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Though there is still much more to do, the Brexit negotiations have indeed progressed, including on the big issue of citizens’ rights,  writes Claude Moraes MEP, chair of the European Parliament civil liberties, justice and home affairs committee.

Today, the European Parliament will vote for a resolution recommending EU leaders agree sufficient progress has been made in the Brexit talks to move on to the next phase - but let me be clear, in supporting this, we are not saying the deal agreed last week is in any way perfect, nor are we saying all the phase one issues are completely resolved.

On citizens’ rights in particular, and the impact of Brexit on the lives, livelihoods and futures of the three million Britons in the rest of the EU, and the 1.3 million EU citizens in the UK, there has been progress, but in agreeing that progress has been made, we are not giving a blank cheque to Theresa May and David Davis, and the Commission, nor saying we fully endorse everything in the deal struck last week.

The resolution makes clear that we will continue to push for greater certainty, and, given the Brexit Secretary’s recent comments that the deal agreed last week was “not legally enforceable”, the European Parliament is adamant that we need a legal text guaranteeing what has been agreed. We will continue to argue citizens’ rights should be protected - the Labour Party has always said it would guarantee rights unilaterally from day one, and we are confident that had that government done so, that would have been reciprocated.

Were EU leaders to conclude progress hasn’t been made, we would risk losing the guarantees that have been achieved so far, emboldening the Hard Brexit extremists and increasing the likelihood of no deal, which would delight the Europhobes but be disastrous for all citizens everywhere, particularly Brits abroad and EU and UK citizens in Britain.

As the resolution makes clear, under the deal agreed last week, all EU citizens resident in Britain and Brits in the rest of the EU, “will enjoy the full set of rights established in EU law”; their families and any future children will also be protected; administration procedures will be streamlined and simplified, with family applications considered together; all relevant rights and social security benefits will be safeguarded and maintained; and all the provisions will be incorporated into a specific UK legal act so these rights will have direct effect.

Furthermore, the resolution takes up many of the concerns of citizens’ rights campaigners, which we share, by stressing that we want to see: “a clear and unambiguous legal text” extending coverage of citizens’ rights to future partners; light-touch administration procedures enabling families to initiate action using a single form; the creation of an ombudsman to act on citizens’ complaints; and, crucially, a guaranteeing of the future free movement rights across the whole EU for UK citizens currently resident in the EU-27.

We also need to continue to campaign to ensure that whatever happens in the wider negotiations, citizens’ rights are safeguarded, and these issues should continue to be dealt with as a specific stream of the negotiations in the month to come.

Of course there are many other areas on which there is work to be done in the next phase of negotiations. For example, we are pushing to ensure that any deal does not result in a weakening of standards in the UK on workers’ rights - we will fight to ensure the Tories do not take Britain out of the social chapter, and we will fight to keep other major EU rights such as consumer rights and environmental protections, that many Brexiters are salivating at the prospect of ditching.

Yes, we would have liked more progress to have been made, and for the issues not only of citizens’ rights but Ireland and the financial settlement to have been resolved months ago, instead of dragging on - it’s been eighteen months since the referendum, and nine months since the triggering of Article 50.

That we are still only at this stage is not the fault of the European Parliament, or EU leaders, but entirely a result of the chaotic charlatanry of the Conservative Government, led by a Prime Minister paralysed by fear, and in hoc to the DUP.

And with the much trickier, more difficult work still to come on the final future relationship between Britain and the EU, the fact the Tory Government has taken this long to conclude the first phase will not fill anyone with confidence.

Claude Moraes MEP is chair of the European Parliament civil liberties, justice and home affairs committee

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Labour MEPs: There's still more to do, but Brexit negotiations have progressed, including on citizens' rights

Though there is still much more to do, the Brexit negotiations have indeed progressed, including on the big issue of citizens’ rights,  writes Claude Moraes MEP, chair of the European...

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Tory MEPs today failed to vote for the conclusions of the European Parliament Panama committee, which recommended several measures the EU and national governments should take to fight money laundering and tax dodging.

The proposals include a blacklist of tax havens and sanctions against them; more transparency; a ban on companies domiciling in low-tax regimes while conducting their business elsewhere; a global definition of a tax haven; and a global summit to fight tax avoidance, evasion and aggressive tax planning.

Neena Gill MEP, member of the European Parliament Committee of Inquiry into Money laundering, tax avoidance and tax evasion, said:

“This is just the latest example of Tory MEPs failing to support action against tax dodging. Time and again, whether it’s on workers’ rights, the environment or tax avoidance, the Tories take the side of the greedy elite and not ordinary hard-working people.

“Trillions of euros are being siphoned off through loopholes to avoid tax, while public services are starved of money – there is an estimated €6 billion (£5.3bn) held in tax havens. Yet today instead of backing action to recover some of this money to invest in our schools and hospitals, the Tories have chosen to sit on their hands

“This is an ongoing and urgent problem, one that can only be solved by global action, and it is the European Union, not Tory MEPs and the Tory government, that is leading on it.”

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Tory MEPs back greedy elite and fail to support EU action against money launderers and tax cheats

Tory MEPs today failed to vote for the conclusions of the European Parliament Panama committee, which recommended several measures the EU and national governments should take to fight money laundering...

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Labour MEPs voted today to move on to the next phase of Brexit talks, but warned that Tory infighting poses a threat to the whole process. Labour MEPs also vowed to continue to apply pressure to secure greater certainty and guarantees on citizens’ rights.

Richard Corbett MEP, Labour’s Leader in the European Parliament, said:

“In moving to the second phase of the Brexit talks, some may hope the UK government will be better prepared than it was for the first. But probably not: it has just admitted that there has not yet been a discussion in the government on what final outcome it actually wants. It has also done no impact assessment of leaving the customs union, nor on what Brexit would cost British industry, agriculture, or finance.

“Even this phase one deal has been called into question by statements from ministers, and at times has almost looked under threat, resulting in EU negotiating partners questioning Britain’s commitment to what has already been agreed.

“This deal represents progress on the rights of the three million EU citizens in the UK and 1.5 million Brits in the rest of the EU, but still leaves them facing uncertainty. Unlike the section relating to Ireland, which specifies that the commitments made in the deal “must be upheld in all circumstances, irrespective of any future agreement”, no such promise is given here, leaving citizens in limbo until the uncertain final agreement, unsure of their future status, unable to plan their careers or their families

“Labour MEPs will continue to push for further commitments with regards to the rights of these citizens, as the talks move on to the next phase.”

Richard Corbett MEP added:

“The European Parliament today voted for a resolution calling on EU leaders to approve moving on to the next phase of the negotiations, when they meet at the end of this week. However, the vote is not a blank cheque for negotiators on either side, nor a green light for the government to continue the talks in the same haphazard manner.

“The negotiating teams have been put on notice; phase one was the easy part, and moving forward, they’ll need to agree issues twice as difficult in half the time. It is patently clear that the Conservatives cannot deliver a Brexit deal that works for Britain”

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Labour MEPs: Talks are moving on, but Tory divisions threaten further progress

Labour MEPs voted today to move on to the next phase of Brexit talks, but warned that Tory infighting poses a threat to the whole process. Labour MEPs also vowed...

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