It is now a moral duty for both negotiating parties to ring-fence the citizens’ rights part of the draft Withdrawal Agreement in the case of No Deal.
Last Tuesday, I got lost in the Liverpool Conference centre and bumped into Hilary Benn MP, chair of the Brexit Select Committee, on my way to see him speak at a Labour Conference fringe event organised by the Institute for Government about future immigration policies.
We chit-chatted en route to the meeting room, stopping and speaking on the way with various people including the charming Finish ambassador Päivi Luostarinen, the caring Sikh for Labour (thank you for the banana - I hadn’t eaten yet) and a delegation from Kazakstan.
The meeting room was packed and what came next completely surprised me: Hilary Benn, chair of the Brexit Select Committee, made a point of starting the meeting with this plea: “If heaven forbid we end up with no deal, we must between the parties, ring-fence the part of the Draft Withdrawal Agreement (DWA) related to citizens so that the rights of Brits abroad and EU citizens in the UK are protected”.
The discussion continued for over an hour around Brexit on a variety of subjects, Hilary Benn then focused on his original point to conclude the meeting, and said ring-fencing our rights in the case of no-deal was a moral duty: “I think for citizens, there is a very specific moral obligation faced up to by all the governments, which is why, in my view, it (the DWA) should be ring-fenced”.
Later that day, together with Jane Golding of British in Europe, we chaired our very first fringe meeting, in the presence of Paul Blomfield MP, Seb Dance MEP, Allison Roche of UNISON, Alexandra Bulat of the3million and last but not least Cosi Doerfell-Hill of the wonderful In Limbo team.
As a first, it was quite an experience, and I want to thank Paul, Seb, Allison and Alexandra for being the nicest panel I could have hoped for.
We talked exclusively about citizens’ rights and I am delighted that everyone on the panel called for both parties to ring-fence the citizens’ rights part of the draft Withdrawal Agreement in the case of no-deal to protect our rights after Brexit.
You might ask the question: why ring-fencing the Draft Withdrawal Agreement on citizens’ rights, since Theresa May gave us a unilateral guarantee last week?
Besides the moral argument, our rights are a complex and indivisible package of national and bilateral rights, which require the implementation of the Draft Withdrawal Agreement between the UK and the EU to secure their protection.
This excellent infographics produced by Europe Street News summarises the loss of rights we would suffer from, with or without a deal:
I asked both Paul Blomfield and Seb Dance whether they thought there would be a majority in their respective Parliaments to vote for ring-fencing and they answered positively, which gave all of us a glimmer of hope.
The case for ring-fencing in the event of no-deal was also made by Sunder Katwala of British Future, and Sampson Low of UNISON in other fringe meetings.
We are seeing a momentum building.🔷
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(This piece was originally published on the3million Newsletter.)