As EU citizens petition Brussels on loss of rights, Labour MEPs again warn Tories to stop using them as bargaining chips in Brexit talks

The rights of EU citizens in the UK cannot be used as bargaining chips in the Brexit negotiations, Labour MEPs have again warned ahead of a hearing in the European Parliament today on the situation and rights of EU citizens in the UK.

Labour MEP Claude Moraes, chair of the civil liberties, justice and home affairs committee, will chair the meeting, which will also hear from Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament’s chief Brexit negotiator; Anne-Laure Donskoy, of “The 3 million” group, which represents the views of EU citizens in the UK; and Jonathan Portes, Professor of Economics and Public Policy at the Department of Political Economy, King’s College, London.

The meeting will also hear from British citizens who have petitioned the European Parliament on the involuntary loss of EU citizenship they are set to suffer as a result of Brexit, and the inalienability of EU citizens’ rights.

Claude Moraes MEP said:

“There has been a great deal of support for this hearing and at its core is an all-party taskforce of MEPs who are absolutely committed to ensuring knowledge and transparency on the rights of EU citizens in the UK and UK citizens in the EU. The precise situation for our citizens during the negotiation and after it is anything but settled.

“There is compelling and building evidence since the Brexit vote from our constituency casework, responsible journalism and the voices of organisations and EU citizens themselves that some EU citizens in the UK are already experiencing great uncertainty about their position. One concrete example are the 28 per cent of EU citizens in the UK who have applied for citizenship since the referendum who have had their applications rejected or declared invalid – a situation exacerbated by recent revelations of the UK Home Office discouraging EU citizens from applying for permanent residence.

“The purpose of the hearing is to hear experts, citizens and parliamentarians setting out the challenge, and the ideal solutions, in this first and crucial year of negotiation. Everyone is aware that the European Parliament will play a key role in the negotiations but I am proud to see my fellow MEPs – including the European Parliament Brexit negotiator, Guy Verhofstadt – place EU citizens’ rights at the very top of the agenda. Human beings come first, we are not commodities and what happens on citizens’ rights sets the tone for the entire negotiation and relationship for a generation to come so we must get it right.

“It is essential that more assurances are given, and Labour MEPs in the European Parliament will continue to lead calls for guarantees regarding the rights of EU citizens to remain in the UK and British citizens to remain in other EU countries. The Labour Party has said that it will guarantee EU citizens’ rights if it wins the general election – Theresa May and the Tories need to do the same, and do so now.”

Jude Kirton-Darling MEP, Labour’s European Parliament spokesperson on petitions, added:

“Today’s hearing gives voice to the concerns of ordinary British citizens and their families on their loss of rights through Brexit – to travel, study, work and settle elsewhere in the EU. That so many ordinary citizens have petitioned the European Parliament on this issue speaks volumes of how much British people value their rights as Europeans whether they live in the rest of the EU or within the UK.

“Labour MEPs will continue to work for and champion the voices of ordinary people, and we will continue to pressure the UK government throughout the Brexit process to listen to and heed their concerns.”