GUE/NGL’s Brexit working group
On behalf of GUE/NGL’s Brexit steering group, a statement by group President Gabi Zimmer on Monday’s negotiations on EU and UK citizens’ rights, particularly with regards to the north of Ireland
“On Monday, the European Commission and the British government will finally begin substantial negotiations on the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union, starting with the key issue of the rights of citizens which has rightly been identified as a priority by the EU.”
“In our opinion, the agreement on this issue has to be clearly ringfenced from other negotiation chapters: it’s the only way to give legal certainty to the citizens who fear the effects of the withdrawal on their daily lives. After Theresa May’s proposal on this issue, their anxiety has only grown further and we want to express our full solidarity with them.
“Brexit in particular affects around 1.2 million British people living in other EU member states, and over 3 million EU nationals living in Britain – not including the 1.8 million people in the north of Ireland who are legally entitled to Irish citizenship and, by virtue of that, to EU citizenship. The EU has committed itself to uphold The Good Friday Agreement in all its parts: this includes human rights, constitutional and legal rights, and political rights.
“Up to 30,000 people cross the border in Ireland every day to work and study, in addition to movements for normal societal, domestic and recreational purposes. Many businesses and farms straddle or have premises on both sides of the border as well. The border in Ireland has been open for the last 20 years, and any border in Ireland risks being exploited by the enemies of peace and endangers the peace process.
“At a time when the British government and its allies in the Democratic Unionist Party have prevented the establishment of an Executive in the north of Ireland on exactly this issue of citizens’ rights and their failure to respect The Good Friday Agreement, it is essential that the EU urgently pursues this issue of the rights of citizens in the north of Ireland. This would be best achieved through a designated special status for the north of Ireland within the EU.”
GUE/NGL Roundtable on Aquired Rights –
28th June 2017
On 28 June, members of GUE/NGL within the European Parliament met with representatives of PODEMOS (Spain), Syriza (Greece) and RAZEM (Poland) to discuss the impact of Brexit on the living conditions of EU citizens in the UK and British EU citizens in the EU member states. At the invitation of Barbara Spinelli (Independent / Italy) and Helmut Scholz (DIE LINKE / Germany), respectively Vice-Chair and member of the Committee on Constitutional Affairs, participants, together with guests from “The 3Million” and “The British in Europe,” had an intensive exchange of views of the recently started negotiations on shaping the civil rights within the future relations between the EU and Great Britain and the concrete proposals already on the negotiating table.
The participants agreed that their consent to the outcome of the running negotiations would largely depend on the extent that the interests of the affected citizens are fully respected by the counterparts. Reference was made to the glaring shortcomings of the negotiation proposal released on 26th June by the British Prime Minister, Theresa May. This proposal is in its content very vague and does not provide reliable information on the protection and persistence of the existing acquired rights. According to the participants, it is irresponsible to use the living conditions of the citizens concerned as a bargaining chip and to postpone clear decisions to the conclusion of the final agreement between the Union and the UK. The agreement on the citizen’s right must be imperatively ring-fenced from the rest of the negotiations, in order to give a complete legal certainty to the EU citizens living in the UK as well as to the UK nationals living in the Union, and to give it in the short-term.
The participants pointed out that even the EU side currently does not appear to reflect the entire package of acquired rights. In particular, they expressed deep scepticism about the principle – enshrined in the Council’s Guidelines – according to which “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed”: a formula that can become a trap, making the agreement on rights conditional to the outcomes of the other negotiating chapters.
The participants agreed to continue the exchange of experiences and to examine common ways to increase the impact and reach of the efforts to defend the immediate interests of all the citizens concerned during the Brexit negotiations, in the UK as well as in the EU member states. This would include the necessity to increase awareness on these issues within the population of the EU member states.