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Barnier rebuffs appeal over citizens' rights in event of no-deal Brexit - THE GUARDIAN

JUNE 18, 2019

BY  Daniel Boffey in Brussels

The EU’s chief negotiator has rejected an appeal by the UK’s Brexit secretary for the full gamut of citizens’ rights in the withdrawal agreement to be protected in the event of a no-deal exit.

In a clear signal from Brussels that it is not willing to countenance a “managed no deal”, Michel Barnier said the suggestion that the citizens elements could be carved out was “far from straight-forward” and that the focus should be on getting the Brexit deal ratified.

While emphasising that British nationals living in the EU would not be “left in the dark” about their rights in the event of the UK leaving without a deal, he insisted to Stephen Barclay that a range of problems existed in ringfencing the rights contained in the agreement, including the continued role of the European court of justice.

Related: Boris Johnson pledges to ditch backstop in alternative Brexit plan

© Reuters

Under the terms of the withdrawal agreement, which has been rejected three times by the Commons, the ECJ would give rulings on the interpretation of the rights contained in the agreement. There would be no legal basis for such an arrangement in the event that the withdrawal agreement was not ratified by the Commons.

“Our joint efforts should remain focused on making sure that the withdrawal agreement will be ratified and will enter into force,” Barnier wrote. “We should not be distracted from this essential objective.”

© Getty

The EU negotiator’s letter to Barclay came in response to a request from the British government for discussions to be opened on ringfencing the citizens’ rights aspects of the withdrawal agreement, a policy agreed by the Commons in an amendment tabled by the Conservative MP Alberto Costa.

Related: Stewart: 100 Tory MPs will halt Johnson if he attempts to go for no deal

The Costa amendment suggested that workers’ rights, from maternity and paternity leave to protections for agency workers, part-time, fixed-term and young workers, should remain for British nationals living on the continent as if the UK were a member state.

Stephen Barclay © Getty Stephen Barclay

The EU’s member states are, on the advice of the European commission, developing their own legislation to protect the rights of British nationals living in their countries in the event of the UK crashing out but there remain areas that are not covered. 

Slide 1 of 43: A pro-Brexit campaigner wears the Union flag colours and holds placards as he demonstrates near the Houses of Parliament in central London on April 3, 2019. - Prime Minister Theresa May was to meet on Wednesday with the leader of Britain's main opposition party in a bid to thrash out a Brexit compromise with just days to go until the deadline for leaving the bloc. (Photo by Tolga Akmen / various sources / AFP) (Photo credit should read TOLGA AKMEN/AFP/Getty Images)
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1/43 SLIDES © TOLGA AKMEN/AFP/Getty Images

With the UK's withdrawal from the European Union (EU) experiencing various political complications, having now been delayed up to October 31, 2019, the country has seen increasing public discontent from both Leave and Remain supporters alike. Amidst a general air of uncertainty and ongoing frustration at the government's inability to mobilize a smooth withdrawal from the European bloc, demonstrators on both sides of the political spectrum have taken to the streets to give voice to their discontent. We look at some of the recent protests in pictures.

(Pictured) A pro-Brexit campaigner wears the Union flag colours and holds placards as he demonstrates near the Houses of Parliament in central London, England on April 3, 2019. 

2/43 SLIDES© WIktor Szymanowicz/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Pro-EU demonstrators hold placards and EU flags as they protest outside the Houses of Parliament on April 10, 2019 in London, England.

3/43 SLIDES© Alberto Pezzali/NurPhoto via Getty Images

People walk past EU and Union flags outside the Houses of Parliament in London, England on April 1, 2019. 

4/43 SLIDES© Tim Ireland/AP Photo

British politician Nigel Farage takes the stage to speak at a rally at Parliament Square after the final leg of the "March to Leave" in London on March 29.

5/43 SLIDES© REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis

Anti-Brexit supporters protest outside the Houses of Parliament in London, England on April 1, 2019. 

6/43 SLIDES© Dylan Martinez/Reuters

A pro-Brexit protester holds a sign at a demonstration outside the Houses of Parliament on March 29.

7/43 SLIDES© AP Photo/Peter Morrison

A young girl joins the border Brexit protest on the Irish border, on the Old Dublin Road, in Carrickcarnon, Ireland on March 30, 2019. 

8/43 SLIDES© Dylan Martinez/Reuters

A far-right protester is detained by police during a pro-Brexit demonstration near the Houses of Parliament in London, England, on March 29.

9/43 SLIDES© Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Demonstrators participate in a Border Communities Against Brexit (BCAB) protest as part of their ongoing campaign against the return of a border to the island of Ireland March 30, 2019. 

10/43 SLIDES© Andrew RC Marshall/Reuters

A man dressed as Darth Vader poses with a Union Jack near a pro-Brexit demonstration at Parliament Square in London on March 29.

11/43 SLIDES© John Keeble/Getty Images

A young girl waves the European Flag in Green Park, London, during the Put It To The People March on March 23.

12/43 SLIDES© NIKLAS HALLE'N/AFP/Getty Images

People hold up placards and European Union flags as they pass Trafalgar Square on a march and rally organised by the pro-European People's Vote campaign for a second EU referendum in central London on March 23. 

13/43 SLIDES© Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Former UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage takes part in the "March to Leave" walk in Mansfield, England, on March 23.

14/43 SLIDES© Brais G. Rouco / Barcroft Media via Getty Images

A woman taking a picture of the figure of Theresa May in Trafalgar Square, London, during the Put It To The People March on March 23. 

15/43 SLIDES© Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Former UKIP leader Nigel Farage addresses marchers from the top of a bus at the start of the 'March to Leave' walk from the village of Linby to Beeston, Nottinghamshire on March 23 in Mansfield.

16/43 SLIDES© REUTERS/Henry Nicholls

EU supporters, calling on the government to give Britons a vote on the final Brexit deal, participate in the 'People's Vote' march in central London on March 23. 

17/43 SLIDES© Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

People gather in Linby for the 'March to Leave' walk on March 23.

18/43 SLIDES© REUTERS/Henry Nicholls

EU supporters participate in the 'People's Vote' march in central London, England on March 23. 

19/43 SLIDES© Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Pro-Brexit marchers in the village of Linby on March 23.

20/43 SLIDES© Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

People gather to take part in the 'Put It To The People' march on March 23 in London, England. 

21/43 SLIDES© Joe Giddens/PA Images via Getty Images

'March to Leave' protesters set off from Linby village in Nottinghamshire towards London, England. The 14-day march began in Sunderland on March 16 and will end in the capital on March 29, where a mass rally will take place on Parliament Square.

22/43 SLIDES© Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Protesters take part in the 'Put It To The People' march on Whitehall on March 23 in London, England. 

23/43 SLIDES© NIKLAS HALLE'N/AFP/Getty Images

A protester carrrying flags walks past the Union (L) and EU flags of anti-Brexit activists near the Houses of Parliament in London on March 18. 

24/43 SLIDES© Ian Forsyth/Getty Images

Nigel Farage reacts as he arrives at the end of the first leg of the March to Leave campaign on March 16 in Hartlepool, England. 

25/43 SLIDES© TOLGA AKMEN/AFP/Getty Images

An anti-Brexit protester holds an EU flag as they demonstrate outside the Houses of Parliament in London on March 14 as MPs debate a motion on whether to seek a delay to Britain's exit from the EU.

26/43 SLIDES© TOLGA AKMEN/AFP/Getty Images

Pro-Brexit and anti-Brexit protesters hold flags as they demonstrate outside the Houses of Parliament in London on March 14 as members debate a motion on whether to seek a delay to Britain's exit from the EU. 

27/43 SLIDES© Jack Taylor/Getty Images

Anti-Brexit protesters demonstrate outside the Houses of Parliament in London on March 13. 

28/43 SLIDES© Jack Taylor/Getty Images

Pro-Brexit protesters demonstrate outside the Houses of Parliament in London on March 13. 

29/43 SLIDES© Jack Taylor/Getty Images

Anti-Brexit protesters demonstrate outside the Houses of Parliament in London on March 12. 

30/43 SLIDES© Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Anti-Brexit demonstrators protest in the rain ahead of the meaningful vote in Parliament in London on March 12. 

31/43 SLIDES© Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Anti-Brexit demonstrators protest in the rain ahead of the meaningful vote in Parliament in London on March 12. 

32/43 SLIDES© TOLGA AKMEN/AFP/Getty Images

Anti-Brexit protester Steve Bray stands holding placards draped in a composite if the EU and Union flag outside the Houses of Parliament in London on March 4.

33/43 SLIDES© TOLGA AKMEN/AFP/Getty Images

Pro-Brexit activists march outside the Houses of Parliament in central London on Feb. 27. 

34/43 SLIDES© DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty Images

An anti-Brexit activist from the pressure group Our Future, Our Choice (OFOC) signs the campaign bus before a photocall in central London on Feb. 27. 

35/43 SLIDES© TOLGA AKMEN/AFP/Getty Images

An anti-Brexit protester wearing a European Union flag cap, flies European and Union flags outside the Houses of Parliament in London on Feb. 21.

36/43 SLIDES© AP Photo/Matt Dunham

A remain in the European Union supporter and member of the "Our Future, Our Choice" (OFOC) young people against Brexit organisation campaigning for a People's Vote second referendum on Britain's EU membership poses for photographs after taking part in a protest against a blindfold Brexit on Parliament Square opposite the Houses of Parliament in London, England on Feb. 14. 

37/43 SLIDES© Jack Taylor/Getty Images

Anti-Brexit protesters demonstrate outside the Houses of Parliament on Feb. 14. 

38/43 SLIDES© TOLGA AKMEN/AFP/Getty Image

An anti-Brexit protester wearing a European Union flag cap demonstrates outside the Houses of Parliament in London on Feb. 12. 

39/43 SLIDES© ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP/Getty Images

A man stands near a 'Leave Means Leave' banner as pro-Brexit activists demonstrate outside of the Houses of Parliament in central London on Feb. 14. 

40/43 SLIDES© WIktor Szymanowicz/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Caroline Lucas MP speaks during an anti-Brexit protest outside the Houses of Parliament in London on Feb. 13. 

41/43 SLIDES© TOLGA AKMEN/AFP/Getty Images

Pro-Brexit activists hold placards and wave Union flags as they demonstrate outside of the Houses of Parliament in London on Jan. 29. 

42/43 SLIDES© TOLGA AKMEN/AFP/Getty Images

A pro-Brexit activist (L) holding a placard and wearing a union flag-themed shirt talks with an anti-Brexit demonstrator holding an EU flagas they protest near the Houses of Parliament in London on Jan. 29.

43/43 SLIDES© Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

The Border Communities Against Brexit group hold an anti-Brexit protest on Jan. 26 in Louth, Ireland.

43/43 SLIDES

In his letter to Barnier, Barclay said the government had “particular concerns in relation to healthcare arrangements as these are not covered by the current proposals published by the commission”.

He added: “The government’s position remains that the withdrawal agreement provides the best way of providing confidence to citizens.

“Nonetheless, given our shared commitment to protecting the rights of citizens in all scenarios, I would welcome your views on the proposal put forward by our parliament to ringfence citizens’ rights and I propose that we discuss this issue in more detail when we meet.”

Watch: Dominic Raab: Proroguing Parliament 'unlikely' (PA)


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  • The letter in response from Barnier, however, offered Barclay little succour. There is concern in Brussels that the UK is seeking to renegotiate the withdrawal agreement by stealth.

    Barnier wrote that the citizens’ rights part of the withdrawal agreement was part of an “overall and comprehensive approach” to Brexit that could not be picked apart, including the Irish backstop to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland which Barnier said was to the “benefit of people residing there”.

    “It is therefore far from straightforward to identify which provisions would need to be ‘carved out’ as part of the ringfencing exercise proposed by the House of Commons in February, with the risk of unequal treatment of certain categories of citizens.”

    In a second letter by the Brexit secretary, Barclay responded: “I agree that our joint efforts should remain focused on making sure that we reach an agreement in order to secure an orderly departure for both the UK and the EU. However, I suggest that together our officials continue to work on how we best protect citizens’ rights in all scenarios.”

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