Taskforce to fight for expat rights
MEP wants to help Britons in France obtain residence cards and nationality
An MEP is setting up a taskforce to investigate the treatment of EU citizens in the UK and British expats in the EU – and is inviting Connexion readers to email their experiences.
A deputy leader of the parliament’s ALDE liberals and democrats group, Sophia in 't Veld from the Netherlands, told Connexion she is setting up a cross-party group after media reports of people experiencing “considerable difficulty” in applying for either permanent residence cards or nationality in a context of uncertainty over their rights after Brexit.
She said: “We submitted parliamentary questions on this and I floated the idea of a taskforce or working group, and now stories are starting to come in.
“They are all different, but so far I have mainly heard from EU citizens in the UK and also a few UK citizens in other EU countries.
“In the UK the issue is whether the whole procedure and requirements expected of people is in line with the law, and there’s a question mark over certain aspects of that. Also, rules can be applied in different ways and, from what I have read so far, people are not treated in a very nice way.
“We’re talking about people who’ve been living in the UK for many years and who are rooted there, with children, businesses, jobs, or retired, and making a contribution to British society and yet they are treated as undesirable aliens.
“Some of the testimonies are heart-wrenching. Families are afraid they will be separated and people who are retired or disabled or in fragile health are worried about their rights.
“I hear the whole procedure is very bureaucratic and unreasonable and there is a 30% rejection rate. People also feel there has been a change in the attitude of the UK government.
“The UK is still part of the EU and this is not the way people should be treated in the EU.”
Ms in ’t Veld said her idea is gathering speed. “Everyone I spoke to so far is very, very positive, so I don’t think there will be any opposition, so it’s just a matter of finding the means. But I’m very conscious of the fact it must be done quickly.
“The parliament cannot be a helpdesk for individual cases, but we will try and collect as much information as we can and we will be using our position to put pressure on the national governments to change the situation.”
One aim is to hold a public hearing in parliament, where some expats concerned will be invited to tell their stories, she added.
“We will also invite the European Commission and the UK government to come and debate with us.”
Ms in ‘t Veld said she is ‘very interested’ in experiences of Britons in other EU countries such as France.
“So far, it seems to be the British government is especially concerned, but if as a result of the Brexit situation, UK citizens in other countries are being treated badly that will be part of the remit of the taskforce.”
Readers can email her on: firstname.lastname@example.org
Please use this phrase as the subject / title of the email: EU taskforce – Connexion so all emails from our readers are identifiable. If you wish to, also copy in the newspaper on email@example.com