A report from the Henry Jackson Society says British government must do more fight terrorists on the deep web
An influential foreign policy think tank has called for the UK Government to take tougher action on online extremism, in a report published on Sunday.
The authors say that some “areas of the web”, including the deep web and the Darknet, “have become a safe haven for Islamic State to plot its next attack.”
The research published by the Henry Jackson Society (HJS) suggests that the British government should create an “Internet Regulation Body” and increase funding to “build intelligence capital on the Darknet”.
The HJS report suggests that terrorists are using encrypted apps such as Telegram to communicate, drawing some sympathisers from social media sites into Darknet forums for recruitment and indoctrination, building propaganda reservoirs out of reach of governments and tech companies, and using cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin to fund terrorist activities.
The deep web is distinct from the surface web, which contains information available through familiar search engines like Google and Yahoo. It holds 400 times more information, provides users with greater anonymity, and is harder access. A tiny fraction of the deep web is comprised of the Darknet – a highly unregulated part of the internet where users enjoy optimum anonymity.
Content on the Darknet ranges from secret communication between human rights activists, to illicit drug and weapons markets, hitman services and extremist forums.
In a speech given in February, Home Secretary Amber Rudd claimed that the 5 terror attacks which struck the UK in 2017, killing 57, had an “online component”, lamenting “remote radicalisation.”
The Manchester arena bomber was alleged to have used YouTube to learn bomb making, and the Home Office found that IS used more than 400 online platforms to spread propaganda in 2017.
A number of young Britons who have left to join IS in the Middle East are said to have been radicalised online.
Despite these apparent problems, the report is likely to draw criticism from some quarters.
Freedom House, an independent civil liberties watchdog released a report in 2015, describing internet surveillance in the UK as “undemocratic, unnecessary and – in the long run – intolerable.”
That same year, the Investigatory Powers Tribunal said publicly that the UK intelligence agency had been illegally collecting bulk data for 17 years. An EU court also declared that the UK’s data retention rules imposed on internet providers “cannot be justified” within a democracy.
Despite the criticism, the government passed the Investigatory Powers Act – otherwise known as the Snoopers Charter – in 2016. The legislation authorised bulk surveillance in the UK and was described by The United Nations special rapporteur on privacy as “disproportionate”.
This trend of increasing surveillance appears likely to continue, raising concerns over free speech.
Around 27% of the World’s internet users live in countries where arrests have been made, of people publishing, sharing and even “liking” Facebook content. Freedom House said in 2017 that internet freedom is declining globally for the 7th consecutive year.
The PanEuropean reports from Stratford-upon-Avon, where a breakaway movement wants its own, localised Brexit. Or as they’re calling it, Strexit.
A campaign group in a British market town believes that Brexit does not go far enough. Or rather, come close enough. They want to implement Brexit locally, so that the townsfolk can enjoy the advantages in advance of the national negotiations, without being held back by delays or transition periods.
John King and Richard Vos, leaders of the new movement in the West Midlands town of Stratford-upon-Avon, the birthplace of Shakespeare, see no reason why the principles behind Brexit cannot be rolled out immediately to benefit everyone in the town. The group they have founded, dubbed STRIP (Stratford Independence for the People), has expanded from a founding nucleus of 6 to a present total of 28.
“We are hoping the public will not refer to us as strippers, like they call UKIP voters kippers”, says King. “So far this doesn’t seem to have happened; I think people recognise that we have a perfectly serious point to make, which deserves to be respected”.
The aim of the group is to let locals take back control of their own affairs, without interference from bureaucrats in London who do not understand the town’s history and special status.
“Stratford was a great place in Shakespeare’s day, and we want to make it great again”, explains Vos, “but we must cut the red tape that has tied our hands for so long. Give the town back to those who actually live here, not the ones who are just passing through, taking advantage of all our facilities”.
Thousands of foreign tourists invade Stratford every year, who STRIP say traipse through Shakespeare’s birthplace, causing damage for which locals must foot the bill, not to mention the traffic congestion and additional road repairs needed. Some group member have suggested building a wall for security, following the example of York and other famous English towns and cities in the past. But King plays the idea down.
“Of course that is not practicable. We will settle for border points on the main roads, where documents can be checked. Anyone not from Warwickshire will be required to pay a small tariff, which will help the town’s finances enormously”.
“People from London will probably require a visa”, adds King. “It’s not that we don’t like Londoners, but there’s plenty of room for them in the great metropolis”.
So how would Stratford look if the group achieves its aims?
“Shall I compare it to a summer’s day?” quips Sophie West, another founder member. “Seriously, those sunlit uplands the Government talks about would suit Stratford very well. I can’t think of a better place to showcase the new era that the country is looking forward to”.
But the group’s vision does not stop at Stratford-upon-Avon. There are hundreds of towns all over England which could be liberated to realise their true identities, claim the campaigners.
“If we can strike a blow for freedom here, there will be no stopping us,” says an ebullient West. “Strexit will serve as a model for the rest of the country. We’ve started something big and if anyone doesn’t like it, they can go whistle”.
We spoke to Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament’s Brexit representative, to discuss Brexit, citizens’ rights and Phase Two of negotiations.
What’s the EP’s agenda regarding citizens’ rights in the second phase of the negotiations?
‘There are many outstanding issues that the European Parliament will continue to clarify, from the administrative procedures that will apply for EU citizens in the UK, to the free movement rights of UK citizens in the EU. We need the initial agreement on citizens’ rights to now be put into a legally cast iron treaty and presented for review by MEPs. We will insist that the implementation date of the withdrawal treaty starts at the end of any transition period requested by the British Government. Both EU citizens in the UK and UK citizens in the EU need clarity as soon as possible and we are committed to ensuring the minimum disruption to people’s lives.
Is the coming negotiation on citizens’ rights going to be limited to the EU residents in the UK settled before Brexit or will it be extended to those applying for residency after Brexit? Same question about the British residents in the EU.
‘A number of outstanding issues remain for both groups of citizens, from free movement for UK citizens in the EU, to the governance of the rights of EU nationals in the UK.‘
Do you still support a version of the proposal for Associate Citizenship for UK citizens? What would this entail?
‘I will continue to push for recognition that millions of UK citizens are having their European rights taken away from them against their will. Europe should recognise this, in my opinion.’
Recent YouGov polls suggest a growing number of Brits have ‘buyers remorse’ about Brexit. What do you make of this? Do you think Brexit will actually happen?
‘The British Government, on behalf of the British people, has submitted its intentions to leave the European Union and of course we have to implement this, but we do not do so with glee. The British people must take responsibility for their own destiny.’
If Britain changed its mind, how likely would it be that the EU27 would rescind article 50 and welcome them back?
‘President Juncker, Tusk and Macron have all said the door remains open, but this would require the agreement of all EU member states and the European Parliament.’
Some say the EU cannot officially negotiate with the UK on a trade deal as long as they are a member state. Britain would need to first revert to third country status under Article 218. Do you foresee any problems there?
‘The ongoing Brexit talks will aim to secure a political declaration outlining a possible future framework for trade negotiations, once Britain becomes a third country after “Brexit day”.’
Does anyone in Brussels regret Jean-Claude Juncker not giving concessions to David Cameron before he called the referendum?
‘The European Union offered David Cameron unprecedented concessions, including an opt-out of “ever closer union”. In the end, the renegotiation hardly featured in the referendum debate.’
What has the EU done to remedy the underlying issues that partly led to Brexit?
‘The European Union is not responsible for Brexit. Support for the European project has increased profoundly since the referendum. However, I agree the European Union needs to reform if it is to survive; fixing the eurozone, doing less but better, building a real defence union so people feel safe, securing Europe’s external borders and delivering fairer globalisation are our priorities. Too many communities have been “left behind”, but the reasons for this are complex, multi-faceted and in most cases the result of a lack of investment by national governments.’
It is not just the populist right who clash ideologically with the European Union.
In 2013, a senior Conservative politician was overheard referring to Eurosceptic activists as “swivel-eyed loons.” Intended as a disparaging remark, some traditionalists wore the label proudly. Michael Fabricant, the party’s former vice-chairman, uploaded a picture of the late bulbous-eyed comedian, Marty Feldman, as his Twitter avatar.
The comments came after 116 Tory MPs defied the ex-Prime Minister, David Cameron, by voting for an amendment to protest his lack commitment to a referendum on EU membership before 2015. Those on the right of the Conservative party were appalled by the delay.
Hard Brexiteers continue to be stereotyped as demented, frothy-mouthed, “swivel-eyed” monsters. Earlier this month, the Telegraph reported that climate change minister, Claire Perry, had used the term in a group WhatsApp conversation with other Tory MPs.
But often overlooked is euroscepticism on the left – with Labour Leader, Jeremy Corbyn providing an obvious starting point.
Corbyn voted to leave the EEC in the 1975 referendum and has railed against European institutions consistently since becoming an MP in 1983. In parliament, he voted against the 1993 Maastricht Treaty and the 2008 Lisbon Treaty.
During the run-up to the 2016 referendum, the Labour leader was lukewarm in his support of remain. In one chat-show appearance, Corbyn claimed to be “seven out of ten” on the EU, and was conspicuously absent throughout the Brexit campaigning period.
Corbyn is not isolated amongst left-wing intellectuals over the question of the Europe. The New Left Review, one of the most influential political science journals in the world, had been hankering for ‘Lexit’, a handy – if a little ungainly – neologism of ‘left wing’ and ‘Brexit’, for some time.
The journal’s former editor, Perry Anderson, argued that the EU was an authoritarian and neoliberal project, bent on “enforcing a bitter economic regime of privilege for the few and duress for the many.”
A right wing institution?
At the core of the European project is dogmatic commitment to the free-market. Since the 1970s, European markets have becoming increasingly integrated. The creation of a single currency, Masastricht and Lisbon Treaties, the Stability and Growth pact have driven this trend. Directives at the European Central Bank and the European Commission have now all but banned the Keynesian economic model – the very bedrock of social democracy.
With increased integration comes increased competition. EU states are now forced to compete for investment from multinationals more than ever before. In order to gain a competitive edge, states are forced to lower corporation tax, cut labour costs, weaken unions and compromise on environmental and social regulations. The result is spiralling inequality.
Some intellectual voices on the left, including Alan Johnson, have also argued that the failure of the EU to work democratically, in the interests of the majority, has created a “breeding ground for the far right.” In the US, many analysts have attributed the election of Donald Trump to anger at the unequal impact of globalization in some disaffected caucuses. The unequal spread of Economic integration benefits is perhaps a source of discontent here too.
Despite his long held opposition to the EU, Jeremy Corbyn is expected to announce a major policy shift next month. He is reported to be holding a meeting in early February with Labour bigwigs, in which he will discuss the prospect of remaining part of some sort of customs union.
For Corbyn this would draw clear battle lines to fight a Conservative party, currently floundering in chaos. It would appease pro-Europe sections of the Labour party. But such a policy shift would also represent a sacrifice of values for the Labour leader and some of his comrades.
One view of our divided country is that it was always a land of potential Leavers and Remainers, the rift being merely exposed by the referendum. On this theory, Remainers were born rather than made and Leavers, like leopards, will never change their spots.
Yet the truth is that Leavers comprise all sorts of people, as do Remainers. They are not a different species.
I am coming round to the view that our current turmoil is not the fault of the people themselves, so much as the power of a virulent ideology that has flooded the country like a tsunami, sweeping away common sense, but which is now slowly evaporating.
It has happened before: ideas have taken hold with a force disproportionate to their merit, and caused mayhem.
Brexit and other cults
Remember the Moonies? If you were around in the 1960’s like me, you probably will. So called after the founder, the Reverend Sun Myung Moon, the Moonies, or the Unification Church to give it its official title, were said to be a sinister cult who seduced people away from their families, promising salvation through sex and free love.
The nearest I got to that was driving around in a flower power van, but more impressionable youngsters were turned against their families andbrainwashed by the cult’s teachings, whilst being fleeced of any money and possessions. Desperate parents, grieving for the loss of their loved ones, attempted to locate and “deprogram” their sons and daughters, often with limited success.
What the cult of the Moonies had in common with Brexit Britain was the isolation and impoverishment of its victims. It was dressed up as a spiritual movement, but its ulterior purpose was the amassment of huge wealth by its founder. In the same way, Brexit has been dressed up as a patriotic protest, but its true purpose,as Nick Clegg made clear, is to make the very rich very much richer, by removing the protections and regulations of the EU.
Today, our continental neighbours are doubtful whether they can persuade us to remain within our European family. And with some justification, for to deprogram people like Jeremy Corbyn, Theresa May or Jacob Rees-Mogg would be a challenge indeed. Nevertheless, they would welcome us back with open arms if we turned up on their doorstep.
So what happened to the Moonies? They faded from the limelight amid scandal and disillusion, though the Reverend Moon retained considerable political power and influence until he died in 2012. These cults are no fleeting fads or fashions, they can last quite a long time.
How long will the Brexit fad last?
Brexit is an edifice of fantasy resting on no solid foundation, which is already crumbling at the approach of reality. The game is up on this expired idea, which is just waiting to buried. The earliest time for another vote will be December 2018 – not too long to wait.
Some fear that even if we win, a second referendum will inflame the divisions further, leading to a civil war between Brexiters and Remainers. However, it is more likely in my view that the situation will stabilise, and instead of the armies of Brexiters, there will be just normal people again, like before David Cameron’s ill-advised referendum.
When the Second World War put the final nail in fascism, an improbable number of French people claimed they had been fighters in the resistance. And when Brexit is finally nailed, a fair few soft Leavers will discover they had been Remainers all along, because everyone likes to be on the winning side.
Brexit negotiations are due to move onto ‘Phase 2’ in the next few weeks, after EU leaders finally signed off on a painful first round on the 15th December 2017. Here are five things we expect to see in the second round:
“They say it takes two to tango,’ said British Chancellor Philip Hammond to the BBC in January. “Both sides need to be clear about what they want.”
Which is exactly what the other side is asking for (clarity, not doing the tango with Phil). “The first big step is for the U.K. to say very clearly what it wants in clear terms,” stated Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat at the EU summit in December. A sentiment echoed by Michel Barnier: “There must be a precise negotiating position of the U.K. government.”
Unfortunately, neither side is dancing in reality. During Phase One, the EU repeatedly told the U.K. to clarify its position on citizens’ rights, the divorce bill and the Northern Irish border. The bloc remained united, and eventually the U.K. yielded, agreeing to a bill of up to €39 billion, a fairly weak citizens’ rights agreement, and a “seamless and frictionless” Irish border.
Now that those issues have (at least partly) been put to bed, the real misunderstandings can begin. The first round, as difficult as it was, was at least centred around three tangible issues. The second-round focuses on a much vaguer outcome: the framework of the future relationship.
All these factors are going to make Phase Two extremely difficult. In comparison, Phase One will look like negotiating the sale of a second-hand Volkswagen, or a timeshare in Skiathos.
Already disagreements have emerged over the wording: the EU wishes to focus on the ‘framework’ whereas the U.K. accentuates the ‘future relationship’.
It’s no secret that Theresa May wants a transition deal to be agreed quickly: uncertainty is bad for business. But Michel Barnier has set a deadline of October 2018 to negotiate a transition deal, which is far later than the U.K.’s preferred deadline of March 2018. This transition deal will require the approval of the European Parliament, which will have its own requirements for the second phase of talks.
Not only will they need to agree on a transitional deal, but also a framework for future EU-U.K. trade. Again, this will require approval from European leaders, who will each have differing opinions on how quickly to advance trade talks.
All these factors are going to make Phase Two extremely difficult. In comparison, Phase One will look like negotiating the sale of second-hand Volkswagen, or a timeshare in Skiathos. How do you negotiate a trade deal with someone you’re already trading with? Until 2019, the U.K. it is still a full member of the EU. Politico reported that a senior EU official stated: “We cannot officially negotiate with the U.K. on a trade deal as long as they are a member state.”
Essentially, the U.K invoked Article 50, and will returned to third-country status under Article 218, whilst trying to agree a deal on trade. Good thing Poland is busy logging away their forests – a lot of paperwork is going to be needed.
A lot of talk about trade
Trade is going to feature heavily in Phase Two, because both sides want to know how much cash is at stake.
Expect disagreements here too. Brussels has repeatedly stated that the trade deal will consist of two options: Norway-style, or a Canada-style. Conversely, the UK wants a tailored deal, which would include “ongoing access to the EU market, the freedom to diverge from the bloc on certain rules, and ongoing cooperation with some EU agencies, such as Europol.”
Talks will need to cover all the main sectors of trade: financial services, pharmaceuticals, automobiles, aerospace, agriculture… These industries are massive and complex, each with their own subset of legalities. To date, businesses have largely been left in the dark, with the various captains of industry becoming increasingly agitated. In a joint statement, leaders of five U.K business groups stated: “the transition period must now be agreed as soon as possible…further delays to discussions on an EU-UK trade deal could have damaging consequences for business investment and trade”.
Two fractured sides of the table
Brexit has created its own political dividing lines, and Left and Right continue to find themselves, perhaps unwittingly, on the same side.
…a far-right coalition in Austria, a leaderless Germany and a recalcitrant Hungary and Poland, one thing is for certain: realpolitik is alive and well in the minds of European leaders.
Resultantly, the UK government – in particular the cabinet – is anything but united. Tango Master/Chancellor Philip Hammond represents a faction fighting for a soft-Brexit, placing him in opposition to the Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, who seems to want to bring back the 18th century swashbuckling Britannia of old. Throw some Tory rebels into the mix and you have yourself a collection of fiefdoms, in disagreement over everything from the length of the transition period to the retention of single market membership.
The disunity isn’t limited to the UK, mind you. French President Emmanuel Macron has warned against the EU 27 acting in their own interests in the next phase: “That’s what the prisoner’s dilemma is all about,’ he said. ‘Everyone can have an interest in negotiation on their own and think they can negotiate better than their neighbour.” These comments were echoed by Donald Tusk, who said he had “no doubt that the real test of our unity will be the second phase of the Brexit talks.”
With Norway threatening to rip up their current deal with the EU, a crisis in Catalonia, an election looming in Italy, a far-right coalition in Austria, a leaderless Germany and a recalcitrant Hungary and Poland, one thing is for certain: realpolitik is alive and well in the minds of European leaders.
Come back, wayward son
The European Union will continue to tell the UK it can re-join the club at any point before Brexit happens.
Donald Tusk and Jean-Claude Juncker have both expressed their desire to retain Britain as a member of the EU. The former even said that Britain could reapply for EU membership post-Brexit, which will most likely turn British politics into one, never ending discussion about EU membership. Think M.C Escher.
The spectre of citizens’ rights
Lingering issues about citizens’ rights will crop up in the second round of negotiations. Several citizens’ rights groups – such as the3million and Bremain in Spain– have made their dissatisfaction clear, and will continue to lobby against the loss of freedom of movement. Even small groups of expats have started to take legal action: British citizens living in Holland went to court earlier this year in a bid to retain freedom of movement.
We believethere are still a number of questions about citizens’ rights to which neither the EU Commission or UK parliament have provided a satisfactory answer. Certainly, trade will dominate the discussions, and it is vital that grass-roots movements and individuals maintain the pressure for greater clarity over citizens’ rights.
The Brexit deadlock was finally broken last Friday, when the EU agreed that ‘sufficient progress’ had been made on citizens’ rights, the Irish border, and the divorce settlement. But has the deal on citizens’ rights provided enough clarity to the millions of UK and EU immigrants affected by it?
EU citizens in the UK
The main takeaway for both sides was that they would keep their current rights: EU citizens who have lawfully lived in the UK for a minimum of five years will be granted ‘settled status.’ The UK government has said this will be a straightforward process and cost no more than a British passport (£72.50). They will retain access to tax credits, universal credit, healthcare, pensions, etc., and can be away from the UK for up to 5 years and still retain this status. Children born in the UK to parents from an EU country will automatically become British citizens. Irish citizens will not have their rights affected by Brexit and will be able to work and travel in the UK without hindrance.
UK citizens in the EU
Likewise, UK nationals that are legally living in one of the 27 member states will be allowed to stay (though some countries will require an application process to secure this). If they have been living in the country for five years they will be entitled to ‘permanent residence’ or the chance to apply for it. Again, they can be away from the host country for 5 years and still retain permanent residence. If they have a pension, it will increase every year just as it would in the UK.
UK nationals will remain eligible for free healthcare in the EU under a continuation of the EHIC scheme, and if working in several European countries, they will maintain the right to work in all of them.
In addition, close family members (spouse/direct ascendants/direct descendants) will be able to join them if their rights are protected under the withdrawal agreement. Children of British nationals are also protected under the withdrawal agreement if the parents are protected or nationals of the host country.
What’s been left out
For those that have no desire to move and meet the requirements for settled status, this agreement is probably satisfactory.
But it is likely that the EU will adopt a constitutive system – meaning that British immigrants will have to apply for a new status (as EU citizens will be expected to do in the UK).
This process is unlikely to be uniform and each country will have slightly different requirements. Individuals will be asked to provide comprehensive documentation to prove they have lived in their respective host country for 5 years, and this may not be easy to find. Besides, bureaucracies can make mistakes, as the UK home office has proved.
Theresa May has made no illusions: the British PM seeks to create a ‘hostile environment’ for undocumented people living in Britain illegally. We have already witnessed the consequences of this draconian policy on European citizens who have lived lawfully in the UK for over 15 years.
‘What will happen to EU nationals who move to Britain post-Brexit? Will they require work permits? How is the UK government planning to register 3 million EU nationals before Brexit?’
The fact that the continuation of free movement was not even discussed is a worrying sign. It may well come up during the next phase of negotiations, but there are no guarantees, thus it is imperative we pressure both British and European parliaments to make sure this issue is not sidelined. Freedom of movement is vital, whether we are officially part of the European Union or not. Associative European citizenship must be made available to those who either wish for or need it.
Furthermore, there are a number of grey areas within the agreement: what will happen to EU nationals who move to Britain post-Brexit? Will they require work permits? How is the UK government planning to register 3 million EU nationals before Brexit? After the UK has regained control of its laws, what safeguards are in place to protect EU citizens?
These questions will be an afterthought in the second round of negotiations, which will focus primarily on the future trading relationship between the two parties. Given that the UK and the EU already have differing interpretations of what that relationship should look like, it is unlikely that we will see further clarification on citizens’ rights in the foreseeable future.
Essentially, we feel that European and British nationals have been largely ignored. Though there have been some assurances made by European leaders, it seems citizens’ rights are more of a hindrance to the UK and the EU to negotiating more important aspects of the deal.
The former UKIP leader was met with rancorous applause at an Alternativ für Deutschland (AfD) rally in Berlin, arguing that, ‘Brexit may embarrass Merkel and Schulz, but they need to start talking about it to protect the jobs of their own workers.’
By Max Caskie
Farage also pointed out that there was a “lack of debate in the German campaign about the UK’s split from Brussels”, something which was evident in the duel between Merkel and Schulz earlier this week. The MEP claims it is because Brexit is a ‘huge embarrassment’ for EU leaders – though the Centre for European Reform argues that this is not the case.
He said to reporters, “(I’m trying) to get a proper debate going in the biggest, richest and most important, powerful country in Europe about not just the shape of Brexit but perhaps even the shape of the European project to come.”
The AfD was founded in 2013 by a group of German economists in response to the Eurozone crisis. The party’s objectives include having a Brexit style referendum on both the Eurozone and the European Union. Currently, it is polled at around 11 percent support, which would make it “the largest opposition party if Merkel wins, as expected, and renews her ‘grand coalition’ with the SPD.” The party is known for its controversial views, having stated in the past that “German border guards should open fire on illegal immigrants “if necessary“.”
AfD members were enthusiastic about Farage’s call for Germans to “say to Brussels: look, the reason the Brits left is because you’re behaving so badly, you’re taking away so much of people’s freedom, liberty and democracy”.
Reuters reported that Beatrix von Storch, deputy chairwoman of the AfD, takes ‘hope from Farage’, and was quoted as saying, “Nigel Farage showed the impossible is possible if you just believe in it and fight this fight – he did that for more than two decades and that makes him a role model for us.”
Farage also pushed for Germany to negotiate a deal with Britain without Brussels: “Merkel needs to know that unless she tells Brussels to come to a common-sense accommodation, then she will be putting the interests of Brussels above the interests of common people.” He also stated that, “Trade is a two-way street. If it [Brussels] denies a good deal to the UK, it is denying a deal to the German workers.”
Yet Politico argues it is a misguided belief that Berlin will come to the aid of Britain in the form of a ‘soft Brexit’, because Germany will always favour the single market over any tariff-free access deal.
‘Despite the bluster and grandstanding from various opposition figures and commentators in Britain,’ says Hugo Bennett on BrexitCentral.com, the UK’s post-Brexit citizens’ rights proposal ‘already comes remarkably close to the EU’s.’
The UK and the EU have published their post-Brexit citizens’ rights proposals.
Of course, there are differences, says Bennett: ‘If the EU’s opening offer was entirely acceptable to the UK, or vice versa, there would clearly be no need for a negotiation at all.’
‘Nonetheless, despite the bluster and grandstanding from various opposition figures and commentators in Britain, the UK offer already comes remarkably close to the EU’s in the majority of areas.’
Here, the key issues are split into ‘areas of broad agreement’ and ‘areas requiring substantial negotiations.’
Scope of the deal. Both sides agree that the deal should apply equally to all EU27 citizens, and that the ‘existing special arrangements’ between the UK and Ireland must be preserved.
Benefits. This has historically been a sticking point for the UK and the EU. But the UK has committed to allow all EU citizens that arrive before the ‘cut-off date’ to carry on ‘exporting benefits,’ even to children living in other countries.
Bennett sees this as a ‘major compromise.’
Healthcare & Pensions. Both sides wish to preserve current citizens’ rights regarding healthcare arrangements, with UK and EU citizens ‘free to use each others’ health services, which will then be reimbursed by the appropriate member state.’
Brexit Secretary David Davis has also said that even if no deal is reached the UK will ‘continue paying unilaterally’ for the healthcare of British expats living in the EU.
He has also committed to continue ‘uprating’ the state pensions (by increasing them using the famous “triple-lock” system) of such UK nationals.
These ‘significant moves should provide much reassurance to British citizens currently living in the EU,’ says Bennett.
Students & Qualifications. Both sides agree on the need for ‘the continued mutual recognition of qualifications obtained prior to Brexit,’ and that EU students shouldn’t be restricted from starting courses in the UK over the next few years.
Application procedure. ‘The UK and the EU disagree over whether eligible citizens in the UK and the EU should be considered legally resident without documentation,’ the newly arriving citizens’ rights will change after the ‘cut-off date.’
The EU is seeking reassurances that the British application process will be ‘straightforward, following the many stories about EU citizens struggling with existing Home Office procedures.’
Areas requiring substantial negotiation
Cut-off date. The EU wants it to be ‘Brexit day itself: 29th March 2019, or the day after.’ The UK wants it to fall somewhere in-between Brexit day and the date Article 50 was triggered: 29 March 2017.
‘This is one area where the UK can probably afford to compromise,’ says Bennett, ‘in order to secure concessions from the EU in other areas.’
‘Family reunion rights is set to be a major crunch point between the UK and the EU.’
Permanence of rights. The EU wants “settled status” to be ‘permanent once acquired,’ whereas the UK says it would be lost if a person left the UK for more than 2 years.
‘This will need to be resolved but should not be overly difficult to find an acceptable compromise on,’ says Bennett.
Family reunion rights. The ‘key point of dispute’ is the EU calling for family members of EU citizens being able to join them ‘before or after the withdrawal date.’
These ‘super-rights’ for EU citizens would ‘exceed what UK nationals have themselves in the same country.’
The UK proposes to guarantee children’s rights to join EU parents after Brexit, automatically granting them British citizenship, but says that spouses (and other family members) must meet the same criteria ‘as equivalent relations of UK nationals.’
‘This is set to be a major crunch point between the UK and the EU,’ says Bennett.
Jurisdiction. ‘The biggest disagreement by far between the two sides is over how the deal should be enforced legally.’
The EU wants the deal to be enforced under the remit of the European Court of Justice, whereas the UK is insisting on some kind of joint arbitration court of UK and EU judges.
Just like the EU has made it clear that the four freedoms (goods, people, services and capital) are indivisible, this is a red line issue for the UK.
‘Compromise will be required from both sides, not just the UK, if the Brexit process is to process smoothly and successfully,’ says Bennett. ‘But there is no reason why this should ultimately not be possible.’