Recently we have heard MPs, and others, voicing their concerns about Brexit and the situation regarding the rights of EU citizens living in the UK.
I have not heard of anyone raising concerns about the rights of UK citizens living in EU member states.
I think it is symptomatic of our national malaise that our MPs, and others with the loudest voices, are more concerned with protecting the interests of foreign nationals than the interests of their own fellow countrymen and women.
There are about 1.2 million UK citizens living in EU member states, and about 3.3 million EU citizens living in the UK (United Nations figures for 2015). So we would think HM Government should be in a strong bargaining position.
For once I can agree with Theresa May, that we cannot guarantee the rights of EU citizens here until the rights of our citizens are guaranteed as well.
However, the EU cannot give meaningful guarantees for our citizens’ status in its member states. The EU often cannot enforce its own laws in its member states in many instances. I know from personal experiences in representing my constituents that some member states simply ignore EU law, tramples on their rights, and the Commission can do nothing about it.
HM Government should reach agreements unilaterally on a country-by-country basis, and that should not be hard given that for most member states far more of their citizens live here than ours live there.
For example, we have about 883,000 Poles here, while there are about 35,00 UK citizens there. Romania has about 229,000 citizens here, while we have about 3,000 there. About 297,000 Germans live in the UK, while 103,000 UK citizens live in Germany. A similar story is true of almost every EU members state.
To protect the rights of our citizens to remain in these countries HM Government will need to forget talking to the ineffectual EU Commission and reach unilateral agreements with individual member states.