Major push for Brexit rights ring-fencing today

Campaigners and politicians are today raising the issue of protecting people's rights after Brexit

A cross-party group of British MPs – and French senator Olivier Cadic – are joining campaigners in a bid to obtain ‘ring-fencing’ of citizens’ rights after Brexit in Westminster today.

Their call comes on a day of action called the Last Mile which will include forming a human chain from Parliament Square to 10 Downing Street to deliver a letter to UK Prime Minister Theresa May at 11.00 UK time (noon in France). A parliamentary mass lobby is being held from 13.00 to 16.00.

Many members of the British in Europe campaign groups for Britons living in other EU countries are taking part in a lobby today, meeting MPs in Westminster and asking them to sign a pledge, whereas over a thousand other people have given their support online as part of an e-lobby. The latter and others can also give support by tweeting or emailing their MPs today.

The reason for today’s action is that the everything negotiated so far to protect the rights of British people in other EU countries and EU citizens living abroad in the UK stands to fall through if there is no withdrawal agreement (“Brexit deal”), leaving people in great uncertainty.

This includes reciprocal lifelong guarantees on the automatic right to continue living and working in the countries where people are settled and rights related to pensions, healthcare, benefits, recognition of qualifications etc.

It comes as France’s Europe Ministry recently said that in the case of no-deal Britons would become illegal immigrants if no further action is taken and it will look closely at how French citizens are treated in the UK.

Among those lending support in London today are senator for the French abroad Olivier Cadic, who told Connexion in this month’s newspaper that he and senate colleagues have also called for the French government to guarantee the rights of British people in France without conditions related to reciprocity. “It would be to France’s credit” to do it, he said.

Today’s event is organised by British in Europe with the3million group for EU citizens in the UK, and British public service union Unison and supporters include Conservative MP and former attorney general Dominic Grieve, Labour MP and Shadow Brexit Minister Paul Blomfield, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesman Ed Davey, Green Party MP Caroline Lucas and the SNP’s spokeswoman for justice and home affairs, Joanna Cherry MP.

Co-chairwoman of British in Europe lawyer Jane Golding said: "Many people think Britons living on the continent have nothing to fear because a deal was done on citizens' rights last December. What they don't realise is that it was not legally binding, meaning we run the risk of having our lives thrown into turmoil on Brexit day if talks collapse and that agreement evaporates.

"Unilateral guarantees on the part of the British government towards EU citizens in the UK or vice versa won't cut it, as there are many issue that need to be agreed reciprocally. We urge both sides to agree to ring-fence the existing citizens' rights deal - imperfect as it is - now so that affected people can try to get on with their lives in case talks collapse and there is no deal."

One of several MPs who will address the mass lobby in Parliament today, Mr Davey plans to say: "The millions of EU citizens living in the UK and British citizens living elsewhere in the EU cannot just be left to cross their fingers and hope Theresa May secures a deal that guarantees their rights.”

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