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In a letter to EU negotiator, lead MEPs on the Brexit talks stress that more progress is needed on citizens’ rights and even more on the situation on the island of Ireland.

Dear Michel,

 

The Brexit Steering Group today met with the chairs and coordinators of the European Parliament's Committees on Employment and Social Affairs, Legal Affairs and Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs, to assess the current state of negotiations concerning citizens’ rights.

 

As you know, the European Parliament has made it very clear from the beginning that the protection of the rights of citizens must be absolute and beyond any doubt. 

 

We clearly recognise that progress has been made since the start of the negotiations, from a system based exclusively on UK immigration law to a system that reflects the preservation of EU rights. 

 

Despite this, considerable problems remain, which pose a fundamental question as to whether sufficient progress has been achieved. These issues have already been underlined by the Brexit Steering Group in its Statement of 8 November on citizens' rights.  While all of them remain important, we wish to call your attention to the following issues.

 

First, we cannot accept any differentiated treatment between core family members. Bold steps should be taken now to prevent this from happening and to overcome the current deadlock. In particular, we should avoid creating a situation in which children of EU citizens born from different relationships would find themselves having a different legal status from that of children born before Brexit, therefore resulting in a possible split of families.

 

Second, on the administrative procedure required in order to achieve so-called "settled status", we take note of the progress made in the last weeks, but can only reiterate that this must be an automatic, cost-free process in the form of a simple declaration, placing the burden of proof on the UK authorities to challenge the declaration. 

 

It is also crucial for us that solid safeguards are put in place to ensure the proportionality of the process and to protect and support EU citizens, including the most vulnerable. 

 

Finally, we can only again reiterate our position that in order to guarantee the coherence and integrity of the EU legal order, the CJEU must remain the sole and competent authority for interpreting and enforcing European Union law and not least the citizens’ rights provisions of the withdrawal agreement. 

 

It is with great concern that we note that negotiations in this respect are stalled, and even some progress reversed. 

 

Concerning Ireland, the BSG believes that the UK must make a clear commitment, to be enshrined in a form which would guarantee its full implementation in the withdrawal agreement, that it would protect the operation of the Good Friday Agreement in all its parts, ensure, by means of continued regulatory alignment between the North and the South, there is no hardening of the border on the island of Ireland and that there is no diminishing of the rights of people in Northern Ireland.

 

We trust that you fully share the above concerns and will continue working to address them in negotiations in the coming days, as their satisfactory resolution will determine Parliament’s assessment of whether sufficient progress has been achieved.

 

Yours sincerely,

 

Guy Verhofstadt

 

on behalf of the Brexit steering group

 

Background

 

For the European Parliament to approve the withdrawal agreement, the key principles and conditions in the resolution of 5 April, 2017 must be met. These principles were reiterated in another resolution, on the state of play of negotiations, voted on 3 October 2017. Any withdrawal agreement at the end of the UK-EU negotiations will need to win the approval of the European Parliament.