EU to ask UK to respect citizens’ rights after mistreatment scandals

Exclusive: Message to Boris Johnson comes after citizens with UK job interviews say they were locked up

EU leaders will call on Boris Johnson to respect the rights of their citizens in the wake of scandals over their treatment in the UK, including their detention in removal centres, according to a leaked draft statement seen by the Guardian.

The message to the British prime minister will follow a first discussion of EU-UK relations between the 27 heads of state and government since the ratification of the trade and cooperation agreement struck last Christmas Eve.

“The European Council calls on the UK to respect the principle of non-discrimination among member states and the rights of EU citizens,” the leaders are due to say, adding that the deals agreed with Downing Street must be implemented in full.

There is growing concern within EU capitals over the UK government’s approach to their nationals, including those whose rights are guaranteed by the tortuously negotiated Brexit withdrawal agreement.

A new body set up under the withdrawal agreement to ensure citizens’ rights are upheld after Brexit has said it is “actively considering” statutory action against the Home Office due to the difficulties for EU nationals in the UK who are seeking so-called settled status.

In a statement issued last week, the Independent Monitoring Authority for the Citizens’ Rights Agreements said it was in talks with the Home Office amid reports of concerns over the application process.

The Guardian has reported on a series of cases where long-term British citizens, including dual nationals, have received letters sent in error by the Home Office instructing them of the risk of losing the right to work, benefits and free healthcare unless they apply for UK immigration status within weeks.

There have in addition been testimonies from EU nationals with job interviews in the UK who say they were denied entry, locked up and forced to endure the traumatic and humiliating experience of expulsion, despite Home Office rules explicitly allowing non-visa holders to enter in such circumstances.

The issues faced by EU nationals in the UK, or seeking entry to the country, are just the latest concerns about the post-Brexit relationship, however.

The leaders’ statement, which could still change before the summit on Thursday of next week, is also due to touch on other areas that have proven highly problematic in recent months, including the rights of EU fishing vessels to operate in British waters.

Earlier this month, Johnson sent two Royal Navy patrol boats to the waters around Jersey in response to the threats of French fishers to blockade the island’s main port over access to the surrounding waters. A French minister had suggested the EU could also cut off Jersey’s electricity supply if the UK did not respect the agreement contained in the trade deal. The EU is concerned that rights agreed over access are being breached through UK red tape.

The biggest looming problem, however, is that of the movement of goods between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, where the European Commission and the UK are struggling to find mutually satisfactory solutions that will both allow untrammelled movement and protect the EU’s single market.

The thorniest issue is that of the food safety and animal and plant health checks and barriers on goods entering Northern Ireland that Brussels says are necessary to maintain the EU’s sanitary and phytosanitary standards.

Lord Frost, the responsible UK minister, is seeking an “equivalence” agreement that would see the EU recognise UK standards as being roughly in line with its own to allow checks to be lifted. But Brussels, in response, is insisting on full alignment in law.

According to the draft statement, the leaders will welcome the trade deal and the withdrawal agreement but insist that “both agreements should be fully and effectively implemented” and offer little hope of movement on the issue of the Northern Ireland protocol.

They will say: “The two agreements allow for the EU to have as close as possible a partnership with the United Kingdom, while recognising that a non-member of the EU cannot enjoy the same benefits as a member and that the relationship must be based on a balance of rights and obligations at all times.

“Relations with the UK should remain mutually beneficial and can under no circumstances undermine the integrity of the single market, the customs union or the EU’s decision-making autonomy.”

“The European Council invites the commission to continue its efforts to ensure full implementation of the agreements, including in the areas of fisheries and level playing field, in continuous coordination and permanent dialogue with the council and its preparatory bodies in accordance with established practice,” the leaders will add.

“The European Council will remain seized of the matter and the EU will continue to be united in its engagement with the UK.”

Contributor

Daniel Boffey in Brussels

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Independent authority to monitor EU citizens' rights post-Brexit
Brexit impact assessment report also sets out trade barriers between Northern Ireland and Britain

Lisa O'Carroll Brexit correspondent

22, Oct, 2019 @7:27 PM

Article image
EU postpones setting date for ratifying Brexit trade deal
Move follows claim Boris Johnson broke international law for second time over Northern Ireland

Daniel Boffey in Brussels and Rory Carroll

04, Mar, 2021 @12:40 PM

Article image
Boris Johnson closes G7 summit with vow to protect integrity of UK
PM is careful not to escalate row about reports that Macron suggested Northern Ireland was not part of UK

Heather Stewart, Dan Sabbagh and Robert Booth

13, Jun, 2021 @3:10 PM

Article image
Johnson accused of misleading public over Brexit deal after NI remarks
PM says there will be no checks on goods going from Northern Ireland to rest of UK

Heather Stewart, Jennifer Rankin and Lisa O'Carroll

08, Nov, 2019 @7:32 PM

Article image
EU citizens in UK face 28-day notice if they miss settled status deadline
Tens of thousands to be issued with warnings to submit applications for post-Brexit scheme or risk losing rights

Lisa O'Carroll Brexit correspondent

23, Jun, 2021 @2:00 PM

Article image
EU citizens arriving in UK being locked up and expelled
Europeans with job interviews tell of detentions and expulsions despite rules allowing non-visa holders to attend interviews

Giles Tremlett in Madrid and Lisa O'Carroll

13, May, 2021 @2:13 PM

Article image
Leaked comments by Boris Johnson expose cabinet divisions
Foreign secretary scorns Philip Hammond as victim of Project Fear in secret recording

Heather Stewart, Daniel Boffey, Rajeev Syal and Lisa O'Carroll

07, Jun, 2018 @11:02 PM

Article image
Brexit trade deal possible within days after Johnson concession, says EU
Barnier says PM’s acceptance of need for ‘evolution clause’ as standards diverge has unlocked talks

Daniel Boffey in Brussels and Jon Henley in Paris

14, Dec, 2020 @5:04 PM

Article image
Boris Johnson faces backlash from Tory MPs over plan to give Huawei role in building 5G network – as it happened
Rolling coverage of the day’s political developments as they happened

Andrew Sparrow

27, Jan, 2020 @5:46 PM

Article image
Home Office suspected of prioritising help for high-profile EU citizens
TV star Fred Sirieix says he got settled status within hours after tweeting his frustration

Amelia Gentleman

03, Sep, 2019 @3:41 PM