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UK must obey free movement laws till Brexit, say MEPs

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UK must obey free movement laws till Brexit, say MEPs

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(BRUSSELS) - Until the UK leaves the EU, it will have to obey EU laws on free movement, said a majority of MEPs in a plenary debate with the European Commission on Wednesday.

The Parliament called on the Commission to ensure that the free movement rights of EU citizens living in the UK are respected, they added. Many speakers also made clear their dislike of the use of EU citizens as "bargaining chips" in the Brexit negotiations.

MEPs stressed the uncertainty in which the 3.1 million EU nationals living in the UK were left after the June 2016 referendum on EU membership. These citizens' right to free movement should be guaranteed as long as the UK remains a member of the EU, they said, insisting that their acquired rights be respected even after it leaves. They also highlighted the plight of UK citizens living in other EU member states.

"Free movement is one of the EU's basic rights", said Commissioner Vera Jourova, making it clear that as long as the UK is a member state, all EU rights and obligations continue to apply. She agreed that EU citizens deserve certainty and fairness, but reminded MEPs that there will be "no negotiation (with the UK authorities) before notification" of their intention to leave the EU.

Ever since the Brexit referendum EU citizens in the UK and UK nationals living in other EU countries face uncertainty about their ability to stay where they are.

The British government has so far refused to guarantee the rights of EU nationals. But on Wednesday, the House of Lords voted in favour of an amendment which would guarantee the rights of EU citizens.

There is a growing number of reports that it is increasingly difficult for EU citizens to apply for citizenship and that some living in the country for years have even been asked to leave.

There is now an 85-page form required to apply for UK citizenship. 28% of EU citizens who requested UK citizenship since the referendum had their application rejected or declared invalid.

The EU Parliament has decided to organise a number of hearings to gather evidence on this issue.

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