Tuesday

15th Jun 2021

MEPs: We'll veto Brexit deal if citizens' rights not improved

  • Liberal leader Guy Verhofstadt (r) and centre-right leader Manfred Weber (c) both signatories of the critical letter (Photo: European Parliament)

The leaders of political groups, which together have a broad majority in the European Parliament, criticised the UK's offer on citizens' rights as a “damp squib” that risks “creating second-class citizenship”.

The MEPs said the rights of non-UK nationals need to be better protected after Brexit than the proposal now on the table, otherwise they might veto the deal.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

“The European Parliament will reserve its right to reject any agreement that treats EU citizens, regardless of their nationality, less favourably than they are at present,” the MEPs wrote in an open letter published on Sunday evening (9 July) on the Guardian website.

They also noted that they would not support any extension of the 30 March 2019 deadline for the Brexit talks because, otherwise, the UK would have to hold EU parliament elections two months later – something the MEPs called “simply unthinkable”.

The letter was authored by Guy Verhofstadt, the leader of the Liberal group (Alde) and the parliament's Brexit coordinator.

It was co-signed by the leaders of the centre-right European People's Party (EPP), Manfred Weber, the centre-left Socialists & Democrats, Gianni Pittella, the Greens, Ska Keller and Phillippe Lamberts, and the far-left GUE/NGL group, Gabi Zimmer.

Together, they represent 77 percent of the parliament's seats.

Three MEPs from the Brexit steering group also signed: Elmar Brok, Roberto Gualtieri and Danuta Huebner, who is also the chair of the parliament's constitutional affairs committee.

Notably absent from the signatories was anyone from the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR), the third-largest group in the parliament that is dominated by the British Conservative party, and Poland's Law and Justice party (PiS).

The letter was published two weeks after the UK gave more details about citizens' rights.

UK prime minister Theresa May said the proposal would give more than 3 million EU citizens living in the UK “reassurance and certainty”.

“No families will be split up,” May promised.

Vague

But the MEPs in their letter said the proposal “would cast a dark cloud of vagueness and uncertainty over the lives of millions of Europeans”.

A lot it still unclear, they said.

“Will European students have to pay more – even after they have applied for the first post-Brexit academic year of 2019-2020? Will doctors enjoy continued and guaranteed recognition of their qualifications in the UK? Why are frontier workers, who work in the UK but live in the EU, not mentioned at all?”

The MEPs also took a jab at the UK for the proposal to have family members apply separately to acquire “settled status”.

In what seems like a reference to traditional UK criticism of the EU, the MEPs said that “Britain wants to become the new champion of red tape”.

The EU's chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, will meet with the UK side for a second round of talks next week.

On Monday, Bloomberg reported that more than a third of businesses want a so-called soft Brexit, with the UK staying in the EU single market and customs union, according to a poll of 2,400 companies.

In the survey, only 2 percent of British businesses said that they would find it acceptable if the UK left the EU without a deal.

Barnier sets price for hard Brexit

The EU Brexit negotiator warned that a customs union between the UK and EU will not be possible if the UK doesn't want to respect single market rules, and "no deal" would send the UK back to "a distant past".

May defends proposal on EU citizens' rights

“We want you to stay”, British leader Theresa May told EU nationals on Monday, but the UK's "settled status" plan lacked "ambition", the EU said.

Column / Brexit Briefing

May's call to compromise helps mask party disunity

In a speech on Tuesday, the UK prime minister is expected to urge Labour and other opposition parties to “come forward with your own views and ideas” on what post-Brexit Britain should look like.

News in Brief

  1. BBC and others boycott Belarus press circus
  2. Report: EU and US to unveil aircraft subsidy truce
  3. Putin refuses to guarantee Navalny will survive jail
  4. Erdoğan agrees to pull out mercenaries from Libya
  5. EU starts sale of first bonds for Covid-19 recovery fund
  6. Germans told not to 'storm pharmacies' for Covid pass
  7. Indonesia warns Covid-19 wave may not peak until July
  8. WTO chief: 'drop trade barriers on Covid-19 treatments'

Post-Brexit talks in last push until Sunday

The probability of no deal has increased as a last-ditch effort by British prime minister Boris Johnson and EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen did not bridge gaps.

Opinion

What a No Deal Brexit is going to look like

Research by the London School of Economics forecasts that a no-deal Brexit could be three times as bad as the pandemic for the UK economy, writes mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, and the president of the Committee of the Regions.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNineteen demands by Nordic young people to save biodiversity
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersSustainable public procurement is an effective way to achieve global goals
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council enters into formal relations with European Parliament
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen more active in violent extremist circles than first assumed
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersDigitalisation can help us pick up the green pace
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID19 is a wake-up call in the fight against antibiotic resistance

Latest News

  1. China officially joins Russia as a danger to Nato
  2. German Greens face reality check amid CDU gains
  3. EU Parliament wants Europe to take lead on sea-rescues
  4. MEPs urged to end gas-funding, fix cross-border projects rules
  5. Biden in Brussels - what's in the 'in-tray'?
  6. Yemen foreign minister to EU: to stop the war, talk to Iran
  7. Brexit grumbles overshadow UK summit
  8. Former French PM to work for Russian oil firm

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us