Plans for ID cards for EU nationals will prove controversial in Brexit talks, says MEP – The Guardian

Plans for ID cards for EU nationals will prove controversial in Brexit talks, says MEP – The Guardian

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The UK’s plans to introduce mandatory biometric residence identity cards for EU nationals and new rules on family members joining them are expected to prove major flashpoints in the next set of Brexit talks in a fortnight’s time, a leading British MEP has warned.

Claude Moraes, chairman of the European parliament’s civil liberties committee and member of the parliament’s Brexit steering committee, says the UK offer on citizens’ rights has introduced a number of unexpected flashpoints into the negotiations, particularly those which seem to leave EU nationals as “second-class” citizens in Britain.

He says in particular that the mandatory nature of the British requirement for 3.2 million EU nationals in Britain to apply for biometric ID residence documents declaring their “settled status” is likely to face tough opposition from the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier.

The meeting is likely to take on an added charge as Britain’s chief negotiator, Brexit secretary David Davis, has in the past been a strong opponent of ID card schemes.

Moraes, a London Labour MEP, said it had been expected that the second set of negotiations on citizens’ rights, due in a fortnight, would be relatively straightforward compared with more contentious issues such as the divorce bill, security or “open skies” policy, but this was no longer the case.

The UK offer makes clear that those EU nationals who do not apply to the Home Office within two years of Brexit for “settled status” and the biometric residence document could lose the right to remain in Britain.

“Those who wish to remain in the UK beyond this point will have to apply to the Home Office for their individual permission before the period of blanket permission expires. If they do not do so, and they are not covered by any exemptions the government puts in place and have no other basis to remain in the UK, they will no longer have permission to remain in the UK,” says the Home Office policy paper.

The EU, in its ‘essential principles on citizens’ rights’, has already made clear that any residence document should be voluntary and EU nationals in Britain who are legally living there at the time of Brexit should be “considered legally resident even if they do not hold a residence document evidencing that right”.

The offer goes on: “Documents to be issued in relation to these rights should have a declaratory nature and be issued free of charge or for a charge not exceeding that imposed on nationals for the issuing of similar documents.”

Moraes said while it was true there was a requirement for residents’ permits or ID cards in several EU countries, they applied to the whole population, and EU nationals were not being given exceptional treatment as second-class citizens by being fingerprinted and required to have a residents’ permit.

“It is exceptionalism. They are being given second-class status. There are 3 million people already worried about what is going to happen to them and now there is this extra point about being second-class citizens and they are being required to have an extra check. It is a symbolic difference,” said Moraes. He said the difference between the UK and EU on the issue was “extremely important”. The EU was saying “it is voluntary and you will still have the right to stay in the UK if you do not apply”.

He said that he anticipated that the biometric residence ID cards would be one amongst several new key flashpoints on citizens’ rights. Another will be the introduction of a minimum income threshold – currently £18,600 – for EU nationals who want to bring in close family members after Brexit.

Campaign groups, such as the3million, are also likely to press for the issue of the “two year rule” to be raised in negotiations. Britain has proposed that those EU nationals who leave Britain for more than two years could lose their “settled status” if they cannot demonstrate strong ties to the UK when they return or that their prolonged absence was out of their control.

There also several areas in the UK offer marked “seek to ensure”, such as on healthcare and validity of professional qualifications, that EU negotiators were hoping for greater clarity. On Monday, Barnier tweeted his response to the UK offer, saying “More ambition, clarity and guarantees needed than in today’s UK position.”

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