Brexit: MPs to appeal to Michel Barnier over citizens’ rights

Michel Barnier. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)
Michel Barnier. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)
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A cross-party group of MPs including the SNP’s immigration spokesman at Westminster will make a direct appeal to Michel Barnier today to “ring fence” pledges on citizens’ rights in case the UK crashes out of the EU without a Brexit deal.

Campaigners have been seeking a commitment to protect the rights of EU nationals living in the UK, and Britons living in Europe, but Brussels has warned that no part of the Withdrawal Agreement can be carved out if it is not ratified by MPs.

SNP MP Stuart McDonald will take part in the delegation from the Taskforce on Citizens’ Rights, which will meet the EU chief Brexit negotiator in Brussels today.

“Whatever the outcome of Brexit, it is vital that the issue of citizens’ rights is resolved in favour of all UK and EU nationals most directly affected – those living in other member states – and whose lives are being blighted by the continued chaos and uncertainty being caused by the Tory government,” Mr McDonald said ahead of the meeting.

“It is a mark of just how disastrous the Tory government’s handling of Brexit has been that we are having to think about how to address the huge problems that will be faced by EU citizens here and UK citizens in Europe if there is not a deal. More fundamentally, it’s clear that there is no such thing as a good Brexit and any form of leaving the EU will leave us all poorer and worse off.

“Ultimately, the best way to protect citizens’ rights is by remaining in the EU and retaining the mutual rights we have benefited from.”

In February, the Commons unanimously passed an amendment seeking to protect citizens’ rights “whatever the outcome of negotiations on other aspects of the withdrawal agreement”, put forward by Glasgow-born Tory MP Alberto Costa – who resigned as an aide to Scottish Secretary David Mundell to press for a vote.

But Mr Barnier has warned it would be “far from straightforward” to protect rights without a Brexit deal, adding in a letter to Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay: “Our joint efforts should remain focused on making sure that the withdrawal agreement will be ratified and will enter into force”.