One Brexit uncertainty the Government could end now

Posted by Sam Hawke on 04 January 2017

In the last few weeks of 2016, three separate reports (here, here, and here) on the future of the UK after Brexit strongly recommended European Union nationals living here should retain their rights of residence.

This should come as no surprise since 77 per cent of those who voted to leave the EU – along with 84 per cent of the UK public as a whole – agree Brexit wasn’t about stripping EU nationals of their rights.

But it seems the Government doesn’t see it that way. It regards EU nationals as ‘bargaining chips’ to be wagered in any future negotiations.

Bargaining chips can be bargained away – implying the Government is happy to entertain a policy of mass deportations of EU citizens if it suits their negotiation strategy.

The human costs of uncertainty, in the Lords’ view, are “severe”. Their report cites evidence of EU nationals’ worries over increasing hate crime and their future security – and says uncertainty around their status is potentially “fuelling xenophobic sentiment”.

It demands the Government “urgently” fulfil its “moral obligation to provide certain and legal clarity”.

Playing fast and loose with rights

UK nationals living abroad are facing the same uncertainty – caused by the Government’s refusal to act.

They don’t know whether they can continue to live and work in the EU, or whether their children can remain in school with their friends – even whether they can still receive health care.

The Government must not allow a breach of their rights by playing fast and loose with EU citizenship post-Brexit.

Here are a few things our Government must do to safeguard EU and UK nationals’ rights after Brexit:

  • Immediately guarantee EU nationals won’t be used as ‘bargaining chips’ – by pledging to fully respect their EU-law rights to remain in the UK.
  • Ensure that, in guaranteeing those rights, all EU nationals are given equal and fair chances to prove their rights to remain post-Brexit. All people should be provided with a fair and transparent process to exercise their safeguarded rights – including some of our society’s most vulnerable, like care-leavers and victims of trafficking.
  • Pledge to safeguard the rights of UK nationals in the EU – who, like EU nationals here, are anxiously awaiting Government assurances that they can stay in the places they call home.

At Liberty, we’ll do everything we can to hold the Government to account and make sure it does not go back on its human rights promises after Brexit.

But guaranteeing the rights of EU and UK nationals is something we can make sure of now – before the real work begins.

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