm­ing sense of fear and un­cer­tainty among those gath­ered at the Em­manuel Cen­tre in Westminster.

In­side par­lia­ment, Hilary Benn, Labour chair of the Brexit se­lect com­mit­tee, told cam­paign­ers at the launch of the all party par­lia­men­tary group for Bri­tons in the EU that he did not be­lieve the UK and EU were “miles apart” on EU cit­i­zens. But he said there were still fun­da­men­tal dif­fer­ences to be re­solved, in­clud­ing the ju­ris­dic­tion of the Euro­pean court of jus­tice, rights of rel­a­tives, and crim­i­nal­ity checks be­fore the grant­ing of res­i­dency.

Benn said he thought the ne­go­ti­a­tions had been ham­pered by the at­ti­tude of some in the gov­ern­ment, in­clud­ing the prime min­is­ter. “Things were said and im­pres­sions given that have, in my view, greatly dam­aged the UK’s stand­ing the world be­cause … peo­ple felt Bri­tain doesn’t want us any more, which is cer­tainly not the case. When the prime min­is­ter went to the Euro­pean coun­cil to tell them all would be well, in­stead of say­ing three mil­lion cit­i­zens could stay here and were val­ued, it was re­ported she said ‘don’t worry, no one is go­ing to be de­ported’. In my visit to Brus­sels last week, peo­ple told me that eyes widened when she ar­rived; in­stead of of­fer­ing re­as­sur­ances she spoke about de­por­ta­tion.”

Benn said he also ac­cepted the view of EU cit­i­zens who said the process for ap­ply­ing for res­i­dency via an 85-page form was un­ac­cept­able as a process for three mil­lion peo­ple. “The gov­ern­ment is go­ing to have to come up with a much, much, sim­pler sys­tem to do this … the cur­rent sys­tem is a com­plete non-starter.”

Jane Gold­ing, a Bri­tish lawyer who lives in Ger­many and who chairs the cam­paign group Bri­tish in Europe, said that un­less the UK showed flex­i­bil­ity she could not see the EU mov­ing its po­si­tion.

The po­si­tion of EU cit­i­zens, along with the exit bill and the North­ern Ire­land bor­der with Ire­land, are the three priorities in the first round of Brexit talks. So far, how­ever, fewer than half of the is­sues raised in talks on EU cit­i­zens have been agreed.

“I would like to see [talks on EU cit­i­zens] ac­cel­er­ated; we need to have a deal for EU cit­i­zens and UK na­tion­als. As it’s a hu­man is­sue, it’s in ev­ery­one’s in­ter­ests that a deal is done as quickly as pos­si­ble,” said Grieve. To cheers, he told EU cit­i­zens that “ir­ra­tional­ity tends of­ten to be the hall­mark of some [Brex­iters]”, but he said this was be­cause some peo­ple were “ig­no­rant or spend too much time … read­ing the Daily Mail”.

He said no one in his party had sug­gested EU cit­i­zens should be turfed out he re-it­er­ated the Tory po­si­tion that the EU deal could not in­clude any over­sight for the Euro­pean court of jus­tice.

Paul Blom­field, the Labour MP for Sh­effield Cen­tral, called on the gov­ern­ment to send “a strong mes­sage” to em­ploy­ers and land­lords that dis­crim­i­na­tion against EU cit­i­zens was un­ac­cept­able.

The Guardian re­vealedthis week that the Gov­ern­ment Equal­i­ties Of­fice was to ex­am­ine ev­i­dence of EU na­tion­als in the UK be­ing il­le­gally pre­vented from rent­ing or buy­ing prop­erty, and get­ting jobs and book­ing hol­i­days, af­ter Blom­field sub­mit­ted a dossier of ex­am­ples com­piled by the3mil­lion.

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