Ring-fence rights in case of no-deal Brexit, say MPs

A committee of MPs scrutinising the work of the Brexit Ministry says if the UK faces a no-deal Brexit it should offer to the EU to ring-fence the rights part of the negotiated deal.

The report published today by the House of Commons' Exiting the EU Select Committee says that both the EU and UK have previously said that the matter of ‘citizens’ rights’ is a priority for them and that in the view of the MPs “The UK leaving the EU without a deal would cause real anxiety both for UK citizens living in the EU and EU citizens in the UK”.

As a result, the MPs say: “In the event of the UK leaving the EU without a deal, the UK should offer to the EU that it is ready to ring-fence the citizens’ rights contained in the Withdrawal Agreement, and agree the relevant sections as a separate treaty under Article 50. It should call on other member states to respond positively to this proposal.”

This refers to the request - repeatedly asked for by citizens' rights groups over the last two years and reported by Connexion - that the part of the negotiated UK/EU deal that refers to rights of Britons living abroad in the EU and of EU citizens living abroad in the UK should be guaranteed even if the rest of the negotiated deal fails.

The MPs also quote a recent letter sent from the3million and British in Europe groups to EU Council president Donald Tusk, which calls for this ring-fencing of the rights and asks the EU to either agree it now with the UK or make an unequivocal promise to doing it before Brexit comes into force.

At present neither side has proposed to ring-fence the rights.

This comes as MPs prepare for a debate tomorrow on Prime Minister Theresa May's 'Plan B' proposals for moving forward on Brexit, including various amendments by MPs.

In other sections the report refers to the loss of rights Britons would face in the EU if treated simply as “third country citizens” after Brexit, and how in many cases Britons living in the EU as EU citizens may not even meet 'third country citizen' residence criteria. It notes how this could be mitigated if individual countries pass laws protecting Britons' rights, as France has said it would, though it recalls that France has said it would "take into account" how the French are treated in the UK and that healthcare arrangements for British pensioners in France in a no-deal remain unclear.

The report also refers to the likely difficulties of a so-called 'managed no-deal', as the EU does not encourage bilateral deals between the EU states and UK and passing the many ‘mini UK/EU deals’ that would be required on different matters to ease a no-deal scenario would depend on the EU’s goodwill at a time when “the atmosphere could be quite acrimonious”.

The paper says it has been estimated that about a quarter of the UK government’s no-deal technical notices indicate the need for some form of new agreement with the EU and/or member states.

The paper also notes that in 2019 the EU is likely to be tied up with the approaching European elections in May, then a new Commission will be appointed in the autumn “which will absorb much of the focus on the new parliament”.

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