The EU Parliament Takes A Principled Liberal Stance

Despite the claims of British politicians, which in turn are echoed by their diplomats, the UK is not “within touching distance” of agreement on citizens’ rights.  Following a reiteration of this claim by UK ambassador John Marshall, at a public meeting on Wednesday in Luxembourg, MEP Charles Goerens outlined the European Parliament’s position:

  • Any application for ‘settled status’ should be a simple, cost-free and automatic process, that can be made by families as a joint declaration.
  • Applications should not depend on complex conditionality and the burden of proof in a challenge to an application must rest with the UK authorities and only apply on a case by case basis in line with EU law.
  • A ‘settled status’ category can only begin to apply after the UK leaves the EU and not during any proposed transition period. Prior to which the principle of freedom of movement must apply.

In addition, the EU Parliament insists that all benefits, not just pensions, are transferable, that  EU citizens’ rights with respect to family reunification are undiminished and that freedom of movement applies equally to UK citizens in the EU.

In standing up for and representing individual citizens’ rights, while insisting that the onus of justification belongs to the government the EU Parliament is adopting a firmly Liberal stance, that stands squarely in the tradition of John Stuart Mill and other great Liberal thinkers.

Very many UK citizens in the EU, who had responded to the opportunity to settle and work across the European community were denied a vote on the single issue that most affected them.  Many in the audience made this point.

There is no parity between the opinion of those who are unaffected by a decision and others for whom the decision weighs heavily on their lives.  Liberalism not only takes into account the numbers involved but also how much minorities who bear the brunt of decisions are affected.  On gay rights for example, it matters little if a majority who have no interest in same sex marriage would reject it, those who are directly affected are those who matter most.  In this way Brexit and the way it is being implemented is profoundly illiberal.

* Martin Bennett first campaigned in Cheltenham in 1974, was the Bermondsey Party press officer from 1981-3 but is presently resident in Luxembourg. He is Acting Chair of Liberal Democrats Luxembourg.

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8 Comments

  • OnceALibDem 9th Nov '17 - 9:54pm

    Points 2 and 3 have a lot of merit but charging a fee for approval of settled status shouldn’t be at a prohibitive level but the proposal of pegging it to the charge for a passport doesn’t seem unreasonable.

    There isn’t a great point of principle over there being a charge for such an administrative thing – it’s more a detail for negotiation.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 9th Nov '17 - 10:22pm

    Martin, a very good description of for us very important principles.

    I do not always agree with your stance on the issue of Brexit , as much as I disagree with this process as do you.

    But I rate your knowledge and here your compassion and common sense on an aspect that is essential, though we see no progress by this useless regime.

  • Little Jackie Paper 9th Nov '17 - 11:19pm

    ‘There is no parity between the opinion of those who are unaffected by a decision and others for whom the decision weighs heavily on their lives.’

    That’s quite a statement!

  • @ Little Jackie Paper Many of us with partners from EU27 nations are having sleepless nights because we have no idea whether our partners will be expelled from the UK come March 2019, and if they are allowed to stay, which few rights they will have left. Leave voters did not care about families being torn apart and lives ruined, they held the lives of others in complete contempt.

  • Red Liberal,
    They fall into many camps when it comes to “foreigners”, some want rid of them, some don’t care, most however I believe never considered what the impact would be. Brexit screams I haven’t got a clue, they all have their own version, no two alike and all unlikely to be achieved. The only think that unites them is Brexit is Brexit and under the glorious leadership of Tinkerbell sunlit uplands await.
    I hope they finally get a grip, but given their abilities I fear their is more chance of a blue unicorn winning the 3:45 at Kempton.

  • Red Liberal
    Spouses from EU countries will be allowed to stay. At a price.

  • Michael Romberg 10th Nov '17 - 8:05pm

    Point 3 is muddled. The transition period would be a set of rules that applied after Brexit day.

    The issue here is: if the transition period includes freedom of movement, then will EU/UK citizens who arrive in the UK/EU during the transition period have a right to settled status or will that only be available to those who were already resident on Brexit day? So far the UK position has been that settled status applies to those resident on a day to be set but which will be no later than Brexit day; the EU has not I think addressed the issue of permanent rights for those who arrive during the post-Brexit transition period.

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