Brexit: ‘Withdrawal Agreement or nothing’ – EU deals new blow to rights of Britons

Despite pressure from the UK and campaigners the EU's chief Brexit negotiator has again snubbed the idea that the rights of Brits in the EU and Europeans in the UK could be safe-guarded to avoid the upheaval of a no-deal Brexit.

Brexit: 'Withdrawal Agreement or nothing' - EU deals new blow to rights of Britons
Michel Barnier has dealt a new blow to hopes of citizens' rights being ring-fenced.

Campaigners for the rights of Britons living in the EU were given a boost recently when the UK's Brexit Minister Steve Barclay wrote a letter to the EU to push for the citizens' rights part of the Brexit deal to be ring-fenced.

That would mean the rights of Britons in the EU and European citizens in the UK would be protected – or at least those agreed in Theresa May's Withdrawal Agreement  – even in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

But the EU's Brexit negotiator has once again poured cold water on the idea in a written reply to Barclay.

Michel Barnier insists that the Brexit deal is the best and perhaps only multilateral agreement that could protect citizens' rights and must be agreed as a whole package.

Below is an extract from the letter published June 24th.

Barnier says: “There is no other way to achieve all the benefits that the Withdrawal Agreement provides.”

Barnier said that if the Withdrawal Agreement is not signed – and at this point it looks dead in the water, given that Boris Johnson is the next likely British Prime Minister – then each EU member state would take the necessary action to protect Britons.

Barnier's letter should not be read as a complete rejection of ring-fencing citizens' rights, with campaigners insisting that member states could still agree to it and the political will must come via the European Council.

Nevertheless they were left feeling let down by his response.

“We are very disappointed, quite frankly,” British in Europe's Jeremy Morgan told a Westminster Committee hearing this week.

Morgan said he felt the EU were being “unreasonable” but urged the UK to keep up the pressure.

“It is absolutely critical that any default agreement, if I can call it that, on citizens’ rights takes place before Britain’s exit.

“We would strongly encourage the British Government to keep up the pressure. We are doing so, for our part, among the nation states in the EU, and centrally in our lobbying there.”

British in Europe's Jane Golding added: “This will only move if the EU Council makes a decision, so the decision on this lies in each of the EU27.”


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‘It’s their loss’: Italian universities left off UK special study visa list

The UK is missing out by barring highly skilled Italian graduates from accessing a new work visa, Italy's Universities Minister said on Wednesday.

'It's their loss': Italian universities left off UK special study visa list

Universities and Research Minister Cristina Messa said she was disappointed by the UK’s decision not to allow any graduates of Italian universities access to its ‘High Potential Individual’ work permit.

“They’re losing a big slice of good graduates, who would provide as many high skills…it’s their loss,” Messa said in an interview with news agency Ansa, adding that Italy would petition the UK government to alter its list to include Italian institutions.

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“It’s a system that Britain obviously as a sovereign state can choose to implement, but we as a government can ask (them) to revise the university rankings,” she said.

The High Potential Individual visa, which launches on May 30th, is designed to bring highly skilled workers from the world’s top universities to the UK in order to compensate for its Brexit-induced labour shortage.

Successful applicants do not require a job offer to be allowed into the country but can apply for one after arriving, meaning potential employers won’t have to pay sponsorship fees.

Students sit on the steps of Roma Tre University in Rome.

Students sit on the steps of Roma Tre University in Rome. Photo by TIZIANA FABI / AFP.

The visa is valid for two years for those with bachelor’s and master’s degrees and three years for PhD holders, with the possibility of moving into “other long-term employment routes” that will allow the individual to remain in the country long-term.

READ ALSO: Eight things you should know if you’re planning to study in Italy

Italy isn’t the only European country to have been snubbed by the list, which features a total of 37 global universities for the 2021 graduation year (the scheme is open to students who have graduated in the past five years, with a different list for each graduation year since 2016).

The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, EPFL Switzerland, Paris Sciences et Lettres, the University of Munich, and Sweden’s Karolinska Institute are the sole European inclusions in the document, which mainly privileges US universities.

Produced by the UK’s Education Ministry, the list is reportedly based on three global rankings: Times Higher Education World University Rankings, the Quacquarelli Symonds World University Rankings, and The Academic Ranking of World Universities.

Messa said she will request that the UK consider using ‘more up-to-date indicators’, without specifying which alternative system she had in mind.