LET CELEBRATE PEOPLE POWER IN 2018
What a momentous year 2017 was!
Still dazed and confused after all that had happened in 2016, we had to learn on our feet, we pulled together, we got organised, and we coordinated our efforts to make our voice, the voice of EU citizens living in the UK, heard loud and clear.
We forged strong partnerships with sister groups, working side by side with the British in Europe to bring our shared concerns and messages to policymakers in the UK, in Brussels and across many EU member states.
Together we reached out to affected citizens on both sides of the English Channel generating hundreds of thousands of letters, emails and meetings with politicians, diplomats and civil servants to share our personal stories.
We used our collective power - people power - and politicians did sit up and listen to what we had to say. We did make a difference. We put citizens rights on the agenda as the number one priority for both the UK and the EU. If only it could have been that simple.
We realised soon enough that despite all the warm words and commitments, this was going to be a much dirtier, political and more protracted struggle than we had anticipated. We were indeed 'bargaining chips', and the UK and the EU were going to play ball with our rights.
Nonetheless, we spent countless hours analysing UK and EU proposals and offered constructive criticism as well as viable solutions (see https://www.the3million.org.uk/publications to read all the papers we produced in 2017). We tirelessly worked with the media to amplify our voice and hundreds of us gathered in Westminster in February and in September to lobby our MPs ‘en masse’. We travelled to Brussels several times to meet with Members of the European Parliament, the European Commission and the EU Council face to face.
We twinned with our British friends living in the EU27 member states to talk to national politicians in Germany, Italy, France, Spain, and The Netherlands.
Yet, although we often felt like David stuck in between two Goliaths, we refused to be defeated. Through sheer determination and hard work, we helped shape both the UK and the EU's positions on citizens' rights, and we did get them to take some steps in the right direction.
But the first phase of the Brexit talks, relentless as it was, only took us part of the way. Although it covers a lot of ground, the Agreement concluded before Christmas is not the be-all-end-all for us. We still stand to lose fundamental rights we currently have under EU law, particularly around freedom of movement and family reunification.
We are still vulnerable to falling into the government's "Hostile Environment", which as EU citizens, we have been mostly spared, if for any reason - or error - we fall foul of the Home Office.
And essentially, although some of us may have lived in the UK for most or all of our lives, we will still have to apply to have our immigration status confirmed under the Withdrawal Agreement after Brexit. Failing to obtain this status may make us 'illegal' immigrants liable to be detained and expelled. We are very concerned that many citizens risk being left behind because they will face legal, digital, language, or evidential barriers to obtaining this new status. This is a real concern for the most vulnerable members of our community such as carers, EU citizens with disabilities, the elderlies or EU children in care.
In 2018, there is no time to rest. It is critical for us to continue to make our voice heard over the coming weeks and months.
We must ensure that citizens' rights don't remain half-baked, that they don't fall by the wayside as the negotiators move on to more politically urgent or commercially salient matters.
We cannot allow there to be grey areas or omissions in the Withdrawal Agreement as that will be our safety blanket once we leave the EU and if that doesn't cover us all or it ends up only being threadbare then hundreds of thousands of us will risk being left out in the cold.
Altogether, we must keep the pressure in the next six months to ensure that:
There is no backpedalling in Phase 2 of the negotiations on any of the commitments made on citizens' rights in Phase 1;
Any outstanding issues and rights are discussed and agreed;
Any areas of ambiguity (and there are many of those) are clarified.
All of that is painstakingly transcribed into the Withdrawal Agreement, which will have to be as legally watertight as can be.
We will need your help more than ever to continue to flex our collective muscle to keep citizens' rights on the agenda and to enhance and extend the existing deal. We will keep at it, and we count on you to stand with us all as we aim to finish the job as well as we possibly can!
So, do not be complacent. If you have something to say, now is the time to say it. If you want to do something, now is the time to do it! Join the3million or British in Europe to get involved in the campaign and donate if you can afford it.