British and European expats sceptical about Brexit deal

British Prime Minister Theresa May (left), is welcomed by European Council President Donald Tusk at the European Council in Brussels on Dec 8. Britain and the EU reached a historic deal on December 8 on the terms of the Brexit divorce after the British Prime Minister rushed to Brussels for early morning talks. (AFP)

LONDON, Dec 9, (Agencies): Campaigners for Britons in the European Union reacted furiously to the deal struck in the first phase of Brexit negotiations between Britain and the bloc, while advocates for EU citizens called it “a flawed compromise”.

The agreement said both sides had reached a “common understanding” that all EU citizens would have the right to continue living and working where they reside when Britain withdraws from the bloc in 2019.

The deal, spelled out in a joint report published by the European Commission, also protects the rights of people who have not yet been granted permanent residency in Britain so they can still acquire it after withdrawal.

It also includes future family reunification rights for relatives, including spouses, parents, grandparents, children and grandchildren, an issue which had been a major sticking point in the negotiations. On the contentious issue of legal jurisdiction, it said British courts would enforce the rights of EU citizens but judges could refer cases to the European Court of Justice for eight years after withdrawal. But the agreement gave Britons living in EU countries no guarantees for automatic residency rights and free movement beyond any transition period, leaving advocates incredulous.

“This deal is even worse than we expected,” said Jane Golding, chair of the British in Europe coalition. “After 18 months of wrangling the UK and EU have sold 4.5 million people down the river in a grubby bargain that will have a severe impact on ordinary people’s ability to live their lives as we do now,” she said, referring to the total estimated number of British and European citizens impacted.

Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament’s Brexit coordinator, also underlined that five outstanding issues remained for the final phase of the withdrawal talks, including guaranteeing British citizens future rights on free movement across the bloc. Meanwhile, British voters will be able to change the terms of the country’s relationship with the European Union after leaving the bloc if they don’t like the final Brexit deal, senior cabinet minister and pro-Brexit lawmaker Michael Gove said on Saturday. Britain and the EU achieved “sufficient progress” in Brexit negotiations on Friday to allow them to move on to discussing future trade ties, in a move welcomed by Gove and other Brexit supporters in Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservative Party.

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