BREMAIN IN SPAIN a group campaigning for the UK to remain in the European Union and to protect the rights of British migrants living in Spain, comments on the confirmation by the European Council, last Friday, that Phase Two of the Brexit talks can start.
Sue Wilson, Chair of Bremain in Spain, commented: “It was no surprise that the European Council agreed Brexit negotiations can move on to Phase Two. Theresa May had hoped that this would mean the start of negotiations on trade but the EU has insisted that certain conditions must be met before trade talks can commence.
“It seems that the EU27 countries were not prepared to take May at her word – rather, they needed the agreements reached during Phase One to be more substantial than a handshake and a promise. Even with all the scurrying around from the Tory government, trade talks will not start until March 2018.
“While trade talks are on hold for now, it seems that the main focus of the next three months will be on a transition deal. The EU issued a statement on Friday outlining its guidelines and clarified that, during any transitional period the UK must abide by all EU membership rules. Therefore, the four freedoms would still apply and the UK would remain under the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice – a situation unlikely to please the extreme Tory Brexiteers.”
British in Europe, the coalition of UK citizens’ groups, of which Bremain in Spain is a member, issued a statement about unresolved citizens’ rights. Jane Golding, British in Europe Chair, said: “The current state of talks offers some reassurance for many people, particularly pensioners who know that their healthcare and right to pension increases will not be affected, provided that a final agreement is reached.
“There’s also some comfort that, subject to an overall agreement, we can continue to live where we are in the EU. However, big question marks linger over what will happen to citizens’ rights during the next phase of the talks and the outstanding issues, such as free movement, are substantial and worrying.”
Sue Wilson continued: “May frequently points out that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed – a position the EU has always taken. So, even if an agreement to keep our full bundle of existing rights is reached, if the deal falls apart, where does that leave us?
We must ensure that discussions regarding citizens’ rights are kept alive during Phase Two and, when a satisfactory agreement is reached, we are protected in the event of a ‘no deal’ scenario. The Irish border issue has been kicked into the long grass and a distinct strand of negotiations will now tackle that issue. Citizens’ rights also deserve to be treated as a distinct strand in the negotiations.”
She concluded: “The main issues outstanding for UK citizens in the EU are: continuing free movement, recognition of qualifications, economic rights and future family reunification. We previously considered ourselves bargaining chips when we were being played off against EU citizens.
“Now, we must contend with potentially being bartered against tariff-free trade and a smooth transition. Citizens’ rights are unfinished business – if May and Davis think they’ve heard the last of us, they’d better think again.
“Nobody deserves to lose any rights or freedoms, against their wishes, as the result of a non-binding, advisory referendum. Some people in the UK might not care about our plight but they need to realise that any rights we lose, they also stand to lose.”