The President of the Commission gets it right at last

Mr Juncker in his recent interview at last acknowledges that granting the right to stay and to work on the continent for all those UK citizens who currently do so is “about respecting human dignity.” He now says  “This is not about bargaining”.

I have been a sustained critic of the EU’s refusal to live up to decent values and reassure all UK citizens living in the EU that they are free to stay if they wish. I am therefore glad The Commission has now shifted its position. I have long been reassuring all EU citizens in the UK who ask that they will be welcome to stay and work here if they wish, as I assumed the EU would not in the end throw UK citizens out. It is just bizarre that it has taken them so long to say so, and strange that even now it is  not a formal statement by the rest of the EU as a whole.

If anyone in the UK remains worried about the EU’s intentions then they should write and lobby the Commission and their MEPs. The UK government has always been clear it does not intend to threaten EU citizens living in the UK.

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26 Comments

  1. Mark B
    Posted March 24, 2017 at 9:58 am | Permalink

    Using innocent people in a silly political game in such a cynical way is disgusting. The people from the EU came to the UK in good faith and, providing that they can support themselves and any dependants and NOT be a burden on the taxpayer, they should be allowed to remain.

  2. Simon
    Posted March 24, 2017 at 10:08 am | Permalink

    John I have no idea why some people are so keen to give blanket one way cast iron reassurances to existing EU citizens resident in the UK. Putting aside the issue of reciprocity for our own citizens abroad – what is the point of “taking back control” if that control is now limited to future immigrants. What we need and want is to take back control including over those currently living here. There are plenty of people currently resident who could quite usefully be denied permanent residence or be offered some type of limited or temporary visa or who could indeed be deported bag and baggage. Among the latter group we could obviously include recently arrived persons who commit serious criminal offences. Or people claiming benefits who then import huge families. Or the long term unemployed. Or people who are only here to get free medical treatment. It might seem fluffy to say “of course the UK won’t want to etc…. “. But why not ? Your determination to “take back control” of our borders is utterly meaningless unless it is backed with a coherent policy to actually exercise control by reducing future migration, and ridding ourselves of undesireables eg: East European crime gangs, sex traffickers and others of that ilk.

    We might also want to isolate persons here ostensibly EU citizens (maybe with passports) but who are in fact recently arrived from elsewhere. And what about persons currently here illegally ? And people without medical insurance ? Fluffy reassurances and carte blanche quasi “guarantees” are pointless.

  3. John Probert
    Posted March 24, 2017 at 10:26 am | Permalink

    As you say about Time

  4. James Neill
    Posted March 24, 2017 at 10:28 am | Permalink

    Junker is a bureaucrat who represents the Commission only and what he says matters little.. the real power rests with the Council of EU leaders and in the person of Michel Bernier the EU chief negotiator so I suppose we’ll not have too long to wait’

    On the other hand the UK government in the house of commons had the chance to be magniminous in this regard very recently and chose not to do so- these questions on UK and EU immigrants rights are hardly worth discussing now by the people as they will be top of the agenda with the real exit talks to begin very soon. The only problem is- the talks will be held in private so I suppose we’ll not know anything at all about what is going on because nothing will be reported except media speculation.

    Reply We all agreed the Uk will not be expelling people!

    • Know-dice
      Posted March 24, 2017 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

      “On the other hand the UK government in the house of commons had the chance to be magnanimous in this regard”

      The problem with this was that UK ex-pats living in the EU would have become “bargaining chips”. That is, they would potentially become part of the separation or trade negations with the EU.

      The way around that has been achieved by Mrs May et al, ensures that this issue will be sorted out on a “quid pro quo” basis and EU residents in the UK will be afforded the same rights as UK ex-pat residents living in the EU.

      Which be much fairer to all involved, although did and does cause uncertainty in the short term

    • Simon
      Posted March 24, 2017 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

      No deportations John ? Funny that. France I think managed to deport 30k last year and Germany is just getting going as well. Why should we not exercise our sovereignty and get shot of those we don’t want ? There was no implied undertaking EU migrants could live here indefinitely. This just exposes the paucity of government policy and why ultimately it will be replaced by a party which actually does what the voters want instead of using meaningless platitudes. We are going to all the trouble of Brexit with untold consequences because we do not want FoM but now it seems do not in fact intend doing anything ? Except students of course. One of the few groups contributing to our economy and giving us a good image EU wide. So they are being cut. Complete nonsense. Theresa May might as well be Ed Milliband for all the good she does.

      Reply Vote Leave made clear during the campaign anyone legally settled and working here before our exit can stay if they want. We offered no such proposed protections for criminals or illegals.

    • Mark
      Posted March 24, 2017 at 6:31 pm | Permalink

      It will be interesting to see under whose thumb Barnier will be working. At present, he is an EU Commission employee, appointed by Juncker to head their Brexit advice department. Whether he will transfer to working for the Council and no longer for the Commission if he is formally appointed lead negotiator will offer a key to the likely negotiating sentiment from the EU side.

  5. Sally
    Posted March 24, 2017 at 10:35 am | Permalink

    But didn’t they also say we need to pay to leave the ‘club’? The two couldn’t be linked in any way now, could they?

  6. Antisthenes
    Posted March 24, 2017 at 10:35 am | Permalink

    Are we seeing a bit of PR here. Is Brussels realising that showing a softer more caring face will be less damaging than a belligerent one. As the latter will harden anti-EU sentiment and the former may be reciprocated. I hope not as a soft face will be an insincere face.

  7. Denis Cooper
    Posted March 24, 2017 at 11:12 am | Permalink

    The Commission seems to have a slightly different version of the truth.

    http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-17-649_en.htm

    “The Commission attaches great importance to the underlying issue of providing certainty and security to the 4 million citizens (3.2 million EU citizens in the UK and 1.2 million UK citizens in the EU) who are unsure of their future as a result of the decision of the UK to withdraw from the EU. While the Commission cannot propose secondary legislation aiming at granting EU citizenship to natural persons who do not hold the nationality of a Member State of the Union, the rights of EU citizens in the UK and the rights of UK citizens in the EU after the withdrawal of the UK will be at the core of the upcoming Article 50 negotiations. The Commission will do its utmost to prevent EU citizens from being used as bargaining chips in the negotiations with the UK.”

    So there we are – the months of uncertainty has been entirely our fault for voting to leave the EU, and not at all the fault of the EU for stubbornly refusing to discuss the matter until the Article 50 notification has gone in, but when the discussions do start it will be the kind Commission which is doing its utmost to protect those 4 million innocent people while the vicious UK government may try to use them as bargaining chips.

    So thank you Sir Ivan Rogers for misleading Theresa May with your appallingly bad advice and leaving many of us frankly embarrassed by the policy she adopted, which can so easily be presented to the world as such a deplorably callous policy that it is destructive of our international reputation for fair dealing; although it seems you described the EU migrants as one of the few cards we have to play rather than as “bargaining chips”:

    http://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/may-was-warned-against-migrant-guarantees-kskf7p67w

    “Theresa May was warned by the country’s most senior European diplomat not to guarantee the rights of EU citizens living in Britain as it was one of the “few cards” she has to play in the Brexit negotiations.”

    • Simon
      Posted March 24, 2017 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

      In every country of the world export trade is linked to movement of people & visas. If we export we create unemployment. Therefore to offset countries demand movement. As Theresa found out when she went at half cock to India within a few weeks of taking office. Bargaining chips or not migration is intimately linked to our relations with other states. It can not be isolated as a side issue. Sir Ivan was bang on the money.

      • libertarian
        Posted March 24, 2017 at 6:00 pm | Permalink

        Simon

        “In every country of the world export trade is linked to movement of people”

        Making stuff up doesn’t constitute a rational argument , this is drivel

        “If we export we create unemployment”

        What? Oh dear another one without the faintest idea about trade and business double drivel

        Sir Ivan is almost as wrong as you

    • Mark
      Posted March 24, 2017 at 6:39 pm | Permalink

      I find it interesting that the Commission a) thinks it has any power in the negotiations (it isn’t supposed to do anything more than offer advice to Council), and b) considers the matter a subject for Article 50, which will not be completed and ratified perhaps until after the UK has already left under the guillotine, assuming there isn’t more than one Article 50 agreement. If the EU are prepared to have multiple Article 50 agreements that opens things up somewhat. The alternative would be to have a separate agreement outside Article 50 terms that could be fast tracked if there is willingness among all the relevant EU parties, including probably unanimity among member states and support from Europarl.

  8. Brian Tomkinson
    Posted March 24, 2017 at 11:26 am | Permalink

    Concerned about reports that government not intending to repatriate all UK fishing rights but prepared to use as bargaining counter. That would be unacceptable.

  9. Nick Colbert
    Posted March 24, 2017 at 11:33 am | Permalink

    About time, Junker will have to do the right things eventually but his resentment holds him. back.

  10. Godot
    Posted March 24, 2017 at 11:35 am | Permalink

    The EU has made it as clear it cannot discuss meaningfully or reach a legitimate ruling until Mrs May enables them to do so by sending them the Article 50 notification. She still has not sent it. One cannot call the EU a bureaucracy that behaves as a bureaucracy then carp on about the fact it is not behaving otherwise. Send Article 50! ( Date enabled 23rd June 2016 )

  11. agricola
    Posted March 24, 2017 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

    As one of them it is welcome news. It is not so surprising that it has taken so long. The EU Commission is in a position it never anticipated and for a while will continue to dwell on the consequences of getting Brexit wrong. They could have much to lose.

  12. Dennis Zoff
    Posted March 24, 2017 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

    There appears to be a mood change in the EU’s negative rhetoric; moving to a more engaging conciliatory position from the movers and shakers in Brussels, Paris and Berlin!

    Have they come to their collective senses and are now following your lead John?

    Examples of better dialogue:

    1. UK/EU citizens rights protected – quid pro quo?
    2. EU Businesses that have important vested interests in UK market
    3. Continued sharing of security intelligence
    4. Meaningful discussion on fishing rights
    5. Meaningful discussion on NATO budget deficiencies
    6. Recognition that UK relations with the USA is on a much more even keel since Obama has vacated the White House – UK has increased its international importance
    7. The acknowledgment that overseas investment in the UK is on the rise again
    8. The need to have continued access to the London Banking sector
    9. Brexit did not created the expected bust scenario and therefore EU’s recognition that exit negotiations need to be beneficial to both parties
    10. The rapid return of international market confidence in the UK

    I guess now that Art. 50 is clearly happening, Europe has decided it needs to steer a very different tack with the UK, as you so clearly predicted !

    • Mark
      Posted March 24, 2017 at 6:51 pm | Permalink

      I think you are right about many (though not all) members of Council. Juncker still seems to have not got the message that Brexit means Brexit. Interviewed a few days ago by German magazine Bild he said:

      Q. How big is the chance – in percentage – that a Brexit, an exit of Great Britain from the EU, can be averted?

      Juncker: „Our best experts are working on the most creative solutions in order to present Great Britain with a deal that is fair for the British, but also for the other member states. Despite the fact that, on the high sea and within European politics, anything is always possible, I am still convinced that the facts of the inner-European market, the EU trade policy and the global importance of Europe will speak for themselves. We need Great Britain in our European family and the British need the European Union.“

      He seems to think that if negotiations prove as fruitless as he can make them we will want to stay.

  13. Denis Cooper
    Posted March 24, 2017 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

    Some off-topic good news here, if it’s true:

    http://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/news/may-will-block-fishing-waters-if-talks-on-brexit-break-down-t9q2wdxhx

    “May will block fishing waters if talks on Brexit break down”

    “Theresa May is prepared to block access for European vessels to British fishing waters if talks with the EU over Brexit break down.

    The prime minister is due to announce that Britain will pull out of the 1964 London convention, the agreement that gives EU nations access to fishing waters between six and twelve nautical miles from British shores.

    Mrs May will say that she is serving a notice period of two years to exit the agreement, which would have allowed some European nations to fish in British waters even after Britain was no longer party to the EU common fisheries policy.

    The government hopes that successful Brexit talks would include the right of some European countries to have access to British waters. But if … ”

    But meanwhile:

    https://www.ft.com/content/958c7e28-0f1c-11e7-b030-768954394623

    “Fishing groups from nine EU countries have demanded continued access to UK waters after Brexit and warned that UK fish supplies could otherwise lose tariff-free access to the continent.

    The fishing associations from coastal European countries met in Brussels on Wednesday to form an alliance ahead of Brexit talks, with all agreeing that access to fish in UK waters was a “priority”.

    EU countries rely heavily on access to UK seas, with some vessels catching up to 80 per cent of their fish there. Some UK fishing groups and politicians have demanded that Britain remove foreign vessels after Brexit to improve catches for UK fishermen.

    Alain Cadec, chair of the EU’s fisheries committee, warned that it was “out of the question” for the EU to continue to allow tariff-free access for British fish “if they do not provide our vessels access to their waters”.”

    Well, Norwegian exports of fish and processed fish products do not have tariff-free access to the EU, but I guess the difference is that the Norwegians catch far more fish than they want to eat themselves while that is not the case for us, we are a net importer:

    http://researchbriefings.parliament.uk/ResearchBriefing/Summary/SN02788

    But even so, listen to the blasted cheek from this bloke:

    “The UK has the stronger position, but is that really how you want to leave the EU? By blackmailing us on the way out?”

    So they’re allowed to blackmail us – “Here’s your “divorce bill” for €60 billion, first of all pay that or we won’t agree to go on to negotiate anything else – not even the position of EU migrants” – but we are not allowed to retaliate on the basis of any of our strengths.

    • Know-dice
      Posted March 24, 2017 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

      I had an interesting discussion with a Spanish colleague this week… He said with regards to Brexit and the trade negotiations

      “you can’t have something for nothing”…

      Cheek I thought, Spain as a net recipient of EU funds and he says we can’t have something for nothing….grrr…

      http://europa.eu/european-union/about-eu/countries/member-countries/spain_en#budgets_and_funding

      Breakdown of Spain’s finances with the EU in 2015:
      Total EU spending in Spain – € 13.696 billion
      Total Spanish contribution to the EU budget – € 8.772 billion

      • Denis Cooper
        Posted March 24, 2017 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

        It seems that kind of warped view is quite common, even with EU politicians who should know better. The UK subsidises their country, and the UK opens its domestic market to their exports and runs a trade deficit, and the UK allows all their citizens to come and live and work here, and the UK allows them to vote against its interests in the EU institutions, but apparently overall it is still the UK which unreasonably wants something for nothing.

    • Andy
      Posted March 24, 2017 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

      We must take back control of our waters, and imposing tariffs etc on British Fish will do wonders for fick stocks which the EU has wrecked. What is not to like about this ?!

  14. alan jutson
    Posted March 24, 2017 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

    Unfortunately I do not trust much of what Mr Junker says, but let us hope common-sense prevails.

  15. Bert Young
    Posted March 24, 2017 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

    There is no point in either us or the EU starting and conducting negotiations in a resentful manner . It is common-sense that we obtain the best possible deal and also the EU . We know full well that the EU has much to lose if they put barriers up ; equally we face the loss of many exports if we do the same .

    I do not expect ( nor would it be warranted ) a costly “exit” bill from the EU ; we have invested – directly and indirectly , heavily in EU affairs during the time of our membership , this must be recognised and allowed for . Juncker is a bit of a slippery customer who does not seem to be consistent in his views from one day to the next .

  16. Mark
    Posted March 24, 2017 at 7:03 pm | Permalink

    I suspect the real issues will be not quite so much residency rights of themselves, but many of the other issues that attach to migration within the EU that might also set precedents. These include freedom of movement of capital – remittances from the UK are substantial by foreign migrants and UK migrants taking capital abroad to invest in retirement homes as well as pension incomes, health care/EHIC (strictly an EEA matter), welfare entitlements, education (particularly tertiary education), etc. Not all of these will be settled without further negotiations.

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    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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