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Jean Lambert London's Green MEP

Hearing on the rights of EU citizens in the UK set to go ahead without the Home Office

10 May 2017

Jean Lambert MEP will be attending a hearing in the European Parliament tomorrow addressing the situation and rights of EU citizens in the UK [1].

The event has been jointly organised by the Parliament’s civil liberties, employment and petitions committees. Speakers will include Guy Verhofstadt (the Parliament’s Brexit coordinator) and Anne-Laure Donskoy (co-chair of The 3 Million group which campaigns for the rights of EU citizens living in the UK). Despite being invited to speak at the event, the UK Home Office has failed to confirm that it will attend.

Ms Lambert has called on the Government to take immediate action to protect the rights of EU citizens in the UK, including requesting it amend a little-known immigration rule which could disqualify some EU citizens from securing permanent residency if they have not taken out private health insurance [2].

The European Commission launched an infringement procedure against the UK for not including the NHS as Comprehensive Sickness Insurance in 2012, but did not progress the case [3]. Ms Lambert has this week submitted a Freedom of Information request to the UK Government seeking an update on these proceedings.

Jean Lambert, London’s Green MEP and member of the Parliament’s civil liberties and employment committees, said:

“As the UK’s departure from the EU gets underway, I will be attending a high-profile hearing in the European Parliament to discuss the ongoing uncertainty surrounding EU nationals and their legal status in the UK and that of British nationals in other EU countries.

This hearing, which is organised jointly by the Employment and Social Affairs Committee, the Civil Liberties Committee and the Petitions Committee will hear a range of views, from academic and legal experts to private citizens whose lives have now been thrown into turmoil by this shameful situation.

The European Parliament’s Chief Brexit negotiator, Guy Verhofstadt, will also speak. However, disappointingly the British Home Office appear not to be sending a representative, despite having received an invitation to speak at the event. This apparent lack of interest in and compassion for the plight of three million European citizens who came to Britain in good faith and whose lives are being treated as bargaining chips shows us what kind of government we are dealing with.

These EU nationals exercised their right to move and live, love and work, retire and contribute to another EU country, just as thousands of British nationals have done in other EU countries, and are now being treated despicably, left in limbo, with many thousands having residency rights denied on spurious grounds.

One such reason for denying residency to EU nationals is the issue of Comprehensive Sickness Insurance. The Government claims that those who were economically inactive for a period of time while living in the UK should have taken out private health insurance. Since this was never made clear to EU nationals coming to the country and the European Union felt the policy was incompatible with EU Freedom of Movement rules, it began legal action against the UK Government some years ago.

Under the Freedom of Information Act I recently requested access to the documents on this issue from the British Government and will be pursuing this matter closely.

Tomorrow’s hearing sends an important signal to the British Government that the European Parliament considers this to be a red line. Ensuring the rights of EU nationals in the UK, and likewise the rights of British nationals in other EU countries, are guaranteed is a top priority for the Parliament. Unlike Ms May we believe some matters – people’s lives – should be not be used as pawns.”

The hearing takes place at 2pm GMT on Thursday 11th May, and can be watched live here.