The Last Mile of the Brexit negotiations is upon us and British in Europe and British in Italy have been working flat out, with the3million who represent EU citizens in the UK, to try to get the best possible result for those of us who have moved our lives across the Channel or the Irish border.

Brussels Meetings

On October 9th and 10th a joint BiE/t3m party (including Jeremy Morgan QC and Costanza de Toma from Italy) went to Brussels for two hectic days of lobbying.  We met senior officials of the Commission Task Force and of the Council, MEPs from all the main political groupings and a number of the Member States’ permanent representatives including those of Italy.

In summary:
Brussels response: Ring fencing our rights
  • We raised the need to ring-fence the agreement on Citizens’ Rights made in March, so that it still stood even if there is No overall Deal.  EU officials would not discuss this as they said they were fully focussed on getting a deal.  Advice from friendly sources was not to push the issue at this stage as, and this is hard to believe just 2 weeks later, most people thought a Deal was imminent.  We will be raising it again now, and will be for urgent action.
  • We stressed that there are less than 6 months remaining until Brexit, that steps have to be taken to secure our legal status if No Deal is made.  We were given assurances that a lot of work is under way to deal with that point, but we will have to wait to know the detail as the focus was on achieving a deal.
Brussels response: Settled status
  • Although we discussed how each EU27 country proposes to apply the registration requirements of the Citizens’ Rights agreement, that part of the discussion was in strict confidence and we can say no more until public announcements are made.
Brussels response: Continued freedom of movement and right to return
  • We discussed a possible amendment to the Citizens’ Rights agreement granting us continued freedom of movement in exchange for a lifelong right of return for EU citizens in the UK.  This may yet be achievable but has not yet been conceded – Guy Verhofstadt repeated his call for it in a tweet on October 24th.
  • We raised again the question of UK citizens living in the EU27 being able to take their spouses back to the UK if they return, eg to look after an ageing relative.  This works both ways as some EU27 countries have immigration rules as strict as those of the UK.  This will be very hard to achieve despite the overwhelming human case for it.
  • Our main support comes from the European Parliament where all the main groups continue to back us and to pressure the negotiating team to reduce the number of EU rights which we are being denied.
In Limbo – book presentation
In the evening of October 10th there was a well-attended meeting in the European Parliament in which the In Limbo group presented their fantastic collections of personal stories – In Limbo, stories of EU citizens in the UK, and In Limbo Too, recounting UK citizens in the EU.  Among the readers were Costanza de Toma (the3million and British in Italy) and Clarissa Killwick (British in Italy) one of those responsible for the entire project.  The evening was really emotional with a lot of moving personal stories and a lot of tears were shed – including by MEPs!
You can buy the book by clicking HERE

London Meetings

Back in London the following week a joint delegation of British in Europe and the3million (including Jeremy Morgan from British in Italy again) went to Downing Street to meet Robin Walker, Minister of State for DEXEU, with senior staff from his department, the Foreign Office (consular service) and the Home Office.  The people we met were well-informed and willing to listen but, inevitably as this is Brexit, constrained by the political divisions.  We pushed them hard on much the same issues as we had in Brussels.

London response: Ring fencing our rightsWe got the same response on ring-fencing, namely that it was the wrong time to ask as they were concentrating on getting a Deal at the moment.  As before, we stressed the completely uncertain situation we face just 5 months away from Brexit, and asked Primo Levi’s question, “Se non ora, quando?”

London response: Continued freedom of movement

On freedom of movement for UK citizens covered by the Withdrawal Agreement, we were told that the UK had tried to reopen the question but had been rebutted by the Commission who insisted that it was part of the future relationship.  We said that we were not giving up.

London response: British citizens returning to UK with EU spouses

We also discussed the issues of British citizens returning to the UK post-Brexit with their EU spouses (and vice-versa), monitoring of the Withdrawal Agreement within the UK and voting in local elections.