Jointly with the New Europeans Citizenship Unit, we publish today a new report in response to the Prime Minister’s offer on rights for EU citizens in the UK and UK citizens in the EU.
Authored by Dr Dimitrios Giannoulopoulos and Dr Ruvi Ziegler the report makes the case for unilateral guarantees rather than reciprocal agreements to secure citizens’ rights.
The report, The rights of EU27 citizens in the UK and UK citizens in the EU27: A response to Theresa May’s ‘fair and serious’ offer, outlines the shortcomings in the Prime Minister’s offer and explores the problems with reciprocal deal making.
The Prime Minster has told EU leaders her aim was ‘to provide as much certainty as possible to the three million EU citizens currently living in Britain’, pledging that ‘no EU citizen currently in the UK lawfully will be asked to leave the country at the point that the UK leaves the EU’.
The government’s paper on ‘safeguarding the position of EU citizens living in the UK and UK nationals living in the EU’ attempted to reinforce this point, by noting that the government will put EU27 citizens first, and ‘do all [they] can to provide reassurance to the EU citizens who have made the UK their home, and likewise for UK nationals who have done the same in countries across the EU.’
Dr Giannoulopoulos argues that the government’s proposed solution – which was met with widespread negative reactions by EU citizens - in fact achieved the opposite result.
He concludes that the UK government’s proposals do not go much further than a simple restatement of existing immigration rules, which already give EU27 citizens the right to permanent residence if they have been exercising treaty rights for five years.
“May offers to provide protection to those who least need it – those who already qualify on the basis of the ‘five-year’ criterion, and have the documentation to prove it – while failing to provide any reassurance to those who need it the most,” notes Dr Giannoulopoulos.
He concludes that the EU should not “follow the UK Government down the path of reduced protection for the rights of the millions of people affected by Brexit; rather, it should adopt a strict approach whereby failure by the UK to guarantee sufficiently (in practice, for life) the rights of EU27 citizens in the UK should bar transition to the second phase of the Brexit negotiations. The recognition of the rights of EU27 citizens is a precondition for the start of the negotiations per se.”
Dr Ruvi Ziegler, Associate Professor of International Refugee Law at the University of Reading said: "The UK Government’s insistence on reciprocity logically implies that, if negotiations fail, rights of EU27 citizens may be curtailed. In 2017, such an approach is morally indefensible." With the publication of the Great Repeal Bill, Theresa May makes clear that she is prepared to strip EU27 citizens in the UK of the protection they currently enjoy as EU citizens if the UK leaves the EU without a deal. The Great Repeal Bill also prepares the way for Britain to leave the European Convention on Human Rights in the next parliament.