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Bremain in Spain Comments on Party Manifestos

11 May 2017
by Bremain in Spain -- last modified 11 May 2017

Sue Wilson of Bremain in Spain, a group campaigning for the rights of British citizens in Spain, passes comment on the political parties' manifestos for the General Election on 8 June and the impact on guaranteeing citizens' rights.


She says: "Over the next few days, it is expected that all major parties will publish their manifestos, making their policies and aims public before the forthcoming General Election. Across Europe, British citizens are eagerly awaiting the publication of the manifestos and are hoping for reassurance that concerns about their futures are given real consideration."

"Ever since British in Europe - the coalition of 11 citizens' groups across Europe - first published its Alternative White Paper on 1 February, it has been bringing its "Governing Principle" regarding citizens' rights to the attention of politicians in Europe and the UK."

This Governing Principle states: "The UK's withdrawal from the EU should not have retrospective effect on individuals. UK citizens currently resident in the EU and EU citizens currently resident in the UK should be expressly treated as continuing to have the same rights as they had before Brexit. This is not confined to a right of continued residence but extends to all related rights such as the acquisition of citizenship, the right to continue to work , whether employed or self-employed, or run a business, recognition of qualifications, right to study, right of equal treatment, right to move between and work freely across all EU countries without loss or change of any existing EU rights, the right to healthcare, pensions, social benefits/social assistance etc. In short, the full complex of indivisible EU citizenship rights that they currently have should be guaranteed for these individuals."

"For many months now, both the UK government and the EU have stated that citizens are their number one priority in the Brexit negotiations. Both Barnier and Tusk have recently confirmed that the rights of all EU citizens, including Brits in Europe, must be protected for their lifetimes - it is a red line for them. This lifetime protection would require the legal protection of the European Court of Justice - something that May would presumably be keen to resist."

"To date, all that Theresa May has been willing to confirm is that citizens' rights are also the number one priority of the UK government. However, she has made no clear declaration indicating whether or not she agrees, or otherwise, that all citizens' rights and freedoms should be protected, whether or not for life, nor has she indicated which rights might, in fact, be at risk."

"Here at Bremain in Spain, we are becoming increasingly concerned about the lack of any clear statement from the UK government about the protection of our rights, so now would be a good time to alleviate those concerns. All we have, in lieu of any official statement, is May's comments re 'Brussels gossip'. She was quoted as saying that EU citizens would be treated as 'third world nationals'. No denials have subsequently been issued or any explanations given. In Juncker's speech at the State of the Union Conference on May 5, he confirmed that citizens' rights are the EU's number one priority, and that we should be protected by European law for our lifetimes. Is a similar statement from our own government too much to expect?"

She continues: "We are asking for a concrete commitment in the government's manifesto, to guarantee all our rights, for life. Let's see if we really are the government's number one priority, as Theresa May states. We will be expecting no less from all other party leaders in their manifestos. We hope that the forthcoming election manifestos will clearly outline party commitments with regard to the rights of UK and EU citizens."

She concludes: "Specifically, the points we emphasise are: Votes for Life legislation, triple-lock pension guarantees, all our existing EU freedoms and rights protected for life, and that any agreements are ring-fenced in the event of a no deal on Brexit. We do not wish to see any woolly statements promising to protect as many of our rights as possible. If any party were to suggest that some of our rights were at risk, then surely we deserve to know which of our rights they are willing to sacrifice. We deserve some straight answers, so we can get on with our lives free of the stress of all this uncertainty. Is that really too much to ask?"

Kalba Meadows, Chair of Remain in France Together (RIFT) adds: "What I'd like to see is a commitment to ring-fencing an agreement on citizens' rights. If these are not ring-fenced, however 'good' an agreement arises, it won't help us sleep at night as this will always be provisional. If the UK ends up leaving the EU without a deal, we'll end up without rights. Living in ten months of limbo is long enough. Another two years and we're going to be in serious psychological distress."

Bremain in Spain is a group that is campaigning for the UK to remain in the European Union and to protect the rights of British migrants living and working in Spain. Run by a team of volunteers and chaired by Sue Wilson - a resident of the Valencian Community - the group advocates a tolerant and outward-looking society. It believes this is best achieved by the UK remaining a member of the EU and citizens retaining freedom of movement. Bremain in Spain is actively campaigning on a number of initiatives.

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