Brexit negotiations must preserve all EU citizens’ rights and Good Friday peace agreement
GUE/NGL has reaffirmed its stance that the rights of EU and UK citizens and the Good Friday peace agreement in the north of Ireland must be guaranteed during the Brexit negotiations.
Speaking on Wednesday morning’s key debate, GUE/NGL President Gabi Zimmer assessed the impact Britain’s exit from the EU would have and what must be done.
"The time of irresponsible demagogues such as Mr Farage and his like has come to an end. That is clearly over. The time has come for those who deal with each other in a measured, respectful and fair way so as to enable us to reach an agreement between the UK and the EU to cooperate as friends in the future.”
"This divorce is making it abundantly clear just how deep and extensive ties are between all the member states - it covers all areas of life. It also demonstrates how the 15 months left is an incredibly short time to negotiate this. That makes it necessary for the European Parliament to be actively involved at every stage of the whole process," she said.
Zimmer then highlighted the role the European Parliament should play in guaranteeing the rights of EU citizens on both sides of the Irish border as well as other EU borders:
"We believe it is important that the rights of the EU citizens who reside in the UK, and UK citizens in the EU and the north of Ireland, must be guaranteed. Now in the 21st century, we cannot allow a hard border to emerge in the EU. I never want to see walls and fences going up again inside the EU," Zimmer argued.
The German MEP then looked at what the EU must do to ensure that citizens' demands are heard or it would risk the Union falling apart:
"We believe that fundamental rights and social rights have to be a priority in the Brexit negotiations. Why were demagogues such as Farage able to turn public opinion in the UK against the EU? It wasn’t just domestic problems but also unsolved problems in the EU. Where is the social union guaranteeing social and employment protection? What happened to our promises for greater democracy?"
"This is what we have to fight for together to the benefit of all people and EU citizens and this includes immigrants and migrants," she concluded.
GUE/NGL’s Brexit coordinator and Irish MEP Martina Anderson evoked the memories of the late deputy First Minister in the north of Ireland, Martin McGuinness, by telling the plenary:
“Martín McGuinness met with virtually every signatory of the joint resolution and asked three things from you: that you preserve the Good Friday Agreement in all its parts; that there would be no hardening of the Irish border; and the unique circumstances and special status of Ireland would be supported.”
“This is why we associate ourselves with this resolution. We feel now that the European Parliament is a partner to the people of the north of Ireland.”
“Despite the fact that we support the joint resolution, we all have to recognise that this is not the Europe we want - or that the people need. We need an open and critical debate on the future of Europe - something that the resolution also calls for.”
“Together we can shape a better Europe, a more social Europe and a more democratic Europe - a Europe of Equals."
“To the European Council I’d say - it’s over to you.”
Italian MEP Barbara Spinelli, Vice-Chair at the Parliament’s Committee on Constitutional Affairs, also concentrated on the north of Ireland and social rights:
“Our parliamentary challenge begins today and I hope that we all pay specific attention to two crucial points: the rights of the north of Ireland as guaranteed by the Good Friday Agreement, and those of the millions of EU citizens who live in the United Kingdom.”
“Vulnerable citizens risk losing control instead of taking it back as they had thought. There is only one way in which the so-called ‘acquired rights’ could be protected: by not allowing citizens’ rights to become ‘bargaining chips’ and by having them enshrined clearly in the withdrawal agreement,” she continued.
“It is up to this Parliament to give legal certainty to the people in the north of Ireland and to the concerned citizens. It is up to us to analyse our mistakes and build a social union that avoids the rejection of its citizens while preventing the ‘escape’ from Europe that sooner or later we should try to understand,” Spinelli said.