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UK government rhetoric undermines trust in upholding Brexit text

13/12/2017

UK government rhetoric undermines trust in upholding Brexit text

Gabi Zimmer MEP - Photo courtesy of European Parliament on Flickr

As the EU and the British government prepare for this week’s summit in Brussels on moving the Brexit negotiations into trade talks and future relations next year, concerns remain that not enough guarantees have been made in the preliminary agreement on citizens’ rights and the status of the North of Ireland.

In particular, a legally binding text has been suggested by GUE/NGL MEPs in the Strasbourg plenary this morning to ensure both sides keep to their words. 

President Gabi Zimmer said that for the Left group in the Parliament, existing guaranteed rights for EU and UK citizens are paramount and must not be rowed back in the second phase of the negotiations: 

“The statement that sufficient progress has been made in the Brexit negotiations is above all a political assessment. The resilience of the agreement between the EU and the UK will be tested in the coming weeks and months. But the UK government has done little to build trust in recent weeks.”

“That is why my group in the European Parliament will pay close attention to protecting the rights of citizens - whether they live in the UK or in the EU. This includes social and workers´ rights, acquired pensions and social entitlements,” she said.

“The rights of Irish citizens as to The Good Friday Agreement must also not be undermined. The rights of EU citizens in the United Kingdom must be guaranteed after Brexit. The same applies to British citizens in the EU, including their free movement. There is a danger that Brexit could undermine existing workers' rights in the UK.”

Zimmer also expressed concern as to whether the agreement will hold up in its current form:

“We still doubt that the agreement between the EU and Britain is robust enough. This agreed framework must now be spelled out and put into a legally binding text. In autumn 2018, we will evaluate the outcome of the upcoming negotiations,” she concluded.

Irish MEP Martina Anderson is also concerned that the British government will renege on its word, and condemned last week’s theatrics by Theresa May’s cabinet:

“No sooner had the UK got the Irish government and the EU Commission to say there’s ‘sufficient progress’ then they immediately start to rubbish the joint Report they solemnly signed.”

“Only a ‘statement of intent’, says David Davis (UK Brexit Secretary). We’re coming to a Gentleman’s Agreement with David Davis who thinks nothing of misleading his own parliament?!” she added.

“But it’s no surprise. It’s the way they do things. They make the promises necessary to get others to move things forward, and then they start to negotiate the compromises - downwards,” she said.

“This resolution on Ireland says “full enforcement” is key. When the joint report is turned into legal text there can be no more ambiguity, no more contradiction, and no more taking the British government at their word because their word counts for little, as they care little about their word.” Anderson concluded.

Italy’s Barbara Spinelli acknowledged that progress has indeed been made in the negotiations but said the preliminary agreement falls short from a legal perspective on guaranteeing rights for EU citizens - including family reunification, freedom of movement and what ‘settled status’ constitutes:

“The EU-UK agreement could lead the European Commission into possibly establishing comparable mechanisms within its member states and that risks breach European law itself.”

‘Reciprocity is also jeopardised, together with effective enjoyment of rights, by the vagueness of the role assigned to the European Court of Justice.”

“We acknowledge that steps forwards have been made. However, the second phase must be used to fill the persistent gaps and uncertainties and to guarantee that the full set of rights based on the European law is effectively preserved. This is not just a matter of legal certainty, it is about honouring the promise by which nothing will change in the current life of millions of citizens - in perpetuity,” she argued.

For Portuguese MEP João Ferreira, the Parliament’s resolution fails to explicitly guarantee the rights of EU citizens living and working in the UK:

“This exit agreement should in no way call into question the rights of workers or other social rights enjoyed by EU citizens living in the United Kingdom. This is something that is not guaranteed in the current stage of the negotiations and is not explicit in the joint motion for a resolution.”

He also added: “any future agreement between the European Union and the United Kingdom should take into account the interests and specificities of the different member states. Moreover, such an agreement should not - cannot - rule out the right of each member state to establish relations with the United Kingdom in a wide range of areas, based on the interests and mutual benefit of its people”.

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