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23 February 2017
Time to get help form The Lords
ECREU has been working with other citizens groups to persuade members of the House of Lords to support our call for the Government to protect all our rights after Brexit.
Several Lords have now spoken in favour of supporting UK citizen rights in the EU and EU citizen rights in the UK. Now that the process is moving on to the Lords second reading, we have helped prepare the following amendment to the Government's Bill which is now listed to be tabled by Lord Oates:
Insert the following new Clause—
“United Kingdom citizens in the EEA and EEA citizens in the UK
(1) Before a notification can be given under section 1(1), Her Majesty’s Government must undertake to ensure the continuance of the existing rights, deriving from any treaty to which section 1 relates, of European Economic Area (EEA) citizens and their families resident in the United Kingdom on the date of withdrawal.
(2) It must be a priority for Her Majesty’s Government in negotiations under the process set out in Article 50 to reach an early agreement to confirm the existing rights of United Kingdom citizens and their families resident in the EEA. European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill 15
(3) No Minister of the Crown may agree to arrangements under Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union for the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union, taking account of the framework for the future relationship, unless those arrangements permit and support the continuance after the UK's withdrawal from the EU of—
(a) the existing rights of EEA citizens and their families resident in the United Kingdom; and
(b) the existing rights of United Kingdom citizens and their families resident in the European Union and the EEA.”
You can help support this effort by writing to individual Lords asking them to support Lord Oates' amendment and if appropriate, stating any personal reason why.
You can download a list of email addresses HERE
(Please note that if sending to 'parliament.co' email addresses, there is a strict limit of six emails from the same sender per day)
23 November 2016
We Are Not Alone....
MPs and Peers are responding positively to our campaign for them to support your rights during Brexit negotiations. But now, one has sent the most encouraging message yet. ECREU is strictly non-political and we welcome support form all sides, so this is the full text of a letter from Tom Brake MP in response to ECREU's Brian Cave.
Dear Brian Cave,
Thank you for contacting me about the rights of UK citizens living in the EU. I share your concerns and frustration on this issue.
When Theresa May moved into Number 10, one might have thought that uncertainty in British politics came to a merciful halt.
Not so. Since the morning of 24 June, 1.3 million British citizens living in the EU have felt deeply uncertain about their legal status. The same is true for family members worried about their parents, grandparents, siblings and children who live abroad in EU countries. In recognition of this heightened anxiety, I am fighting for the Government to take immediate action on the rights of British citizens living in the EU.
If you are one of the many Britons living in the EU, you might be thinking, Will I have to move back to the UK? Is my pension secure? Will I retain access to healthcare? These are reasonable questions, but questions that the Government has refused to answer.
Many UK nationals living abroad have contacted me, asking what will happen next and thanking my fellow Liberal Democrats and me for putting pressure on the Government to act quickly. The unfortunate truth is that any comfort I can give them pales in comparison to a genuine plan for the long-term future of British citizens living abroad.
Recently, I put forward a Ten Minute Rule Bill and spoke in the Commons chamber, demanding that the Government clarify its position on EU nationals living in the UK and British citizens living abroad. Theresa May has indicated she wants to use the rights of EU nationals living in Britain as bargaining chips in negotiations with the EU. This is deplorable. The Government can reassure Britons abroad without using EU nationals as pawns to be sacrificed for the “best possible” Brexit deal. In fact, the House has already condemned this plan, by 245 votes to 2, as wrong in principle.
May would find no quick solution by appealing to international law, either. There is currently no legal consensus about the application of the Vienna Convention on the law of treaties to EU citizens living in the UK or Britons living abroad. It could take years for courts to sort out the issue- years that you don’t have.
Therefore, the only solution is for the Government to legislate now to secure the rights of EU citizens unilaterally, thereby providing desperately needed certainty for all EU nationals living here. This reassurance would also help the 1.3 million British people living in the EU, and help to ensure that Britain remains open and welcoming.
If you are a British citizen living in the EU, we have not forgotten about you. Please know that my fellow Liberal Democrats and I are on your side. We will continue to advocate for your rights and pressure the Government to act as soon as possible. You and your family deserve better than indefinite uncertainty.
I hope this response has allayed your concerns and assured you of my commitment to see the rights of UK citizens protected in EU, however please do not hesitate to contact me if I be of further assistance.
Liberal Democrat MP for Carshalton and Wallington
0208 255 8155
17 November 2016
ECREU Member's Health Evidence For Lords Committee
The House Of Lords EU Justice Sub-Committee has accepted ECREU's member data and portfolio of personal Brexit concerns as evidence for its Brexit inquiry.
Under the heading 'Brexit: acquired rights publications', the Parliament web site lists two ECREU submissions:
'Expat Citizen Rights in EU (ECRU) - Written evidence' which includes member data and 388 written submissions of member's concerns.
'Expat Citizen Rights in EU - Supplementary written evidence', which takes the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to task for a document it submitted.
The evidence submitted by the FCO lists questions put to it by British nationals currently in the EU, but we felt the document was very simplistic in its approach. Whilst the question headings reflect the broad issues, the descriptions lack detail and specifics
In particular, under Healthcare, evidence was limited to the EHIC card, so we have provided the missing detail based on our sample of more than 4,500 expat members and focused on their real healthcare concerns.
All documents are now in the public domain and you can read them from the Parliament web site at this link: HERE, including the document 'Foreign and Commonwealth Office - Written evidence'.
On behalf of all our members, we are delighted the distinguished members of this very important Committee will now see expat citizen's true concerns for their futures, post Brexit.
14 November 2016
Harry To Meet Minister About Your Vote
With suggestions of an early General Election, Harry Shindler MBE, the veteran campaigner for expat citizen voting rights, is traveling to London to meet with MP Chris Skidmore and ask him to persuade Parliament to repeal the 15 year rule which prevents many expats from voting.
This is no mean feat for Harry at the age of 95 who lives in Italy and is a member of the ECREU team, but it goes to show his dedication to securing voting rights for all citizens no matter where they live.
Mr Skidmore is Parliamentary Secretary (Minister for the Constitution), a key position which supports the Minister for Cabinet Office in delivering Cabinet Office policy. His responsibilities include constitution policy and democracy.
Said Harry: "We Ex-Pats are reasonable folk and very patient. However, I share the concern of all those Ex Pats who have contacted me expressing their concern with the talk of a ‘snap’ General Election.
"The concern is, that as with the Referendum, we shall ‘miss the boat’ and again be denied the vote."
He has already written to Downing Street asking for a short Bill to be put before Parliament to delete the wording which currently prevents many of us from voting.
There are two Acts of Parliament which are affected, both passed in 2000 under Tony Blair.
We ask you to help Harry by writing to Mr Skidmore in support of his efforts.
Write To: Chris Skidmore MP, 60 High Street, Hanham, Bristol, BS15 3DR, Angleterre
Or email to: email@example.com
If you want to refer to the Acts in your letter, the appropriate parts can be downloaded from this link HERE
This is an MS Word document and is set out in the format used in the Acts.
21 October 2016
France L’Assemblée nationale hears ECREU concerns
A meeting of the French National Assembly this week, chaired by the Speaker (président) of the House, Claude Bartolone, heard at first hand the anxiety now felt by British families who have chosen to make their homes in France .
The Chairman of the British Community Committee of France, Mr Christopher Chantrey, told the meeting that for Britons living abroad, Brexit is not the 'opportunity', as was said during the referendum campaign: "...but a threat, even to many a disaster".
"The result of the referendum surprised us, has vexed us, and hit us right in the heart."
He gave the meeting the analysis of ECREU member's concerns and some of the emailed submissions of our members, telling the meeting: "All these testimonies evoke the same concerns. The results of the analysis by ECREU, Expatriates Citizens' Rights in the European Union, is a good sample of 2,333 British citizens in France, 10% or 11% of the total. This organization has received more than 330 written submissions since 23rd June."
He cited healthcare and pensions as the main concerns and quoted all the issues raised by ECREU members before moving on to cover issues from citizenship, pet passports, disability benefits and the future of education including the European Union student exchange programme, ERASMUS, which has been subject of coverage by The Connexion Newspaper.
He added that the British in France participate a good deal in civic life, as councillors or volunteers, contributing to their adopted community as much as their French counterparts established in the United Kingdom do to their adopted communities in the UK. Several French villages only thrive with the help of British citizens.
"If the UK leaves the EU before we are eligible to apply for citizenship, will we be allowed to remain here?..." he continued, asking if the French Government would consider a 'fast track' to citizenship for those who been here for five years, and Greater flexibility with regard to the documentation required.
"The ability to speak the language and know the cultural history is not a current requirement for expats to live here and most (if not all) of us have already supplied proof of identification to various departments in order to apply for a Carte Vitale, register for tax, purchase a property, apply for a driving license etc.
"Most of us love the country, and would be proud to become French citizens - but for the cost and requirement for so much documentation."
He also reported several cases of refusal to issue cartes de séjour by some prefectures, and asked why some départements did not apply the rules in the same way. Surely the requirement for documents must be standardised. "Why are they treating some people as 'aliens' when the UK has not even left the EU yet?" he asked.
A full report will be in the next ECREU Newsletter
02 October 2016
Urgent Help Needed For WFP Fight
Last month, we asked for support for Roger Boaden’s Petition to the Committee on Petitions of the European Parliament, protesting against the removal of the Winter Fuel Payment.
You can download the full latest version of Roger’s Petition by clicking HERE.
So why has it now become urgent?
The PETI Committee sent the Petition to the EU Commission, but the Commission concluded: ‘The latest amendments to the UK’s Social Fund Winter Fuel Payment Regulations do not seem to point to a breach of EU law and in particular of Regulation (EC) No 883/2004 on the coordination of social security systems.’
Roger now has two months to reply, and he wants to show the widest possible support when his detailed response is ready - so if you have not already done so, please back his efforts by supporting the Petition from this link: HERE. Unfortunately, you must register to show support.
Following Roger's success in forcing the DWP to uncover the truth about the methods used to justify ending WFP in some EU countries, he is now seeking further evidence of their wrong-doing, so the petition to the EU has taken on increased relevance.
25 September 2016
Winter Fuel Payment Fight Continues
If you share the concern of many ECREU members over the way DWP manipulated statisitics to stop the Winter Fuel Payment, then please sign Roger Boaden's Petition to the European Parliament to have it reinstated. You can find the petition HERE
Said Roger: "The petition needs more signatures to make the European Parliament’s Committee to take us seriously."
If you want the latest on his Tribunal Appeal, and the recent Mail Online article, simply click on Roger's web site www.winterfuelpayment.info
The petition web site site does require you to register before you can indicate your support. This is the way the PETI Committee ensures there are no fake additions.
16 August 2016
DWP ‘lied and lied again...’
Following a four year battle for the truth, the DWP has finally been exposed as having lied over statistics used to justify stopping Winter Fuel payments to British citizens living in Europe.
The DWP had refused a Freedom of Information request by ECREU’s Roger Boaden, to reveal the number of UK citizens living in Malaga who qualified for the payment, claiming it would be too complex and costly to extract the data needed to make payments on a regional basis.
But a First-tier Tribunal Judge disagreed and requested the DWP produce the figures. Now it has apologised and given the long awaited statistics to Mr Boaden.
Said Mr Boaden, a former senior conservative party official for 30 years: “It started with an ‘exclusive interview’ given to a national newspaper by Iain Duncan Smith. The interview was about the Winter Fuel Payment, but Mr Duncan Smith used it to attack British Expats saying it was ‘absurd and offensive that taxpayers are funding these payments for people who have retired to the Mediterranean and enjoy warmer weather’ and that paying the winter fuel payment was ‘an obscene waste of taxpayers’ money’.
“That seemed startling language from a Cabinet Minister responsible, at that time, for 28% of Government expenditure".
So Mr Boaden used the Freedom of Information Act to try and uncover the actual number of pensioners affected and if the DWP could easily identify them from records.
His research revealed that there had been extensive discussions between the DWP and the Met office to do just that. For example, on 8 June 2012, the DWP wrote to the Met Office: ‘We would like to talk to you about the possibility of a regional approach ….’
Said Mr Boaden: “Their responses to the request from the Tribunal Judge proves beyond doubt that the DWP lied, and lied again, for four years. They also covered up the work done by the Met Office, which had told the DWP that an average temperature value for the period November to March could be calculated for each of the 22 regions across France, something the DWP subsequently rejected.
“Why did IDS comment to a newspaper, when he must have known the true figures? He knew perfectly well this interview would generate exactly the headline he wanted - ‘An end to madness of winter fuel cash for expats on the Costa del Sol’.
“I submitted a Freedom of Information request in January 2015, asking how many WFP claimants lived in the Malaga Province of Spain on the Costa del Sol.
It was my way of responding to IDS interview and finding out if it really was impossible to pay Winter Fuel Payments on a regional basis.
“The DWP has finally admitted that it knows there are 7,385 potential claimants living on the Costa del Sol.
“Thanks to my appeal to First Tier Tribunal, we now know that under IDS, the DWP lied and lied again to justify stopping the Winter Fuel Payment to needy UK pensioners living across Europe.”
Winter Fuel Payment Fight Not Over Yet
A Petition to the European Parliament to reinstate UK Winter Fuel Payment to expats has finally been referred to the Committee on Petitions.
The petition, drafted by ECREU's Roger Boaden, had been ruled out of order by the Chair of the Committee on Petitions on the grounds that ‘it did not involve EU Law’. But after sixteen months and several letters from Roger pointing out forcibly that there is a great deal of settled case-law from earlier CJEU Judgments, it has finally been re-instated.
Said Roger; "After Brexit, fighting for the WFP may seem a bit ‘old hat’, but I’m not prepared to give up the fight until I know for sure we have no way back. The re-instatement of my Petition, plus my appeal before a First-tier Tribunal which might also give some good news, convince me we must keep up the fight.”
You can help promote this Petition up the Committee’s agenda during the summer recess by adding your signature from this link: HERE
You will have to register on the PETI site before you can indicate your support.
25 July 2016
New Government Petition to save Expat Pension Increases
A new Government petition has been launched to Maintain Pension increases for British pensioners living in the EU.
You can sign it from HERE
Expat pensioners living outside the EU do not get the annual increase. According to UK law, after Brexit the Government is free to stop pension increases to those in EU countries without reference to Parliament.
This is the petition wording:
‘Depending on what treaties are agreed for Britain's exit from the EU, some British pensioners living in the EU may lose their annual State pension increases. We call upon the Government of the United Kingdom to commit to maintaining these increases for all British pensioners living in the EU.’
23 July 2016
Any decision to leave the EU could be reversed
The British government could reverse any decision to leave EU - even after Article 50 has been invoked, according to senior legal experts.
Lawyers now say Brexit may not be irrevocable even after Article 50 is triggered, giving the UK more power in any negotiations.
Barrister Charles Streeten said a departing member state can change its mind at any time before the two year deadline expires.
Another well-known firm has also recognised the potential loophole. Human rights lawyers, Bindmans, has written to the government’s lawyers asking for the situation to be clarified.
Meanwhile, London law firm, Henderson Chambers, reports that it has been given permission to intervene in its Article 50 Brexit case after being instructed by Croft Solicitors, 'on behalf of a group of British citizens who live in, or have significant connections with, France and whose lives are directly affected by the issues arising in these proceedings.'
This comes after reports that hundreds of law firms are claiming that only Parliament can take any decision regarding Article 50 because the referendum is not legally binding.
17 July 2016
British citizens abroad must not be treated as political bargaining chips
Leader of the Liberal Democrat Party, Tim Farron MP, has sent this letter to colleagues in Europe. There is, of course, a political message, but although focused on residency it shows their is serious concern about expat rights. ECREU is making contact with Mr Farron....
First of all I want to give a huge welcome to all those new members living across Europe who have joined the Liberal Democrats in recent weeks. Many of you are no doubt deeply concerned about the potential impact of Brexit. So I want you to know that whatever happens, our party will be fighting to maintain a close relationship with Europe and to defend the rights of UK expats living across the continent.
I recently met with the seven Liberal Prime Ministers of other EU countries to the discuss the referendum outcome, and now I have written to them all asking to support a proposal to allow UK expats to reside freely in Europe if and when the UK does leave the EU. The Liberal Democrats have already called on the UK government to offer all EU citizens residing in Britain a guarantee they can stay. We believe this certainty should now be extended to British citizens who have taken advantage of EU free movement to live elsewhere in Europe. EU citizens in the UK and British citizens abroad must not be treated as political bargaining chips.
You can help spread the message by sharing this letter online through social media and with friends, family, colleagues and fellow expats.
I also encourage you to speak to anyone who shares our vision of Britain as an internationalist, open and optimistic country and ask them to join the party.
Together we can defend the right to free movement and secure opportunities for the millions of British citizens who have chosen to live abroad in the EU.
Tim Farron MP
Leader of the Liberal Democrats
15 July 2016
Could the Referendum be Illegal?
A plea to have the UK's Brexit referendum declared illegal because thousands of expats were banned from voting, has been acknowledged by the United Nations Commission of Human Rights.
It was submitted by veteran campaigner, Harry Shindler (95) from his home in Italy, after he failed to get the law changed through the UK High Court before the referendum. His plea relates to Article 21 of the Declaration of Human Rights which states:
(1) Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives.
(2) Everyone has the right of equal access to public service in his country.
(3) The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.
The UK is a party to the declaration and Mr Shindler hopes that the UN will intervene to declare the Referendum unrepresentative of the citizens of the nation and therefore illegal.
Mr Shindler was awarded an MBE in 2014 for his services to Anglo-Italian relations.
Brian Cave, long time campaigner and now one of the organisers of new support and lobby group, Expat Citizen Rights in EU, believes the referendum result may have been different if many expats were not banned from voting because they have lived abroad for more than 15 years. He says Votes for Life should be an 'absolute priority' for the British Government.
Meanwhile, several groups are being formed on the internet and social media web sites in France and Spain, aiming to coordinate efforts to make sure MPs understand expat's concerns and that they are foremost in all Brexit negotiations, should legal appeals come to nothing.