Why we must stand up for EU citizens’ right to stay in the UK #notacard

I’ve  only done a couple of posts in the past week or so, making reference to “events” keeping me away from LDV. When I came back from Witney, I found my husband very seriously ill.  An ambulance dash and some very scary moments later, my worst fears were confirmed and then some.

Things have now settled down considerably. We’ve had a couple of boring days without medical drama now and we’d like things to stay that way. He will be in hospital for a wee while yet, though, so please bear with me if it takes me some time to respond to things.  The rest of the team have been fantastic – so many thanks to them for stepping in while I’ve been preoccupied.

The reason for telling you all of this is to help you to understand how utterly furious I was to see that Liam Fox had actually said this out loud when asked about the rights of EU citizens following Brexit:

To give that away before we get into a negotiation would be to hand over one of our main cards in that negotiation and doesn’t necessarily make sense at this point.

You just can’t go changing the goalposts when people have made their home, maybe fallen in love, settled, had children, built lives and support networks. That is so wrong. It is simply not fair to put EU citizens in a situation where they won’t know what’s happening to them until the Brexit deal is stitched up behind closed doors.

The team caring brilliantly for my husband includes people who have moved here from other parts of the EU. I don’t want to think of any of them being used as a negotiating card. They are working hard, in very difficult, under-resourced circumstances, giving outstanding and compassionate care to people at their most vulnerable.

My neighbours come from Poland. They’ve settled here, they pay taxes here, they’ve bought a house here, they’ve established themselves in the community. Their daughter was born here. Why should they face the stress of not knowing what their status will be? It is no way to treat people.

Other friends, a UK and Belgian citizen, have just got married. They should not have to worry about whether one of them will be able to legally live here in two years’ time.

We will all know somebody in this situation. That makes it personal and we must act.

One bit of campaigning I was able to take part in was this video. I recorded my bit sitting on my sofa in my pyjamas at about 11pm on Tuesday.  How many of the others can you recognise?

If you wouldn’t like your life to be disrupted in this way, don’t inflict it on somebody else. This is one of these occasions when good people must do something. Signing the petition is just the start. We really need to stand up and be counted and fight for the rights of our EU friends, neighbours and colleagues who are paying taxes and contributing to our society. If we allow the government to treat one group of people badly, then we might find that we are next. We need to turn public opinion against the Government’s cavalier attitude to these people’s lives.

This is an argument we absolutely must win. It is not what I think of as British to muck people about in the way that Liam Fox suggests. I am thoroughly ashamed of a government that can even think of behaving like this.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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37 Comments

  • paul barker 6th Oct '16 - 7:10pm

    Caron, my best wishes for you & your Family, we all owe you a lot of thanks.
    This Government is in the gutter & we must do our best to destroy it.

  • Graham Evans 6th Oct '16 - 8:26pm

    While I incline to the view that we should unilaterally offer EU citizens living in the UK the right to remain here after Brexit, I think by the same token our one LD MEP should demand of the EU Parliament a unilateral declaration that British citizens currently living in the remaining 27 EU countries should retain their right to live there and continue to receive the benefits (such as health insurance) which they currently enjoy.

  • Joseph Bourke 6th Oct '16 - 8:30pm

    You are absolutely right on this, Caron. It’s quite shocking that we have government ministers wielding this kind of power over people’s lives and refusing to guarantee EU citizens settled here continued residence, regardless of what other EU countries may or may not do.

  • Martin Land 6th Oct '16 - 8:51pm

    I think many Lib Dems simply fail to understand how nasty brexit is going to be. The other EU countries cannot and will not make concessions on freedom of movement and from there on it just gets nastier, I’m afraid.

  • Daniel Walker 6th Oct '16 - 9:19pm

    I think many Lib Dems simply fail to understand how nasty brexit is going to be.

    Surely that’s one of the reasons we generally voted Remain?

  • John Mitchell 6th Oct '16 - 10:15pm

    It is shameful in the way the current UK government is behaving and particularly that human beings could be used as barter in negotiations. It’s absolutely appalling.

    On the other hand, the current government seems to be on the side of majority opinion with their policy drive at the Conservative conference this week. According to a poll by YouGov, 59% support employers reporting on how many foreigners are employed compared to 26% opposing.

    That is just one poll, but this needs to go beyond challenging the current government and into the country at large. I do think it needs to be acknowledged that the current system in place has generously benefited employers as opposed to the workers and for decades. The European Union and its treaties have also made this worse. It’s the employers or the regulatory practices that allow them to exploit workers which are at fault here and it is festering resentment, division and nationalism. For instance, Amber Rudd has been criticised not for what she said by some, but in one example by a business because it would impact their practices in hiring Romanians exclusively.

  • I’m confused by parts of your article. According to my understanding:
    – If you are married to a British citizen you can apply for indefinite leave to remain as a partner (https://www.gov.uk/settle-in-the-uk), I wasn’t aware that had changed or would be changing ?
    – Also under current EU rules (which apply until UK does actually exit) a permanent right to reside is granted to those who have lived in the UK for five years (Clause 17 of DIRECTIVE 2004/38/EC on the right of citizens of the Union and their family members to move and reside freely within the territory of the Member States )
    That is seems quite clear for now until something is actually decided, unless of course I am missing something ?

  • David Brenton 6th Oct '16 - 10:58pm

    Yet another Question Time goes by without a LibDem on the panel. There’s even a so-called comedian (i’ll let you guess whether I mean Hamilton or Parsons) instead! I refuse to add to their viewing figures until we get back on.

  • Brexit is about politic’s; politics is all about people, so like it or not we are all hostages to whatever deal is agreed…

    As Graham Evans notes the UK LibDems should be using their influence both directly in the European Parliament and indirectly through the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Group (ALDE) on member governments to ensure equable treatment of UK citizens; prior to Brexit the decision is wholly in the hands of the EU, after Brexit without a binding EU agreement the decision resides with the individual member governments. So it is natural to want to use any leverage available to get agreement at the EU level rather than have to subsequently negotiate with 27 different governments…

    Yes, expect the negotiations to be hard and at times seemingly (or even actually) nasty. Remember Heath disengaged from the Commonwealth and effectively wrote off our fishing industry (and other concessions) because that is what the EEC demanded as a condition of membership…

    In the meantime there is nothing preventing people potentially impacted from applying for UK citizenship as this would also give them full voting rights…

  • Well said Graham Evans and Roland. Sometimes we tend to forget the millions of British people living in EU countries, they are worrying just as much as EU citizens living in the UK.

  • Barry Snelson 6th Oct '16 - 11:39pm

    Caron,
    My thoughts are with you and your family. I much admire what you do here for both the Party and for Western Civilisation!
    I too am reduced to tears by the current Tory leadership. Bear up. This too, shall pass.

  • So sorry to hear that your husband is unwell, Caron. Wishing him a speedy recovery and much strength to you and your family at this difficult time.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 7th Oct '16 - 12:00am

    Caron
    Best wishes to your husband , you and loved ones, for his recovery , having been some years ago in the appalling situation of my wife nearly killed in a car accident , and then disability issues, my sympathies.

    What a mess this whole Brexit drama is already, xenophobia, chaos, uncertainty.

    We need stability, the article shows one possibility for some.We must continue to unite , as Liberal Democrats, as moderates , pro Britain at its best , and that is pro our resident population too.

  • @Max Curry: I wonder if you or anyone you know has been involved in applying for indefinite leave to remain. It is an incredibly expensive and stressful process and the decisions reached are sometimes inexplicably unfair. A little different to what you would have expected coming here as an EU citizen. Making that sort of process retrospective flies in the face of any sort of sense of fair play.

    And, of course we should want our citizens to have similar rights where they are – but we don’t play people off against each other. That’s just horrible.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 7th Oct '16 - 7:27am

    Mark Wright – Yes, of course it would also be a violation of human rights if British people living in EU countries were not allowed to stay. That goes without saying. But we should take the lead and make it clear that we will do the right thing by guaranteeing, unconditionally, the right to stay to all EU citizens already living here. We should do so even if we do not yet have a guarantee about the rights of British people abroad, because it is morally right. People must not be used as “hostages” to be bargained with. Hopefully, if Britain were to give an absolute guarantee now about the right of EU citizens to remain here permanently, then other EU countries would respond with a similar guarantee about the rights of British people. But even if they did not, we should still do what we know to be right.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 7th Oct '16 - 7:29am

    Caron – Thinking of you and your family, and wishing your husband a rapid recovery

  • I recently read the autobiography of a friend of mine who grew up in pre-war Austria. After the Anschluss he sees the wife of his (jewish) doctor sitting on a bench crying and says to her awkwardly, “Don’t worry, it will be all right”.

  • And, of course we should want our citizens to have similar rights where they are

    So we agree on this.
    So given how pro-EU the LibDems are and from Tim’s various speeches he is wanting greater union, isn’t it about time the LibDems actually engaged with the EU, hence take the campaign to European constituencies? Perhaps the LibDems should rebrand themselves as the ALDE(UK) party to show to all their real commitment to the EU..

  • @Catherine “But we should take the lead and make it clear that we will do the right thing”

    The UK government has already done just that in it’s statements it has made; however, the EU has remained noticeably quiet on this matter… Why?

    Hopefully, if Britain were to give an absolute guarantee now about the right of EU citizens to remain here permanently, then other EU countries would respond with a similar guarantee about the rights of British people. But even if they did not, we should still do what we know to be right.”

    Yes “Hopefully” the EU will make the right decision, however, past evidence is that it needs to be prodded… So making an absolute guarantee now effectively removes the barb from the prod… As for other countries following the UK’s lead, I suggest you read Vince’s recent article and take note how some of the major countries in the EU ignore some of the founding pillars of the EU, pillars they insisted upon…

    No there are two negotiations, the first is the legal one of Article 50/Brexit the second is what to do to tidy up the post-Brexit loose ends – I suspect EU citizens living in the UK is going to be one of them. Now the UK government is in a position show moral authority and fibre, but even then I expect the guarantee will carry caveats…

  • Holly Matthies 7th Oct '16 - 7:56am

    @Mark Wright
    But all 27 other EU governments not unilaterally guaranteed all UK citizens in the country permanent residence… this is… no comment, not a big dea, not even worth mentioning.

    Of course it’s a big deal. It’s been mentioned a lot. But granting security, dignity and humanity to citizens from the rest of the EU who’ve settled in the UK is within the UK’s power in a way that granting that security to Brits in the rest of the EU is not. For some unfathomable reason, the EU don’t seem particularly well-inclined toward the UK at the moment, and ensuring the right for EU citizens in the UK to stay here would not only reduce the misery and suffering of those millions of people but would also be a goodwill gesture toward the rest of the EU and towards the countries that the UK wants to offer similar agreements to Brits living in them.

    As a foreign citizen, I promise you it’s not true that Lib Dems think more about us than we do about UK citizens. 🙂 I mean, I can’t even be a paper candidate! I can’t even vote. Or is it that when one’s accustomed to privileges, something approaching equality feels like oppression?

  • Roland
    Provision was made for British long time residents of Hong Kong to have the right to live there after the hand over. It was soon scrapped after.

  • Gareth Jones 7th Oct '16 - 8:33am

    It is morally repugnant to bargin with people’s lives. End of.

  • John Barrett 7th Oct '16 - 10:12am

    What Liam Fox said was wrong on many levels and even he has failed to realise that his approach will not help anyone, citizens from abroad living in the UK, or Brits living in the EU.

    However, as there has been no clear and early indication from the rest of the EU member states that the estimated 3m British citizens in the EU will have similar rights to those EU citizens currently in the UK and if we now just decide to unilaterally do “the right thing” I have no doubt that the rights of those 3m will be used by the EU in future negotiations as a bargaining issues over something else. This might be “just horrible” as Caron says, but when the EU is being pushed on other issues their negotiators will no doubt use this issue in the way Liam Fox indicated and there may well be worse to come from both sides.

    Tough negotiations on many issues including BREXIT probably will be horrible, but giving way on an issue without establishing fairness on both sides first, will not deliver justice for anyone living here or in the rest of the EU.

    I suspect that many Lib-Dems believe that we only have to offer up what we think is fair and then the other side will respond in a similar way. I doubt this will be the case.

    If we had driven a much harder bargain over many issues including PR in the coalition agreement we might not be in this situation now.

  • David Evershed 7th Oct '16 - 10:27am

    Caron
    Wishing your husband a rapid recovery.
    Don’t forget to look after yourself too at this stressful time.

  • Eddie Sammon 7th Oct '16 - 10:47am

    Mark Wright is right. People want to vote for someone who stands up for Britain but much of the left doesn’t understand this and neither do many centrist remainers who don’t seem too fussed if Britain is punished for Brexit.

    Of course unilateral residency rights should be granted to those already here. I’ll have a look at that petition.

    We also need to get rid of this idea that more British Junior Doctors should be trained up so we can tell the foreigners to go home, which is what I heard on Question Time. People on work permits or EU residents shouldn’t be treated like robots with no family to be respected or concerned about.

    Again, sorry to hear about your husband Caron. I hope all is well soon.

  • Eddie Sammon 7th Oct ’16 – 10:47am…………..Mark Wright is right. People want to vote for someone who stands up for Britain but much of the left doesn’t understand this and neither do many centrist remainers who don’t seem too fussed if Britain is punished for Brexit…………..

    “Standing up for Britain” …A great slogan; we heard it in every ‘Leaver’s’ speech in the run up to the referendum…Along with “Taking back control” it meant whatever you wanted it to mean..The ‘left’ (what a dismissive word) DO understand that it is so much ‘hot air’..
    As for “don’t seem too fussed if Britain is punished for Brexit”..The point is we DO care and we see beyond the empty rhetoric and the “EU needs us more than we need them” nonsense …………..The temporary Asian collapse of the £ shows how fragile we are outside the EU; it seems that the rest of the world saw the EU as a UK umbrella rather than a strait-jacket…

  • Peter Watson 7th Oct '16 - 11:14am

    @expats “The temporary Asian collapse of the £ shows how fragile we are outside the EU”
    Or does it show how fragile we are outside the euro?

  • Peter Watson 7th Oct ’16 – 11:14am…[email protected] “The temporary Asian collapse of the £ shows how fragile we are outside the EU”………..Or does it show how fragile we are outside the euro?………..

    As we have never been in the Euro nothing has changed there…

    BTW…According to some, Hollande’s tough comments about Brexit negotiations are behind the shock fall in the pound overnight….Speaking in Paris Hollande said, “The UK has decided to do a Brexit, I believe even a hard Brexit. Well, then we must go all the way through the UK’s willingness to leave the EU. We have to have this firmness. If not, we would jeopardise the fundamental principles of the EU. Other countries would want to leave the EU to get the supposed advantages without the obligations.There must be a threat, there must be a risk, there must be a price. Otherwise we will be in a negotiation that cannot end well”…..

    As for ‘revelling’ in our discomfort????? I remember the same sort of nonsense over a possible change of LD leadership at the tail end of the coalition; how did that turn out?…
    My, and others on LDV, voicing concerns about the ‘sunlit uplands’, post Brexit, have absolutely no effect on negotiations….Tim Farron, Jeremy Corbyn and Nicola Sturgeon are all pointing out the flaws in the over optimistic utterances from May, Fox, etc.

    It seems that Eddie Sammon, Mark Wright want us to remain quiet and “Go gentle into that (anything but) good night”…..

  • Peter Watson
    “@expats “The temporary Asian collapse of the £ shows how fragile we are outside the EU”
    Or does it show how fragile we are outside the euro?”

    Or does it show how fragile the expertise of ‘experts’ like Mark Carney are,….as he dropped UK interest rates in August, from 0.5% to 0.25%,… for no obvious economic reason.?
    Does anyone have a clear idea why Carney aggravated the situation by dropping interest rates, when the £ was already finding its new post referendum baseline.? I don’t know if it’s possible to charge a Canadian for an act of treason against the UK, but someone more legally minded,.. should really look into it.?

  • Bernard Aris 7th Oct '16 - 4:02pm

    Caron

    Best wishes to you and your family.

    I refer everybody to my LDV post today that the LibDems as an internationalist party should profile itself as the party for expats rights (beginning the one to remain and work in the country you live in presently, independent from any marriage or other relations to native people), both
    *) British expats in continental EU countries and
    *) Foreign expats in the UK.

    So I fully support Caron on that last point.

    Again, Caron best wishes; what you tell us sounds worrying…

  • David Allen 7th Oct '16 - 7:45pm

    John Barrett is right. Soft bargaining does nobody any good. A bargainer who gives too much away too quickly will often end up as the angry wrecker who refuses to sign an unfair and unequal agreement.

    We should start by telling each European country, separately, that when we obtain their commitment to allow Britons to stay, we promise to grant a reciprocal commitment to that country’s nationals. We will never get all 27 countries to sign up to that. We shall probably have to give up on the likes of Hungary. Never mind. There are not many Brits in Hungary. But let’s be hearing from France, from Germany, from Spain, from the majority. Fairness matters, and if we fail to negotiate the rights of Britons, we will not achieve fairness.

  • I clicked on your “Signing the petition” link to see exactly what the petition was asking for so I could decide whether I wanted to sign it or not, and was surprised to receive a thank you message informing me that by clicking on your link, I had already signed the petition!

  • If today’s papers are to be believed the status of around 80% of the EU citizens in the UK post-Brexit is largely a non-issue. This due to them having gained residency rights, accrued through having been in the UK for over five years prior to Brexit in 2019…

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