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12 October 2017
100 Years of Votes for Women - Votes for Citizens Abroad in 2018?
It's 100 years since women won the vote, yet in our great democracy, there remains many thousands of UK citizens banned from voting simply because they have lived abroad for more than 15 years.
Perhaps 2018 may be year when Britain joins most civilised democracies around the world and abandons this unjust rule. On February 23rd, Glyn Davies MP, a Welsh Farmer from Montgomeryshire, is presenting a Private Member’s Bill, 'The Overseas Electors Bill 2017-19' for its second reading. It could open the door to long awaited change.
Said ECREU's Brian Cave: "Many Britons who live abroad feel abandoned by their Government. Those living in the Far East or Africa have long suffered a diminution of their income because their Government refuses to increase their State pension. Now, the Referendum has brought this feeling of abandonment to Europe."
Private Members Bills always take place on a Friday, but MPs generally skip them because such debates often have little importance and they prefer to get home for the weekend.
So ECREU is appealing to all expats and concerned citizens to write to their MPs encouraging as many as possible to attend.
For more information and suggested letters, download the ECREU Newsletter HERE.
Change has been repeatedly promised in election manifestos, only to be abandoned. This could be a crucial moment for British democracy, and it all depends on you......
12 October 2017
Millions risk being thrown under the Brexit bus
British in Europe, the coalition of UK citizens’ groups, says Britons across the EU fear that the Prime Minister's promise to secure citizens rights is nowhere near being fulfilled.
British in Europe chair, Berlin based lawyer, Jane Golding said: “Following the results of the round today, we are increasingly worried that those negotiating about our rights are simply unable to deliver what Mrs May promised in her Lancaster House speech and Mr. Barnier promised us in May.
“We feel let down. In the UK party politics seem to be taking priority over people, with renewed talk of no deal."
After the fifth round the Brexit negotiations, there has been no progress on the fundamentals: free movement for UK citizens in the EU and no real move on settled status for EU citizens in the UK or on the scope of economic rights and professional qualifications. And yet, just twenty days ago in her much-vaunted Florence Speech, Theresa May said: “....it has been, and remains, one of my first goals in this negotiation to ensure that you can carry on living your lives as before. I am clear that the guarantee I am giving on your rights is real.”
“In fact, we are no further forward than we were after the referendum last year so how can we believe that?", Jane Golding added. "There is now a very real fear that the UK may crash out with no deal., and that we will be thrown under the Brexit bus.
“On top of that, Theresa May admitted herself two days ago on LBC that she had no idea what would happen to us in this case - despite repeatedly claiming that it was her priority to protect our rights. And it is deeply disappointing to hear Michel Barnier talk about free movement for UK citizens in the EU as part of the future relationship when our livelihoods and families depend on these rights now.”
23 September 2017
Prime Minitser's Speech Ingores Citizens Rights
The hopes of UK citizens living in Europe were dashed when they were largely ignored in the Prime Minister's speech in Florence. There was little reference to citizens’ rights, despite its position as first priority in the negotiations.
A statement by Jane Golding, of our Coalition of Groups, British in Europe, and echoed by ECREU, Mrs May's comments do not go far enough and don’t reflect the seriousness of the situation. She said: "We don’t share the PM’s view that significant progress has been made on this most fundamental of issues and are thus astonished that our Prime Minister missed such an important opportunity to remedy this, not just for the 4.2 million citizens affected, but for the future of the UKEU relationship post-Brexit.
"We now appeal to her to listen to the voice of British Citizens in the EU and all those EU citizens who make such a valuable contribution to the UK.
"The Government must offer a real lifelong guarantee of the existing rights of EU citizens in the UK, to break the deadlock with the EU over similar rights for some 1.2 million UK citizens in the EU, especially free movement. Then it must reach agreement on that and ring fence it. After all TM said that we should have the same rights as we have at the moment.”
The coalition has sent a comprehensive letter to the Prime Minister asking her to scrap Government proposals to make all EU workers and their family members to apply for a new 'settled status’ in favour of this guarantee. The letter notes that otherwise the repercussions on the lives of British working families and pensioners could be disastrous because reciprocity means reciprocity.
The letter appeals for the UK to go back to what the PM said in her Lancaster House speech: that all citizens should retain their current rights.
Added Ms Golding: "Her speech gives no clear comfort that she has listened to us and is moving in the right direction. All these citizens have built lives for themselves and their families based on existing rights and freedoms. More than half of British living in Europe and most EU citizens in the UK were not allowed to vote in the referendum or general election. This is a question of fundamental justice. Raise the bar on citizens’ rights, we can do better than this."
Download coalition letter HERE
20 September 2017
Descendent of Mrs Pankhurst accuses government of vote hypocrisy
A descendent of suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst has accused the Government of hypocrisy over the it’s support for the UN's International Democracy Day.
The Electoral Commission is encouraging support for the event using claims from Minister for the Constitution, Chris Skidmore, that his ambition is to create a UK National Democracy Week to 'increase the number of people who understand and take part in our democratic process which will include those who feel excluded from the democratic debate, face barriers to participation and are less likely to be registered to vote'.
But ECREU's Margaret Hales, who lives in Spain, says the Minister's words are angering thousands of British citizens in Europe who are denied a vote because they have lived outside the UK for more than 15 years.
Said Mrs Hales: "How can the Cabinet Office and a Minister claim to support democratic engagement increasing voter registration and democratic participation, when the Government has steadfastly refused all appeals to reverse what is a plainly undemocratic voting ban on its own citizens?"
"This affects UK citizens all over the world, but strikes a particularly bitter cord with those living in the EU who have been denied any say on their own futures after Brexit."
According to the Government's web site, Mr Skidmore made his claims at the launch of National Democracy Week saying it will be: 'A commitment to future generations, to ensure that the importance of the vote and each individual voice is never eroded.' Added Margaret Hales: "Our Government appears to believe this should apply to all citizens- except those who have exercised their right to live outside the UK."
Mrs Hales lives in Alicante, where she runs a local information newsletter for residents and visitors. She has worked with Spanish political parties, the press and radio to encourage Brits to vote locally and has campaigned for the many new people arriving in the Spain to register on the electoral roll. She also helped set up support group Expat Citizen Rights in EU which now has 9,500 members across all 28 states. In Prague this year Margaret was elected President of The European Union of Women, an organisation founded in Austria in 1953 to work for peace, democracy and the rights of women. She was awarded the MBE in 1997 for political service.
1 September 2017
End of Cross Border Working for British in Europe?
According to the joint UK/EU technical note on citizens’ rights, some agreement was reached on recognition of professional qualifications and the right to set up a business after Brexit but it looks as if in both cases this will only be valid in the country of residence and not across the EU 27. While there was never going to be progress this month on key issues such as general rights of residence and freedom of movement so the hope was that significant progress would be made on the technical points.
ECREU is a member group coalition, British in Europe, whose chair, Jane Golding said: "Both parties also agreed that frontier workers should be covered by any agreement, but we are concerned that this definition is too narrow to cover the myriad ways in which UK citizens work cross-border. And it seems frontier workers will not be able to change the country they work in"
She added “This may all be consistent with the current EU position on free movement but that means that Brexit will alter the daily lives of those of UK citizens in the EU who work cross-border. And without freedom of movement, the daily lives of all UKinEU will be altered.”
British in Europe’s view is that if the UK wants to ensure that its citizens do have the rights they have now, the UK must guarantee the permanent residence status of EU citizens in the UK and in a way that ensures this is genuinely for life, otherwise the EU will not agree to continuing rights of free movement for UK citizens in the EU.
"It's nonsense for David Davis to claim that the UK is being more flexible and pragmatic than the EU on the fundamentals. The pragmatic approach would be to grandfather all the EU citizens with permanent residence in the UK, just as the EU is offering UK citizens in Europe, not make them apply for a new lesser status." added Jane Golding: "This is a finite group of people already integrated and contributing to the UK - it's not about immigration, and even if it was, we now know that concerns about EU immigration are a red herring if the immigration figures and international student figures that came out last week are anything to go by."
Members of the coalition were happy that at least aggregation of pensions was confirmed, both pre and post-Brexit, and discussion around the existing mutual arrangements for healthcare for pensioners and others in receipt of benefits are set to continue. Agreement was also reached on EHIC cards for those already living in another EU country, but exactly who would benefit from healthcare arrangements is not entirely clear. "It is not clear from the technical note if it is necessary to already be in receipt of a pension and healthcare from the UK before exit, or what exactly ‘are in the EU 27 on exit day' actually means."
According to Deputy Chair of British in Europe, Fiona Godfrey: "If David Davis wants us British citizens in the EU to have our rights guaranteed, then he really has to get flexible and pragmatic on the fundamentals. If he would only agree to meet us, we could tell him that."
17 August 2017
Where do we go from here........
This might be the 'silly season' with parliaments closed and MPs away, but the business of Government does continue and we are planning for the next round of negotiations.
Colleagues at our coalition of groups, British in Europe, had a telephone meeting with UK Government representatives last week to clear up some of the unanswered questions from the last round and to see if the Government really understands what we are all asking for (download our response document: HERE).
This is summary of key matters from that meeting....
Freedom of movement and the 2 year rule
The UK will seek freedom of movement for UK citizens in the EU. According to our previous discussions with the EU, it might relax freedom of movement in the EU if the UK relaxed its 2 year rule for EU citizens in the UK.
The UK does recognise the problems facing, for example, students, or those who return to look after an elderly relative. It says it intends to be flexible with emphasis on those with strong ties to the UK. The detail is most likely to be discussed in the September round of negotiations.
Meanwhile, the Government is looking for case studies from 'Frontier Workers', so if you work cross-border in Europe and are a concerned for your future, please send us your story via our web site contact page HERE before the end of August.
Settled status and permanent residence
We explained our concerns about the use of EU concepts within the UK immigration system. When asked if the UK was saying that substantive rights should be those attaching to the status of EU permanent residence (subject to the known exceptions such as family reunification and importing spouses) and if the procedure (including right of appeal) would be that of the UK immigration system.
It appears that this was the case and the UK was seriously considering use of the term 'permanent residence' in the withdrawal agreement which the EC team were happy with. We understand that both sides would accept that such an approach would meet the test of reciprocity in relation to residence issues.
It seems ring fencing (protecting citizens rights from other Brexit negotiations) has not been discussed at all. The focus on both sides has been on trying to get an agreement. The overarching plan is that by October the parties have a policy agreement on the issues, and there has been no suggestion of revisiting such an agreement later in the negotiations.
Scheme of talks
The August negotiating round will focus on more exploration of issues on either side and will not involve either side having to make concessions. There will be 3 main topics:
Frontier/posted workers. UK position is that posted workers should be allowed to complete their posting. EC says that they are providing a cross-border service so they are outside the scope of citizens’ rights. Among other things there is a social security coordination aspect to this.
Social security. This was very complex operationally and raised issues of the extent of information to be shared and the coordination of rules. The UK has tried to include the EHIC scheme, and will come back to it. But the EC does not agree, saying that it concerned future relations not present rights. UK is thinking of the best approach to secure the use of EHIC cards for those who are at Brexit across the Channel, away from their original state.
Professional qualifications and economic rights. The UK negotiators will be bringing along colleagues from the economic ministries. Their approach is that if a person has at Brexit started a course within the remit of EU mutual recognition, then the qualification they obtain should be recognised.
Residence rights of students were in the discussions but it was not clear whether funding would be included at this stage.
3 August 2017
UK Citizens groups respond to Brexit negotiations so far
The PM and most of our MPs may be off sunning themselves at the moment, but we are still doing our best to make them address the issues arising from their negotiations so far.
The legal experts at our coalition of Citizens Groups 'British in Europe', along with 'the3million', have written to DExEU, the Home Office, the EU Commission and Parliament with comments on Round two of the negotiations on citizens’ rights urging them to take them into account in future rounds.
This document sets out our position regarding the negotiations on citizens rights and you can download it HERE
The main concerns expressed in our document are:
The continued failure of both sides, but particularly the UK, to recognise acquired rights which cannot be taken away. We cannot be asked to 'apply' for a 'grant' of something less.
The EU’s apparent U-turn on accepting that those of us who have exercised the right of free movement by moving to an EU27 country should continue to have that right and be free to live, work etc in other EU27 countries.
The UK’s attempt to defuse criticism of its proposal to make EU citizens with a right of permanent residence apply for 'settled status' under UK immigration rules. They say that settled status will be interpreted according to EU rules on permanent residence. But the result will be an unclear mish-mash of two incompatible systems with the only predictable result being years of uncertainty.
The determination by both sides to keep the rule that you lose a right of permanent residence if you leave your residence for two years.
The EU’s failure to concede voting rights in local elections, though this may just be a bureaucratic issue of whether this is appropriate for the Article 50 agreement.
The continued failure to discuss, let alone agree, ring-fencing of any agreement which is made on citizens’ rights.
The document also deals with other issues of detail raised in round two.
As a result of the extensive lobbying we have done, British in Europe and the3million are now being consulted by officials at a very high level on both sides of the Channel. We were debriefed on round two almost immediately after the official press conference and invited to have a continuing dialogue with the negotiating teams so that the views of those most directly affected, the citizens whose rights are in issue, are taken into account.
10 July 2017
EU says UK citizens rights offer would cast a dark cloud of vagueness and uncertainty over the lives of millions of Europeans....
European parliament Brexit coordinator, Guy Verhofstadt, says that the UK's proposal falls short of its own ambitions to “put citizens first” and if implemented, 'would cast a dark cloud of vagueness and uncertainty over the lives of millions of Europeans.'
In a statement issued prior to the EU's formal response, Mr Verhofstadt says: 'While we accept the Brexit decision was a democratic choice, we were never convinced Brexit would be a positive development economically, certainly not for the standing of Europe and the UK in the world, and most importantly: not for citizens. The UK proposal on citizens’ rights, only confirms this belief.
'Comparing the UK’s proposal with that of the EU’s Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, the differences are striking. In the EU proposal, the British people and Europeans keep the same rights and the same level of protection they currently enjoy under European law. All rights acquired before the date of withdrawal will be directly enforceable, with life-long protection, full reciprocity and equal treatment. A position as simple and clear as it is fair.
'That is what a majority of the British people want, when they indicate they seek to keep their EU citizenship. The UK response to our proposal came three weeks later. It was a damp squib.'
Mr Verhofstadt's statement can download be HERE
The statement is also signed by:
Elmar Brok, Roberto Gualtieri and Danuta Hubner, members of the Brexit Steering Group
Gianni Pittella, Chair of the S&D Group
Gabi Zimmer, Chair of the GUE/NGL Group
Ska Keller and Phillippe Lamberts, co-Chairs of the Greens/EFA Group
01 July 2017
UK Government's document leaves acquired rights under threat
The coalition of support groups, British in Europe, has worked with the3million to prepare a comprehensive response to the UK Government's proposals for safeguarding citizen's rights.
ECREU's Roger Boaden said: "We believe this is a very important document which spells out the deep concerns many UK Citizens have about their Government’s attitude. There is so much in the UK Government’s own proposals which could place our acquired rights under threat."
The joint response was drafted by Jane Golding, the Chair of British in Europe, with help from the Vice-Chairs, Fiona Frank-Godfrey, and Jeremy Morgan, with contributions from ECREU's Roger Boaden, on behalf of British in Europe, together with representatives of the3million.
ECREU is asking as many members and UK citizens in the EU to send it to as many individuals as possible, and particularly to any MP or Peer with whom they may have exchanged correspondence in the past.
The 12 page document can be downloaded from this link: https://goo.gl/7AYyxF
27 June 2017
Government strategy putting future rights at risk
Government must do much more to protect the futures of 1.2 million UK citizens living and working in the EU warns British in Europe, the largest coalition of UK citizens groups in the EU.
Commenting on the citizens rights proposals published on Monday, British in Europe Chair Jane Golding, said: “The government strategy is clearly putting our future rights at risk. The paper makes very few detailed mentions of UK citizens in Europe, even though they represent by far the largest national group of people who will be impacted by the citizens rights deal.
"It insists on both reciprocity and on restricting some of the current rights of EU citizens living in the UK. That means that the EU may well respond with measures to restrict some of our current rights too - the exact opposite to Theresa May’s stated intention to use reciprocity in order to protect those rights.
“Our meetings with DExEU officials and ministers on Monday were constructive, but the UK government must do a lot more to show that it takes seriously its duty of care and protection to 1.2m UK citizens in Europe. There is a risk we will be the sacrificial lambs of Brexit, while the government focuses on immigration arrangements for EU citizens already in the UK.”
She added that the government’s offer lacks clarity in comparison to the detailed EU offer published in May with very little about what Theresa May actually wants to achieve and how UK citizens rights should be protected.
Jane Golding says the Government needs to think carefully about how its offer to EU citizens in the UK may impact the offer that is already on the table from the EU. “To suggest that any offer made by either side would be generous is simply wrong. All citizens want is to keep the status quo and get on with our lives. People have had their lives on hold now for a year and until there is final deal which is ring fenced from the other issues so it is protected whatever happens in the negotiations, we won’t be able to sleep at night."
She said that while the government was passing Article 50 and holding elections, British in Europe was consulting with the EU which took account of its suggestions and improved its offer. It has also been keeping DExEU officials and ministers up-to-date about citizen's needs and concerns and hopes to continue that relationship.
British in Europe Deputy Chair, Fiona Godfrey, who also attended the meeting with ministers on Monday added: “This may be an opening gambit, but at the moment, we lose family reunification rights such as bringing over sick relatives and going back to the UK with non-UK, EU spouses. It also looks as if our British children must pay international fees at Universities after 2019 while risking not being able to return to EU27 countries after their studies, unless their permanent residence position in the UK before and after Brexit is clarified.
"Despite Theresa May’s statement in the House of Commons that the UK would continue to provide healthcare cover in the EU, the language on this is vague and muddling and the proposal on mutual recognition and cross border working is vague. These are important issues, given that around 80% of UK citizens in the EU are working people who want to know that their livelihoods are secured in future."
ECREU is a founding and active member of British in Europe, the coalition of citizens groups in the EU. It enables us to have representation at key government meetings giving ECREU members a louder and effective voice!
26 June 2017
At last - Government outlines our rights
The Government's proposals Safeguarding the Position of EU Citizens Living in the UK and UK Nationals Living in the EU still leaves considerable uncertainty in the minds of the citizens it is supposed to protect.
A key worry is the option to 'walk away' if the negotiations fail, repeatedly suggested by Theresa May and David Davis. Said Roger Boaden of support group Expat Citizen Rights in EU: "We have consistently asked for any agreement on the rights of citizens to be ring fenced, protecting it from other aspects of the negotiations. If negotiations fail, at least EU and UK citizens will know their lives can continue uninterrupted."
He added that citizens can take some comfort from the fact that the Government appears to have listened to their appeals to protect pensions, health care, qualifications and the issues surrounding right to work and family members of other nationalities.
"We are concerned that 'qualifying EU citizens will have to apply for their residence status'. This seems to be an ID card system and will immediately make EU Citizens different from UK Citizens. So for Theresa May to claim that they will be treated the same is misleading, yet again. I live in France and have a French ID card, but under EU Directive, this is not compulsory. Also, the idea of ID cards was rejected in the UK. If reciprocity is demanded, presumably, we will all need them."
The document needs careful scrutiny before we can come to any firm conclusions. But it does seem to reflect some of the comprehensive position document issued by the EU some time ago. So it seems very strange that Mrs May is continuing to say the EU should reciprocate.
23 May 2017
Do you live in the Dordogne?
If so, you might like to attend these two important Brexit meetings in Pergueux on 2nd June....
The Franco British Chamber of Commerce and Industry is hosting a Brexit meeting in the morning. This is an opportunity to meet British Ambassador to France, Lord Llewellyn and join in the discussion. ECREU's Roger Boaden will be there.
10h15 - Doors open
10h30 - Presentation by Lord Llewellyn
11h00 - Q & A
12h00 - End
Chamber of Commerce and Industry Dordogne,
The event is free and there are limited places available. Book from this link
In the afternoon at 2pm, there is a second meeting at the same venue......
'Britons Beyond Brexit - What future for Britons in France?' brings together several citizens groups based in France. Roger Boaden will be making a presentation.
The meeting has been organised by Dr Fiona Ferbrache (University of Oxford) and Prof. Jeremy MacClancy (Oxford Brookes University) to discuss and debate the future of Britons in France. Bringing together international academics,
campaigning groups (ECREU, Fair Deal for Expats, and RiFT), the Liberal Democrats in France, Consular representatives and Britons living in France.
This event provides a platform to exchange views and share knowledge.
Entry is free and you can register from this link.
18 May 2017
Conservative Manifesto - Now we know our Governments plans for the next Parliament – or do we?
From a total of some 30,000 words, just 25 are devoted to votes for life and what they now call ‘entitlements’. That used to be ‘rights’.
Then, having taken evidence from ECREU via Select Committee hearings and written submissions via the Commons and the House of Lords, the Manifesto simply says: ‘We will control immigration and secure the entitlements of EU nationals in Britain and British nationals in the EU.’
The rights of some five million people in the UK and in the EU don’t even warrant a mention of their own.
It is also curious that ‘rights’ have become ‘entitlements’. Both words mean the same thing, but one does wonder why the terminology is being changed form that which all five million of us understand.
They say they will legislate for votes for life, but we have heard that one before – several times. It quickly became just another broken promise. And of course, once we leave the EU, it probably won’t count for much anyway.
The fact that there is so little devoted to these issues could raise the suspicion that they have used minimalistic words to cover up their long-term plans. After all, we have been kept in dark so far – why should anything change now an election is looming?
Then there is the statement that: ‘We will not bring the European Union’s Charter of Fundamental Rights into UK law.’ Could that possibly have anything to do with the fact that Article 34, paragraph 2 of the Charter includes the words: ‘Everyone residing and moving legally within the European Union is entitled to social security benefits and social advantages in accordance with Union law and national laws and practices.’
Are we getting paranoid, and if so are justified?
There may be some tactical voting coming on......
23 February 2017
Time to get help from 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: firstname.lastname@example.org
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.