‘Guarantee our rights now’: British in Europe call on London to act as fears of no-deal Brexit grow

Campaigners for the rights of Brits living in France and around the EU say "enough is enough" and are demanding the British government and Brussels to take steps to guarantee the rights of UK citizens in Europe after Brexit, as the alarming prospect of a no-deal divorce grows.

'Guarantee our rights now': British in Europe call on London to act as fears of no-deal Brexit grow
Photo: Depositphotos

The campaign group British in Europe, which represents the estimated 1.2 million Brits across the EU, including 150,000 in France have written to the UK's Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab and the EU's chief negotiator Michel Barnier.

The campaigners are demanding the two sides end the “extreme legal uncertainty” and the subsequent stress and anxiety for the three million EU nationals living in Britain and the 1.2 million Brits across the EU by guaranteeing the agreements on citizens' rights drawn up by the two sides last December.

“Enough is enough, we need legal certainty now, and we ask you to do the right thing by providing it,” says British in Europe and the organisation “the3million”, which represents EU nationals in the UK.

Those agreements gave EU nationals in Britain and Brits in the UK the right to stay in the country where they now live, but they are threatened by the growing prospect that Britain and the EU will not reach an overall deal before the deadline for looming Brexit negotiations.

Those agreements on citizen rights which were thrashed out last year will stand for nothing if Britain and the EU continue to be at loggerheads over their future trading relationship and cannot reach an agreement on how to solve the problem of the Irish border.

But British in Europe and “the3million” say the current situation cannot go on and is taking its toll on Brits living across the EU.

“Today, the3million and British in Europe are asking you to commit to implementing and strengthening your current agreement on citizens’ rights, regardless of the outcome of the Brexit negotiations.

“We have faced over two years of debilitating uncertainty and anxiety about our status, and are horrified that all the months of negotiations and colour-coded charts on our rights could come to nothing in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

“You jointly have it within your powers to end this nightmare immediately for over 4 million of us, by taking the true moral high ground and publicly committing to honouring these agreements on our rights – whatever the outcome of the rest of the negotiations.

“We thus now ask you to take citizens out of the 'nothing is agreed until everything is agreed' straitjacket.”

Those citizens' rights agreement not only gave guarantees that Brits will be able to stay in France or Spain but also that the health costs of pensioners will also be covered by the British government and that their pensions would continue to rise each year.

Although the agreement did not allow for continued freedom of movement across the EU, much to the anger of campaigners.

“What we are urgently calling for is a simple, obvious solution – namely that the EU and the UK jointly agree to ringfence and commit to implement the Citizens’ Rights part of the draft Withdrawal Agreement in all circumstances, even if it is the only aspect to be agreed,” read the letter. 

“The3million and British in Europe have been asking for such ringfencing since March 2017, and have provided serious legal opinion on the possibility of achieving this.5 We know it can be done if there is the political will to protect us.”

The Local is asking Brits in France to tell their own stories of how the prospect of a no-deal Brexit and all the uncertainty around Brexit is impacting their lives.

Please email [email protected] if you would like to tell your own story.

CLICK HERE to read the full version of the letter.

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Amber alert: Travellers to France warned of another busy weekend at UK ports

A week after chaotic scenes and 6-hour queues at the port of Dover, the British motoring organisation the AA has issued an amber traffic warning, and says it expects cross-Channel ports to be very busy once again this weekend as holidaymakers head to France.

Amber alert: Travellers to France warned of another busy weekend at UK ports

The AA issued the amber warning on Thursday for the whole of the UK, the first time that it has issued this type of warning in advance.

Roads across the UK are predicted to be extremely busy due to a combination of holiday getaways, several large sporting events and a rail strike – but the organisation said that it expected traffic to once again be very heavy around the port of Dover and the Channel Tunnel terminal at Folkestone.

Last weekend there was gridlock in southern England and passengers heading to France enduring waits of more than six hours at Dover, and four hours at Folkestone.

The AA said that while it doesn’t expect quite this level of chaos to be repeated, congestion was still expected around Dover and Folkestone.

On Thursday ferry operator DFDS was advising passengers to allow two hours to get through check-in and border controls, while at Folkestone, the Channel Tunnel operators only said there was a “slightly longer than usual” wait for border controls.

In both cases, passengers who miss their booked train or ferry while in the queue will be accommodated on the next available crossing with no extra charge.

Last weekend was the big holiday ‘getaway’ weekend as schools broke up, and a technical fault meant that some of the French border control team were an hour late to work, adding to the chaos. 

But the underlying problems remain – including extra checks needed in the aftermath of Brexit, limited space for French passport control officers at Dover and long lorry queues on the motorway heading to Folkestone.

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The port of Dover expects 140,000 passengers, 45,000 cars and 18,000 freight vehicles between Thursday and Sunday, and queues were already starting to build on Thursday morning.