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Summary

  1. MEPs on three committees taking evidence on citizens' rights after Brexit
  2. Citizens' groups and experts will give evidence from around 13.40 GMT

Live Reporting

By Paul Seddon

All times stated are UK

Sitting ends

And with that, today's joint committee hearing comes to an end.

MEPs will be in Strasbourg next week for their monthly plenary sitting.

Romanian MEP: Blame on both sides

European Parliament hearing on citizens' rights

European Parliament

Brussels

Renate Weber
EBS

Independent Romanian MEP Renate Weber says that stories she has heard show European governments are also "not that much concerned" with protecting the rights of UK nationals.

Facing the loss of their EU citizenship, British nationals now find themselves in a situation "where they have to justify why their children are enrolled in a school", she says.

Blame for the situation should not be put on one side, she tells MEPs.

Conducting background checks 'could be huge problem'

European Parliament hearing on citizens' rights

European Parliament

Brussels

Steve Peers
EBS

EU law academic Steve Peers says registering new arrivals - as the UK wishes to do - is allowed under the EU's current free movement directive.

However he says there is a question about whether the UK will comply with the case law that exists on the limits to this.

He adds that any withdrawal agreement should "reflect those limits".

He casts doubt on the UK's ability to conduct criminal background checks on all EU citizens applying for settled status - adding the government has a "bad record" of managing this for its own citizens.

"If you repeat that with several million people," he says, "you could potentially have a huge problem".

UK transition stance 'completely impractical'

European Parliament hearing on citizens' rights

European Parliament

Brussels

Professor Portes says there is a "reasonably clear logical basis" to the UK's stance over residency rights being different for EU citizens once the transition period begins.

Those arriving after the UK has left the EU do not have the "same claim" that they arrived under a specified set of rules, because the rules will have been specified in advance, he adds.

However, the UK's position is "completely impractical", he says, because it means people arriving during the transition period will be "in legal limbo" towards the end.

He says "practical alternatives" need to be found but there is "no sign yet" that the UK government is going to do so.

Academic: New UK ombudsman should be 'genuinely independent'

European Parliament hearing on citizens' rights

European Parliament

Brussels

Jonathan Portes
EBS

Jonathan Portes suggests MEPs should push for further clarity on the new ombudsman to be set up in the UK to act on citizens' rights complaints.

The December deal says the powers and functions of the new body will be discussed in the next phase of negotiations.

Prof Portes says the unit should be "genuinely independent", adding that the UK government "does not have a great record" in responding to concerns raised by such bodies.

"There needs to be very clear safeguards to ensure the government cannot ignore that", he adds, noting that the EU's ability to influence the process will diminish after Brexit.

Consultant : UK to set up 'completely new' registration system

European Parliament hearing on citizens' rights

European Parliament

Brussels

Julia Onslow-Cole
EBS

Accountancy firm PwC's Julia Onslow-Cole tells MEPs she was recently appointed to the a new employers' representative group set up by the Home Office.

She says it is probably "fair to say" the department has had difficulty in dealing with consequences of Brexit, notably a "huge surge" in applications for permanent residency.

However she adds it deserves "more credit than they've been given" for its response.

She says detailed planning is going on to ensure the new registration system for EU citizens in the UK is "swift and easy", which she says will be a "completely new type of system".

Union official calls for greater legal clarity on rights

European Parliament hearing on citizens' rights

European Parliament

Brussels

Esther Lynch
EBS

ETUC representative Esther Lynch says that so far the debate on citizens' rights has been characterised by an unhelpful "level of superficiality".

She calls for a greater focus on the details of the legal basis by which rights will be enforced.

"There's a difference between a member state committing to do something and a worker being able to hold it in their hand and make sure their employer respects it," she tells MEPs.

She adds that in her time she has had to drag governments "screaming and kicking" through the courts to enforce workers' rights.

Citizens’ rights: The state of play

European Parliament hearing on citizens' rights

Woman at an airport holding her child
Getty Images

Provisional terms on citizens’ rights were among the issues covered by the first stage Brexit deal struck in December.

The UK government wants EU citizens to apply for a new “settled status” after Brexit, which would involve a criminal background check and potentially paying an application fee.

At a vote shortly afterwards, MEPs welcomed the deal but said the agreement contained a number of “outstanding issues”.

They asked for future partners to get all rights associated with residency, and for any application processes to be cost-free.

They also want British citizens living in EU countries to keep free movement rights after Brexit and for EU court decisions in this area to have a “binding character”.

Next set of witnesses

European Parliament hearing on citizens' rights

With the first panel finished, MEPs will now hear from:

  • Jan Doerfel, a UK-based immigration barrister
  • Esther Lynch, from the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC)
  • Julia Onslow-Cole, Head of Global Immigration, PwC
  • Jonathan Portes, economics and public policy professor at King’s College London

Call for UK citizens to keep free movement rights

European Parliament hearing on citizens' rights

European Parliament

Brussels

Roger Casale
EBS

Roger Casale, from the pro-free movement group ‘New Europeans', notes that in its December Brexit motion the European Parliament called for free movement rights to be kept after Brexit for British citizens living in Europe.

However he notes that "we're not hearing an answer" to the question of how this could be done.

He adds that his group has proposed that this could be done through a "green card" allowing British citizens to "passport" their residency status within the EU after Brexit.

He calls on the EU institutions to take up the cause, adding that this issue will test the bloc's commitment to maintaining rights and freedoms.

'Fundamental issues' not resolved in December deal - campaigner

European Parliament hearing on citizens' rights

European Parliament

Brussels

Jane Golding
EBS

'British in Europe’ representative Jane Golding says the December interim deal leaves open a number of "fundamental issues" on the matter of citizens' rights.

She worries that these will "get lost" in the remaining issues still to be resolved in the talks.

The proposed system, she adds, makes a future status in Europe for UK citizens after Brexit conditional not automatic.

This came as a "last-minute addition", she says, adding: "we didn't have any consultation on it".

She calls for free movement rights to be "preserved", noting that many British citizens moved to the EU "precisely because" the bloc lacks internal borders.

Campaigner: We reject 'settled status' plan

European Parliament hearing on citizens' rights

European Parliament

Brussels

Anne-Laure Donskoy
EBS

Anne-Laure Donskoy says her '3 million' group rejects the "settled status" plans for EU citizens in the UK put forward by British ministers.

She tells MEPs that there is a "severe" possibility that EU citizens might be put at risk of deportation if mistakes are made in the application process.

She adds that changes to British data protection law mean it could be difficult for EU citizens to get the information on their application required to challenge a ruling.

Her group, she adds, wants citizens' rights to be protected by the EU's Court of Justice and calls for the current sunset clause on its oversight included in the interim deal to be lifted.

She also claims EU citizens have reported already being asked to "prove their right of residence" before accessing certain public services.

Today's witnesses

European Parliament hearing on citizens' rights

MEPs will now hear evidence from:

  • Anne-Laure Donskoy, from the ‘3 million’ group representing EU citizens in the UK
  • Jane Golding, from ‘British in Europe’, a group representing UK citizens in the EU
  • Roger Casale, from the pro-free movement group ‘New Europeans’
  • Prof Eleanor Spaventa, an academic in EU law

Italian MEP: We're 'better treated' on Brexit than MPs

European Parliament hearing on citizens' rights

European Parliament

Brussels

Roberto Gualtieri
EBS

Italian social democrat Roberto Gualtieri, a member of the European Parliament's Brexit "steering committee", begins with an overview of the assembly's role in the Brexit talks, noting that MEPs have been "better treated" than MPs at Westminster.

Although MEPs are not participating directly in the negotiations, they will have to ratify the final deal before it can come into effect.

He says they welcomed the December agreement but that they are "not fully satisfied" and "a lot of issues are still open" for them.

In particular, he says the group will keep "fighting" for all future rights to be extended to future partners and not just future children of EU and UK citizens.

Committee chair: Verhofstadt not attending

European Parliament hearing on citizens' rights

European Parliament

Brussels

Claude Moraes
EBS

Civil liberties chair and Labour MEP Claude Moraes announces that Guy Verhofstadt is not, in fact, going to give an update to the committees this afternoon.

Mr Verhofstadt had been due to give an update to MEPs during the hearing.

He says that "in the last few minutes" Mr Verhofstadt has given him a "force majeure apology" that he cannot attend.

The circumstances are "completely outwith his control," he adds.

Transition troubles ahead?

European Parliament hearing on citizens' rights

Theresa May in Brussels
Reuters

Under the interim Brexit deal struck in December, EU citizens currently living in the UK and vice versa will have their rights to live, work and study protected.

They will also have equal access to social security, health care, education and employment.

However Theresa May has indicated she will fight a proposal to give full residency rights to EU citizens during the transition period after Brexit.

The idea was included in EU negotiating guidelines for the transition agreed earlier this week.

Last night European Parliament Brexit lead Guy Verhofstadt told the Guardian: “citizens' rights during the transition is not negotiable."

Good afternoon

Hello and welcome to coverage of the European Parliament's hearing on citizens’ rights after Brexit.

This afternoon three of the assembly’s committees are taking evidence from experts on the likely impact of a future Brexit deal for EU and UK citizens.

MEPs will also hear from groups representing EU citizens living in the UK and British citizens living in Europe.