A campaign group called British in Europe, which represents UK nationals living in the European Union, has sent an open letter to the head of the European Commission's Task Force for Relations with the UK, Michel Barnier, calling on him not to “defer” their rights and use them as leverage in the second phase of Brexit negotiations.
“We must not be made bargaining chips a second time”, the group’s representatives wrote in the letter, published on British in Europe's website, while referring to issues relating to the rights of Britons in the EU, some of which were left out of previous negotiations and not properly addressed by the Withdrawal Agreement.
One of the most pressing issues is the working rights of Britons who cross the borders of EU member states, the group notes. Moreover, UK nationals are particularly worried about their ability to return to their home country with family members who are EU citizens, as well as if they do so for a lengthy period of time – as a longer stay could potentially compromise their residency in the European Union.
“The defence of free movement is clearly a central factor in the future relationship negotiation, and as such, we deserve the full package of free movement rights to be protected for this group of over five million citizens”, the letter says, while dubbing Britons in the bloc “the poster children for EU free movement”.
EU’s Britons Are in Grey Zone
The British in Europe campaign group, co-chaired by Jane Golding and Fiona Godfrey, has been arguing for some time now that there is a lack of clarity and consistency regarding Britons’ rights within the European Union following the UK’s exit from the bloc.
The association met with Michel Barnier in March 2017 to discuss their travel, work, and healthcare rights within their host states following Brexit, while also launching an information campaign for British citizens residing within the EU. However, some of the concerning issues have remained unaddressed, the group believes.
Britain’s Withdrawal Agreement is set to be ratified this week, after which the United Kingdom will become the first ever state to leave the European Union, but the transition period of negotiations with the remaining 27 member states will continue until 31 December 2020.