MEPs welcome the deal on the Protocol on Northern Ireland and raise concerns about citizens’ rights, including “pre-settled status” for EU citizens.
Assessing how the UK Withdrawal Agreement has been implemented in the three years since Brexit, MEPs note that important improvements are needed to safeguard citizens’ rights, and that the implementation of the Agreement has been tarnished by the UK’s continuous breaches (and threatened breaches) of its commitments under the Agreement. They say the Agreement has a direct effect on the respective legal orders of the EU and the UK, that UK courts must pay due regard to EU Court of Justice case law, and that citizens must be able to turn to national courts should their rights under the Agreement be breached.
Northern Ireland Protocol
Parliament condemns the unilateral “grace periods” used by successive UK governments to avoid enforcing border controls in the Irish Sea, which are a “clear breach” of the Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland. It welcomes both the Windsor Framework, and the subsequent announcement that the UK government will halt the controversial Northern Ireland Protocol Bill. MEPs underline that, according to the UK government itself, ‘democratic consent’ for the Protocol must be provided in due time by a simple majority of the Northern Ireland Assembly. They say that, in the most recent elections, a clear majority of voters supported parties that endorsed the Protocol’s retention.
Parliament also raised the situation of EU citizens living in the UK who have been granted “pre-settled status” and who will have to start submitting renewed applications for settled status in the second half of 2023. Refusal to grant these people settled status would be an “automatic and illegal loss of their rights”. MEPs echo the Commission’s concerns regarding the lack of legal clarity for EU citizens in the UK, point to the problems caused by the long delays in the UK authorities’ decision-making, and reiterate that the absence of physical documents can be problematic. They also deplore the UK’s decision to charge different fees for visa applicants from different EU countries.
The report was adopted with 537 votes in favour, 43 against, and 38 abstentions.
The rapporteur Pedro Silva Pereira (S&D, PT) commented: “Three years on from Brexit, Parliament has highlighted shortcomings with regard to the protection of the rights of European citizens, as well as failures regarding the application of the Northern Ireland Protocol. The UK's respect for its international commitments is essential to the protection of the Good Friday Agreement and the building of a stable relationship based on mutual trust. The recently announced Windsor Framework for a flexible and effective implementation of the NI Protocol is an important step in the right direction, and we now expect its full implementation. This new joint political understanding gives us reason to believe that we can turn an important page in EU-UK relations.”
The Agreement on the withdrawal of the UK from the EU entered into force on 1 February 2020. Among its key objectives were the protection of European and British citizens’ rights.. Another primary goal was to address the sensitive issue of the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, in light of the Good Friday Agreement and the need to safeguard the integrity of the EU’s single market. The Agreement also aimed to ensure that the EU and UK respect the financial obligations deriving from the UK’s membership of the EU, and put in place appropriate dispute resolution mechanisms.