The diagnosis could not be clearer for MEPs. In a resolution voted with 610 votes for, 29 against and 68 abstentions, the elected officials consider that the attitude of the British administration is causing “Unnecessary uncertainty and anxiety among citizens” settled in the UK and wanting to stay there after Brexit.
This concern expressed in Strasbourg in plenary session comes in an emergency climate, when the British departure is scheduled for January 31, followed by a transition period during which European legislation will continue to apply, until the end of the year.
To assert their rights, Europeans living across the Channel must register to request the “Settled status” (resident status), at a cost of £ 65 (around € 76). By the end of December, 2.6 million Europeans had applied for permanent resident status in the UK, and 2.2 million Europeans had already obtained a residence permit, according to the British authorities. Among the first nationalities to apply, we find the Poles (483,000), the Romanians (411,000), the Italians (272,000) and the Portuguese (220,000).
To justify their fear, MEPs denounce the lack of means and aid provided to those who embark on a regularization procedure, but also the precariousness of the status granted to European residents across the Channel. They report “A large proportion of European citizens who have applied for permanent resident status in the United Kingdom and who have only been granted temporary resident status”, believing that this situation could be avoided “If the United Kingdom opts for an administrative procedure of a declaratory nature”.
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Parliament also contests “The approach used within the procedure for obtaining permanent resident status to process applications” as well as “The lack of a physical document attesting to the right to reside in the United Kingdom for applicants who obtain status”.
An agreement to respect
The agreement signed between London and Brussels provides that British citizens already established elsewhere in the EU like Europeans in the United Kingdom will keep the same rights after Brexit. “It is one thing to put them on paper, but it is quite another to actually put them in place”, said Commission Chair Ursula von der Leyen ahead of the vote on the resolution.
The head of the European executive was particularly concerned about the complications inflicted on residents who have to provide additional justifications “While they have lived in the country for 40 years or more”. Also in Strasbourg, EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier said that the “Commission would be particularly vigilant” administrative obstacles encountered by European citizens living in the United Kingdom. Alongside Ursula von der Leyen, he asked for the establishment of a body “Independent” to oversee these issues.