EU citizens have the ‘sword of Damocles’ hanging over them ahead of Brexit

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LONDON — The UK and EU’s failure to clarify the status of European citizens living in the UK, has left “the sword of Damocles above their head,” the secretary of the French parliament’s Brexit mission has told Business Insider.

Brexit negotiators on both sides are yet to wrap up an agreement on citizens’ rights more than two years after the EU referendum. The proposed deal, even if signed, would still fall short of the rights EU citizens living in the UK currently possess under European law.

Alexandre Holroyd, the London-based MP from Emmanuel Macron’s En Marche! party who represents French people living in the UK, said that both sides should have provided immediate guarantees over their rights after the 2016 referendum.

“We have 3.8 million people here who live in the UK with the sword of Damocles above their head and nobody can give them a clear answer about what conditions they’re going to live in in 6 months time,” he told Business Insider.

Holroyd said signing the Withdrawal Agreement should be the “priority” for that reason.

“Both sides of negotiations because citizens should have seen their rights guaranteed immediately after the 2016 referendum,” he said.

‘A retrospective change in status’

Alexandre Holroyd
Office of Alexandre Holroyd

“Frankly it’s the decent thing to do when people on both sides — whether you’re from France or the UK — have been living [abroad], contributing to the economy, paying taxes for decades, all of which were based on the assumption that they could stay here under the protection of something which was the law of the time.”

“The fact [that law changed] can be considered a retrospective change in the status of someone who has made a decision in their life based on a concept which has been removed later on.”

The UK’s Brexit secretary Dominic Raab met his EU counterpart Michel Barnier in Brussels this week.

The UK government insisted last week said it would allow EU citizens living in the UK to remain even if both sides failed to agree on a deal. However, the conditions attached to such an arrangement and the extent of the rights they would retain, remains unclear.

The EU has also failed to indicate whether it would reciprocate the arrangement.

The UK is scheduled to leave the EU in March 2018, and both sides intend to have wrapped up the Withdrawal Agreement, which will guarantee a 20-month standstill phase, by October.

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