It's just over a month before the UK is set to leave the European Union on March 29, and the risk of a no deal exit is rising with every day that passes.
In this scenario, British citizens in the EU and EU citizens in the UK could lose their rights overnight: they are only guaranteed by May's Withdrawal Agreement if the deal is approved. But an amendment by a Conservative MP could change this.
Proposed by Tory MP Alberto Costa, it calls for ring-fencing citizens rights as defined in May's deal, even if the deal fails to pass the British parliament when the vote takes place on February 28.
“This House considers the Prime Minister’s statement of 26th February and requires the Prime Minister to seek at the earliest opportunity a joint UK-EU commitment to adopt part two of the Withdrawal Agreement on Citizens Rights and ensure its implementation prior to the UK’s exiting the European Union, whatever the outcome of negotiations on other aspects of the Withdrawal Agreement,” the amendment reads.
Rights groups such as the3million, which fights for the rights of EU citizens in the UK and British people in Europe, have called to protect citizens rights in case of a "no deal Brexit" for months. Both groups came out in support of Costa's amendment, writing a letter addressed to all British MPs, urging them to "support an amendment to the Government’s motion that aims to finally remove our 'bargaining chip' status from these negotiations once and for all."
Indeed, critics have said instead of guaranteeing the residence rights of EU citizens in the UK and their counterparts in Europe on day one, the British government chose to use them as "bargaining chips" in Brexit negotiations. In a no deal situation, without such an amendment protecting their rights, citizens in both the UK and the EU would fall under the immigration policy of their country of residence.
The government has already said it will guarantee the rights of EU citizens, but no legislation has yet been passed to confirm it. In the EU, various member states have started to regularise the status of British citizens living on their territory, but no EU-wide measure has been taken.
With negotiations in deadlock and time running out, this amendment would offer some respite to citizens on both sides of the Channel.
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