34,287 of 50,000 signatures

To the British Prime Minister Theresa May & the British government EU Chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier and EU leaders

Guarantee our rights!

Give a formal guarantee now to all EU citizens currently residing in the UK and all British nationals currently living in the EU, to maintain their existing full rights of residence and work after the UK has formally left the EU.

There should be a strong and continuing enforcement mechanism through the courts, a deal of citizens’ rights should be agreed even if the talks on other Brexit issues collapse, and these rights should be guaranteed as quickly as possible during the Brexit negotiations.

Why is this important?

The Brexit vote in the United Kingdom has led to anxiety and uncertainty on the part of 5 million EU citizens [1] who have done nothing except exercise their rights to free movement under the existing Treaties which allow them to live, study, work and retire in another EU member state. (3.4 m non-British EU citizens in the UK and 1.6m UK citizens in the EU).

We are calling for the Uk government and the EU to give an immediate, comprehensive and unilateral guarantee to all EU citizens in the UK and all UK citizens in the EU of all their EU derived treaty rights.  

Once given it is important to safeguard these unilateral guarantees through an international treaty, either as part of the Brexit negotiations or in parallel with those negotiations.

The EU is the world’s leading human rights organisation. In the name of a Europe of the Citizens, we therefore call on the EU to guarantee the rights of UK citizens in the EU immediately and unilaterally in order to put an end to this uncertainty and anxiety.    

Human beings are not bargaining chips.  UK citizens living in the EU are still EU citizens in their own right and rightly look to the EU institutions to protect them.  

In parallel, we call on the UK government to give immediate, unilateral guarantees to non-British EU citizens in the UK that all their rights that derive from the current Treaties, and from international human rights law, including the right to private and family law as enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights, will be safeguarded by means of primary legislation.  

Once these steps have been taken, both sets of guarantees must be anchored in international law by means of a ring-fenced agreement between the EU and the UK, separate and prior to any other agreement on the terms of the UK’s  withdrawal from the EU.  

With the exception of granting the rights of UK citizens in the EU unilaterally, the EU should not initiate negotiations on trade or any other issue to the UK before the rights of EU citizens in the UK have been safeguarded. The recognition of the rights of all EU citizens affected by Brexit is an absolute pre-condition for the start of the negotiations per se, as rightly declared in the EU’s Brexit negotiating guidelines.  

In seeking such safeguards from the UK, the EU should not accept anything short of full protection of existing rights and those that EU citizens would have reasonably expected to acquire if Brexit had not occurred, while the rights of rights holders, and the derived rights of their family members, should be protected for life, in accordance with EU law.  

The Commission’s working paper on the ‘Essential Principles on Citizens’ Rights’ [2] has set an ambitious agenda that goes a long way towards offering such protection and can provide the foundation for the recognition of the rights of all EU citizens by the UK and the EU.  

But the EU must take the initiative regardless and unilaterally recognise the rights of UK citizens in the EU. By doing so, it will not only be living up to the expectations of its citizens, it will also be setting an example to the UK and to the world.  

The EU27 and the UK are bound by international human rights law to guarantee the right to private and family life, ensuring that citizens will not be facing uncertainty and precariousness that can affect the network of their personal, social and economic relations (see the decision of the European Court of Human Rights in Ariztimuno Mendizabal v France).  

Human rights are non-negotiable and all EU governments need to be reminded that democracies are to be judged not by the way they implement the will of the majority but by the manner in which they protect the rights of minorities.


[1] https://neweuropeans.net/article/1875/eu-can-guarantee-rights-16-million-uk-citizens-eu-unilaterally

[2] https://ec.europa.eu/commission/sites/beta-political/files/citizens-rights-essential-principles-draft-position-paper_en.pdf

In partnership with New Europeans

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