This week at the Conservative Party Conference, I asked the Secretary of State for Brexit Dominic Raab a question about Citizens’ Rights.
“Nicolas Hatton of the3million and representing British in Europe. It’s fair to say Brexit has been divisive, but there has been a consensus on citizens’ rights.
In the case of no deal, and god forbids there’s a no deal, would you be ready to go back to Brussels and negotiate just one deal: a deal on citizens’ rights?”
It was not an emphatic reply, unlike the Home Secretary Sajid Javid in his speech to Conference earlier, who said: “We need to you stay, we want you to stay, you can stay.”
Instead, Dominic Raab looked slightly uncomfortable and referred back to unilateral guarantees to EU citizens alone, adding “We would do this as soon as we practically can”, without answering the questions about ring-fencing our rights in case of no deal.
The difference between a legally binding deal between the UK and the EU and no-deal is significant for both EU citizens in the UK and British citizens in the EU:
I went to see Dominic Raab after the meeting to find out when the technical notes about EU citizens would be published, and I got a slightly strange reply that we were people so a no-deal ‘technical’ note would not be appropriate.
I asked when we would get a ‘note’ then?
Dominic Raab replied “As I said earlier, it will be as soon as we practically can”.
The Secretary of State was not ready to give me more details or commit to ring-fencing, which makes our mass lobby on Monday 5 November all the more critical.
On Monday, together with Fiona Godfrey of British in Europe, we also organised a fringe event, in the presence of Charles Tannock MEP, Ben Howlett (former Bath MP and vice chair of the Conservative Group for Europe), Christian Vinante (British Italian Conservatives), Sunder Katwala (British Future) and Kelvin Tanner (Fragomen).
On a more positive note, I now have attended both Labour #LAB18 and Conservative party #CPC18 conferences, and I feel we are as close to obtaining a commitment to a legally binding deal on citizens’ rights as we have ever been since 24 June 2016.
The pro-citizens speech by Manfred Weber (leader of the European People’s Party) in the European Parliament this week was unexpected and shows the momentum is building to protect us in the case of no deal, with a legally binding agreement between the UK and the EU under Article 50.
At the end of the day, it is all thanks to the 100,000s of unknown supporters and followers who are making the3million and British in Europe the most successful citizens’ groups to emerge out of the Brexit referendum.
Thank you. You know who you are :-) 🔷
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(This piece was originally published on the3million Newsletter.)