Interview: Charles Goerens on citizens’ rights and Brexit

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The PanEuropean recently interviewed Charles Goerens, an MEP for Luxembourg and proponent of the Associative Citizenship proposal. We asked Mr. Goerens to explain the European Union’s stance on citizens’ rights, as well as why his Associative Citizenship proposal has been postponed.

Luxembourg MEP Charles Goerens

Where are we with Brexit and citizens’ rights?

It must be said that much progress has been made on citizens’ rights. The negotiations started from the British immigration law, and the British Government is now ready to concede a special settled status to EU nationals.

The European Parliament’s (EP) only weapon to fight for citizens’ rights is a means of pressure – namely to threaten with a negative vote on the final text of the withdrawal agreement. On the 8th of November, the Brexit Steering Group (BSG) issued a statement outlining its red lines on the latest UK citizens’ rights proposals.

“Parliament will not accept any weakening of existing rights that EU citizens currently enjoy with respect to family reunification, including both direct descendants and relatives of direct dependence in ascending line”

This week, a resolution supported by five political groups (EPP, S&D, ALDE, Greens and GUE) has been put to the EP’s vote on a plenary session. The resolution discussed the state of play of the negotiations.

However, major issues still need to be addressed to secure equal and fair treatment for EU citizens in the UK after Brexit. Our most important concern is the UK proposals for settled status for EU citizens in the UK, including the administrative procedures as set out in a technical note published by the UK Government on the 7th of November. It is our firm view that acquiring settled status:

  • Must be an automatic process in the form of a simple declaration, not an application which introduces any kind of conditionality (for example a pro-active ‘criminality check’).
  • Must enable families to make one joint declaration, not separate declarations for each individual family member.
  • Must place the burden of proof on the UK authorities to challenge the declaration and this only on a case-by-case basis and in line with EU law.
  • Must be cost-free.
  • Is a system that can only enter into force after any transition period, if requested and agreed, has concluded. Before that, the freedom of movement should apply.
  • On family reunification, Parliament will not accept any weakening of existing rights that EU citizens currently enjoy with respect to family reunification, including both direct descendants and relatives of direct dependence in ascending line.
  • We do not accept that there has to be any status difference between the members of a family born from different relationships or between those born before and those born after Brexit.
  • On the export of benefits, we insist that this cannot be limited to pensions only, but should include all benefits defined in the EU legislation.
  • Last but not least, we insist that UK citizens currently living in the European Union continue to benefit from the freedom of movement after Brexit. These are our red lines.

Will there be a difference of treatment between EU residents in the UK settled before Brexit and those applying for residency after Brexit?

It’s a key question. The status of future EU residents in the UK will be discussed in the second phase of the negotiations, once an agreement on Brexit has been concluded. The current negotiations are exclusively for the benefit of current EU residents in the UK.

Is your proposal on associated citizenship still on the agenda of the EP?

Unfortunately, I had to withdraw my proposal of an associated citizenship, which was fought harshly by those in favour of Brexit as well as by those in favour of strict reciprocity between the UK and the EU in the matter of citizen’s rights. My view as a Luxembourger is that reciprocity is not needed. I can tell you that the associated citizenship remains in the minds and hearts of most of the remainers. We will see in the next phase of the negotiations whether it is appropriate to revive this proposal, possibly on a reciprocal basis.

The PanEuropean

There are 4 comments

  1. Chris Slater

    So sad that the Associate Citizenship proposal has had to be withdrawn. Let’s hope that it can be re-introduced soon. My European citizenship & rights have been given away without my permission by a bunch of bigots in collaboration with our cowardly UK government. Shame!

  2. Carol Howell

    I am going to be forced to have my EU passport removed from me & replaced by an inferior British passport & the EU will not do anything about this diminishing of my rights? I made a decision to pack up all my life in UK and move to EU on basis that I have freedom of movement & reciprocal agreements & after Brexit, all those rights are removed leaving me stuck? Shame on you EU for not protecting people like me, I am 56 years old, already being made to work until at least 68 due to EU governments bad investments and support of banking industry and now my rights are being removed and in 5 years time, so will my vote be removed (UK removes after 15 years). You help refugees and support Palestinians in their fight for their rights and passports (which I agree with by the way) but you are doing nothing to help European citizens living in insecurity and fear of our uncertain future.
    I am really disappointed that you are not willing to do anything to assist people like me, more so as I am a big supporter of the EU and voted Remain. But as always, citizens who are not wealthy will suffer whilst the rich can continue to freely move around the world where they choose.

  3. alice bouilliez

    I feel that as I am at the moment a European citizen and that this is an inalienable right as set out in the European charter for Human rights, I cannot see that there are any grounds for restraining or removing these rights which are precious to me.

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