Harriet Harman MP, Chair of the Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR), has tabled an amendment to the ‘Article 50 Bill’ designed to protect the residence rights of EU nationals living in the UK.
This follows the Supreme Court’s ruling that Article 50 of the Treaty of the European Union (TEU) – which sets out the procedure for a Member State to leave the EU – can only be triggered by an Act of Parliament. A ‘Bill’ is an Act of Parliament that is under consideration and has not yet been approved. The government published its ‘Brexit Bill’ this yesterday, prompting a wave of proposed amendments.
What would the amendment do?
Citizens of the EU enjoy ‘residence rights’ in all other Member States, allowing them to live and work in any EU country without a visa. For the moment at least, this applies to the UK – British citizens can live and work in other EU countries, and other EU citizens can live and work in the UK. Unless they are protected during the Brexit negotiations, these rights may be lost once the UK formally leaves the EU.
Mrs. Harman’s amendment aims to protect the residence rights of EU nationals who moved to the UK on or before 23 June 2016 (the date of the EU referendum). It does not create any new rights, but seeks to ensure that EU citizens who moved to the UK before the referendum will not lose their right to residence in the UK post-Brexit.
How does this relate to human rights?
Part of the JCHR’s concern is that forcing EU nationals to leave may violate their right to respect for their home and family life under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. This would be particularly problematic for long-term residents who have strong family connections in the UK, and could lead to legal claims against the government in the European Court of Human Rights.
This amendment will be considered along with several others over the next couple of weeks as the Article 50 Bill is debated and ultimately voted on by the House of Commons.