The European Commission has published a set of official guidelines concerning forthcoming Brexit negotiations with the UK. Unanimously agreed upon by all 27 European Union countries other than the United Kingdom, the guidelines outline the EU’s intentions to protect the 3.2 million EU citizens living in the UK and the 1.2 million UK citizens living in the EU.
The document, which is the most detailed to have been published since June 24, argues that the UK's exit deal from the EU must ensure that the rights of UK and EU nationals are protected for life and legally enforceable. These include rights to healthcare, social security, pensions, residence and mutual recognition of qualifications.
The stance of the European Commission can be contrasted with that of the UK government, which has consistently said it will not act unilaterally to guarantee the rights of EU citizens to remain in the UK until the EU has agreed to do the same for UK nationals living in the EU.
Laura Shields, Chair of the European branch of the British Liberal Democrat party, had this to say in response to the publication of the EU’s guidelines on Wednesday, May 3: “Today's guidelines pour cold water on the UK Government's argument that a deal on citizens' rights can be done quickly and easily. The European Commission recognises how complicated the issue is, which is why it has rightly called for an agreement that is comprehensive, permanent and legally enforceable”.
She went on to add: “The ball is now in the UK Government's court. If it is serious about getting a fair deal for EU and UK citizens then it must respond appropriately and sensitively when it returns serve”.
In a fact sheet released upon the publication of the guidelines, the European Commission addressed the “great uncertainty in the lives of many European citizens” following the announcement of Brexit. The EU’s reasoning behind the guidelines was summarised by Michel Barnier, Union negotiator for the Article 50 negotiations with the UK, in a European Commission press release:
"With our recommendation today, we are on track to make sure that the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union happens in an orderly fashion. This is in the best interests of everyone. As soon as the UK is ready, we shall start negotiating in a constructive manner."
Dan Anderson – HT
Photo: Lehtikuva / AFP / John Thys