BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Rights groups representing expatriates in the European Union and Britain warned on Thursday the draft Brexit deal did not ensure that the more than four million people concerned would be able to go on living their lives as now.
British Prime Minister Theresa May was battling on Thursday to save the day-old deal, and her own job, as the “the3million” and “British in Europe” groups said that crucial aspects of citizens’ rights after Brexit had not been secured.
Nicholas Hatton, chairman of the3million group that speaks for EU citizens living in the United Kingdom, said he felt “betrayed by the Brexit negotiators”.
EU citizens currently living in Britain may have to apply and pay to have their residency confirmed, and risk losing the status if they live somewhere else for more than five years.
For Britons living in the EU, the draft deal on Britain’s withdrawal from the EU released on Wednesday envisages the right to claim lifetime residence in the particular EU state in which they now live, but with no freedom to then move to another EU state, as they can now.
“It is unacceptable and upsetting that free movement – a lifeline for many of us – has been excluded when both sides knew it was critical for us,” Jane Golding, co-chair of British in Europe, said in a statement.
The European Parliament, which like the British House of Commons must ratify the Brexit deal for it to take effect, has signalled it was on board.
“I think that what is delivered… is the best agreement we could obtain,” Guy Verhofstadt, head of the EU parliament’s Brexit steering group, said on Thursday.
Verhofstadt, however, said the parliament would closely scrutinise how the British Home Office (interior ministry)prepares to apply the new rules to EU citizens.
“There will be scrutiny by the European Parliament of the implementation, and that will be an important element in the consent procedure,” Verhofstadt told a news conference.
(Reporting by Daphne Psaledakis; Editing by Gabriela Baczynska/Mark Heinrich)