"I have never welcomed the weakening of family ties by politics or pressure" - Nelson Mandela.
"He who travels for love finds a thousand miles no longer than one" - Japanese proverb.
"Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence." - Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
"When people's love is divided by law, it is the law that needs to change". -
David Cameron.

Friday 16 February 2018

Withdrawal Agreement - Phase One

Withdrawal Agreement - Phase One

There is a lot of angst amongst EU and British citizens who have exercised their treaty rights to be in the UK with their family.  This is especially so for the family of Surinder Singhers who will reach the point of five years of residence after we exit from the EU.  

Hence, protection in the agreement UK and EU reach is important to ensure this group does not find itself in no man's land - like the family members of other EU citizens, this group too needs to be assured of a continuous right to stay.

BritCits has received several pieces of communication from the European Commission, Europe Direct Contact Centre and even their MP's on this issue - thank you to the lovely members who have shared this with us. 

This letter dated 10 August 2017, from former Immigration Minister, Brandon Lewis, sent to the constituent MP of a member, indicates that the UK government's proposal was for the family members of EU nationals, which includes British citizens, to be able to obtain settled status after five years.

It appears that the first phase of agreement reached excludes Surinder Singhers - this was confirmed in a letter sent on behalf of Michel Barnier:

A member also forwarded an email she received on 6 February 2018 which has more detail, especially at the links provided:

" Thank you for contacting the Europe Direct Contact Centre.

In response to your inquiry, we inform you that the overall objective of the Withdrawal Agreement with respect to citizens' rights is to provide reciprocal protection for Union and UK citizens, to enable the effective exercise of rights derived from Union law and based on past life choices, where those citizens have exercised free movement rights by the specified date (time of the UK's withdrawal - foreseen on 29 March 2019 unless the negotiation period of two years is extended by unanimous agreement of the European Council and the United Kingdom). This is a limited personal scope, which is the necessary consequence of the legal basis for this disentanglement process as set out in Article 50 TEU. UK nationals in scope of withdrawal agreement have protected rights in the state(s) in which they have residence rights on exit day, without prejudice to Social Security rights.

The common understanding reflected in the Joint Report means that both Union citizens and United Kingdom nationals, as well as their respective family members can continue to live, work or study as they currently do under the same conditions as under Union law, benefiting from the full application of the prohibition of any discrimination on grounds of nationality. The only restrictions which apply are those derived from Union law. Those who have not yet acquired permanent residence rights – if they have not lived in the host State for at least five years –will be fully protected by the Withdrawal Agreement, and be able to acquire permanent residence rights also after the United Kingdom’s withdrawal.

The deal should protect all those family members who have lawfully resided with an EU citizen in the UK before Brexit. They will be allowed to stay but will have to apply for a new UK status (special status) and a new UK residence document.

Full details of the Commission's assessment are available in the Commission's Communication on the State of Progress of the Negotiations with the United Kingdom (https://ec.europa.eu/commission/sites/beta-political/files/1_en_act_communication.pdf) as well as in the joint report from the negotiators of the European Union and the United Kingdom Government on progress during phase 1 of negotiations under Article 50 TEU on the United Kingdom's orderly withdrawal from the European Union (https://ec.europa.eu/commission/sites/beta-political/files/joint_report.pdf).

Questions and Answers – the rights of EU27 and UK citizens post-Brexit, as outlined in the Joint Report from the Negotiators of the European Union and the United Kingdom Government can be downloaded here: https://ec.europa.eu/commission/sites/beta-political/files/2017-12-12_qa_citizens_rights_1.pdf

The latest information on the ongoing Article 50 TEU negotiation process and principles for the United Kingdom's departure from the European Union can be obtained under the following link: https://ec.europa.eu/commission/brexit-negotiations_en#latest

Furthermore, you can contact the authorities in the UK to clarify the status of your husband - https://www.gov.uk/guidance/status-of-eu-nationals-in-the-uk-what-you-need-to-know#agreement-on-rights-for-eu-citizens-and-their-families / https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/department-for-exiting-the-european-union

We hope you find this information useful. Please contact us again if you have other questions about the European Union, its activities or institutions."

A British citizen who raised his concern over the plight of Surinder Singhers directly with the Home Office got this reply on 9 February 2018:

 Communications between one of our member's and her MP, Anna Soubry, and that between Anna Soubry and Robin Walker, the Minister responsible for citizens rights' in the Department for Exiting the European Union.


Thursday 15 February 2018

Transitional Protection - EEA Regulations

Transitional protection 

November 2016 saw some significant changes being made to the EEA regulations, with more detail on the genuine and residence test, and requiring the British citizen sponsor to show they remain a qualified person.

However, as there was some transitional protection afforded to those who had made an application for a Residence Card, or had been issued with one, before 1 January 2014 (among other things), there continues to be transitional protection for those who:
  • had a right of permanent residence in the UK on 31 December 2013
  • had a right of residence in the UK on 31 December 2013 and either
    • held a valid registration certificate or residence card or EEA family permit issued under the 2006 regulations
    • had made an application under the 2006 regulations for a registration certificate or residence card or EEA family permit which had not yet been determined
    • had made an application under the 2006 regulations for a registration certificate or residence card which had been refused and in relation to which an appeal under regulation 26 could be brought whilst the appellant was in the UK (excluding out-of-time appeals) or an appeal was pending 
If nothing happens such that it would trigger the end of this transitional protection, then for those with transitional protection, the genuine residence test (akin to the Centre of Life test brought in from 1 January 2014) is assumed to be satisfied.  

There is also some protection for those who were issued with a residence card before 25 November 2016, such that the British citizen sponsor is assumed to be a qualifed person until that date but will need to show their activity, and possibly that they've taken out Comprehensive Sickness Insurance for their family member(s), since that date.  The requirement for the British citizen to show they are a qualified person in their own country is in breach of case law, however this is how UK is currently processing applications.

It is worth reading the guidance on Free movement rights: family members of British citizens on this yourselves to understand what evidence you will need to collate and submit.  Do read the whole document although the elements picked out above are at pages 28-30. 

Sunday 11 February 2018

Trade deals at risk because of Brexit

Trade deals in jeopardy - thank you Brexit!
 Finally, some honesty and realism from Theresa May's government, with her ministers admitting that almost sixty five existing trade deals with non-EU countries are now at risk because of Brexit.

This is in stark contrast to the promises made by Liam Fox and other Leave campaigners who indicated that as soon as we had voted to leave, we'd have other trade agreements almost instantaneously lined up.  In fact, it's far from it.

Reports suggest that countries like Australia and India may be open to trade agreements for more - wait for it - relaxed immigration, or even free movement!  No prizes for guessing for how Brexiteers will feel about this if such a deal is made - it will though give them foreigners, albeit not EU citizens, to blame traffic, queues, heck, maybe even the weather on.

Women power

Women power

With Gerry Adams resigning from his role in Sinn Fein, all ruling parties in the UK are now led by women.

Northern Ireland - Mary Lou McDonald for Sinn Fein and Arlene Foster for DUP
Scotland - Nicola Strugeon for SNP
Wales - Leanne Wood for Plaid Cymru
England/UK - our very own TM for the Conservtive Party.

A wonderful coincidence in the year that represents 100 years since women (not all, but some!) first got the vote in this country.

Saturday 10 February 2018

The Common Travel Area

The Common Travel Area

The Common Travel Area is an open borders area between UK and Ireland.  This confers a right to travel between the two countries without needing a separate visa for nationals of these two nations, even aside from our status as an EEA member state.

There is considerable uncertainty now over what will happen between Ireland and Northern Ireland now - will there in fact be a border?  CTA is independent of the EU, and critical to peace in the region, so many expect it will remain.

However, if there is no customs agreement or arrangment or whatever other word Theresa May wants to call it, Downing Street recently confirmed there won't be, then it means we do not have a frictionless trade agreement with EU.  As long as Ireland remains a member of the EU, this therefore poses a problem.

The latest on the Irish government's website is the following - note the 'at this time'.  Hmmm.

Thursday 8 February 2018

Brexit and its impact on UK regions

Brexit and its impact on UK regions

It's official.  There is no region in the UK that will not be worse off as a result of Brexit.
Source: Twitter
What is disappointing, thought not surprising, is the Tories are scrambling over each other to refute these figures - despite that they are the result of analysis undertaken by multiple government departments - which incidentally one of their own stood up in parliament and liked about.  

The latest on this heard from Downing Street is that the figures above are actually 'provisional'.  Fair enough.  That leaves open the possibility though that the impact from UK leaving the EU might actually be worse than that modelled when the figures are, um, finalised.

It is a strange irony that those regions which voted Leave are the ones likely to be worse off.

What the above figures can never however capture is the non-monetary value of EU membership.  Our being free to live, work, study and retire in another member state, without going through a complicated or expensive visa process.  The pride that came from knowing we were a part of something bigger and better. Not perfect - but definitely better.  That so many are losing their status as an EU citizen against their will is shameful and something no doubt will be regretted for a lifetime.

There is a case going to the courts on this last issue - can our citizenship rights be stripped from us without our consent? Worth keeping an eye on this.