Ixelles council and the local community have been applauded for “rallying round” to support a campaign to protect the post Brexit rights of British nationals living and working in the area. Since 2013, a campaign has been running for the rights of the 3.5m EU27 citizens in the UK and 1.5m Britons in the EU to be guaranteed unilaterally in the event of Brexit.
In November 2018, the UK Prime Minister, Theresa May, announced that EU27 citizens in the UK would receive settled status in the event of a no deal Brexit. However, no such declaration has been made by the EU institutions with respect to the rights of British citizens in the EU. Instead, British citizens will have to rely on individual member states to guarantee their rights. And deal or no deal, British citizens in the EU will lose their rights to free movement.
New Europeans, a pro-European civil rights organisation based on rue Washington in Ixelles, have called on the Ixelles council to guarantee British expat’s legal rights. Roger Casale, the CEO and founder of the group, has written to Councillor Bertrand Wert, of Ixelles council, saying, “We respectfully call on the Ixelles council, our local authority, to petition the Belgian government, and ask that the rights of UK citizens in Belgium be guaranteed unilaterally in the event of a no deal Brexit.
“Similarly, we ask the Ixelles council to support the campaign for an #EUGreenCard which would give a physical proof of status to Belgian and all EU citizens in the UK and allow Britons in the EU to retain their free movement rights post Brexit.” Casale, a former UK Labour MP, said, “We ask this in the name of Europe. British citizens in the EU are EU citizens and they should not be left to fight for their rights alone.
“We have come together in Europe for the better and the worse and now is a time for EU citizens and those who represent us to stand together.” Wert, himself a transnational EU citizen (a Frenchman living in Belgium), has now promised to take up the case of Britons in Belgium on behalf of New Europeans, which has its headquarters on Rue Washington, Ixelles.
Wert will be raising the issue with the mayor elect, Ecolo-Groen’s Christos Doulkeridis. New Europeans is petitioning Ixelles council to raise the matter with the Belgian Government. Through the Mayor elect and Ixelles Council, New Europeans will be asking the Belgian government to grant “comprehensive, unilateral guarantees” to Britons in Belgium post Brexit.
Casale said, “This means guarantees of their right to stay and with the same rights they enjoy now, including recognition of their qualifications, access to public services and the right to stand and vote in local elections. The council is expected to take action as soon as the vote on the Withdrawal Agreement in the House of Commons has taken place and the result it known.
If Britain leaves the EU under the withdrawal agreement, the rights of Britons in the EU will be safeguarded unilaterally. On Tuesday, Casale told this site he was “delighted” that Ixelles council had agreed to “rally round” and support its efforts.
He said, “It is fantastic that thanks to the intervention of Councillor Bertrand Wert and Ixelles Council others, British citizens in Brussels do not need to feel so alone.
“Bertrand has understood the message of New Europeans which is that the fight for the rights of Britons in Europe is not just about accommodating the legitimate interests of British expats – it is about the future of Europe. Britons in Europe are European citizens and for this reason we must stand together and fight together to safeguard the status and ring fence the rights of Britons in Europe. We do so not just for the Brits in our communities but for Europe”.