Thank you for contacting me about the rights of British citizens in the EU.
I can assure you that securing the rights of British nationals in the EU as well as those of EU citizens in the UK has been the Government’s priority. The Prime Minister attempted to do this just a few months after the referendum in 2016 but this was rejected by the leaders of some EU member states until after Article 50 had been invoked and the formal negotiation process had begun.
A Withdrawal Agreement has now been agreed and this includes the guarantee on citizens’ rights which will enable UK citizens in the EU to continue living on the continent and have the same access to healthcare, pensions and other benefits as they do now. Even in the unlikely event of no deal, the Government has said that EU citizens’ rights will be protected.
I supported Alberto Costa’s amendment on citizens’ rights and I was glad that it was passed with the Government’s support. The Secretary of State for Exiting the EU, Steve Barclay, has written to the European Commission’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, seeking views on ring-fencing the citizens' rights element of the Withdrawal Agreement whatever the outcome of negotiations.
I know that UK nationals play an important role in member states and my ministerial colleagues would urge our EU counterparts to echo the reassurances that we have made for UK nationals living in their countries. The European Commission has also urged EU member states to ensure that UK citizens in the EU continue to be considered as legal residents in a no deal scenario.
The French government has said that it would secure the rights of UK nationals in France providing that the UK protects the rights of EU citizens in Britain. The Prime Minister has already said the she would do this.
There remain some outstanding issues. The UK had raised matters such as the movement of UK citizens to other EU member states in the first phase of negotiations but the EU decided that it could only be discussed in the next stage of negotiations. The Government has said that this issue will be pursued and I am confident that agreement will be reached on it.
The Government has said that it sees resolving the issues around citizens’ rights as a moral responsibility and I share this view.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.
Craig Whittaker MP