The EU recently just announced their guidelines for Brexit negotiations. One major obstacle that has been subject of intense debate and created heated arguments ever since the beginning of Brexit campaign concerns the EU citizens’ right to stay in the United Kingdom.
There are currently around 3.3 million EU nationals living in the UK. Yet, it is important to bear in mind that out of these 3.3 million people 84% already have the right to stay despite of Brexit, because an EU national can gain a right to stay in the UK after living there for minimum of five years or if they have had children who were born in the UK or one of their parents already has the right to stay.
We also shouldn’t forget the British citizens who live in the European Union area. There are around 4.5 million British citizens living in Europe. The current proposal for the British expats supports the EU’s integration and free movement principles by offering them “associate citizenship” that give them the right to vote EU elections and move freely within the EU.
So where do we stand today? Up until the official separation of the Europe which is estimated to happen by the end of March 2019, EU citizens can move freely to the UK. Mrs. May has expressed her interest about the EU nationals but so far, all the efforts that have been made to guarantee the rights have been turned down. A good illustration of this are the proposed amendments to the Article 50 bill that would have ensured an early deal on the rights of EU citizens residing in the UK which was further on rejected by the House of Commons.
It remains to be seen which course the negotiations will take or rather who will be the first one taking the responsibility of addressing citizenship rights. The relationship between trade and free movement have almost become a form of extortion. Since all the 27 Member States have a veto on Brexit deal it can be expected that they eagerly keep throwing the beads on the stern especially when their own citizenship rights are concerned. Taken together, the link between trade and citizenship has gone some way towards enhancing our understanding between hard and soft Brexit. No matter what approach is taken, it is already clear the actual humanity of EU nationals and British expats has been forgotten since so far, they have only been treated as pawns in the process without any security of the future.
It is obvious that there is an urgent need to address the issue. Not only for the fact that EU citizens are valuable both to the society and economy, but because so many EU nationals in the UK now proudly call the island their home.