Plenty of questions – any answers?
British in Germany’s Bavaria group ‘British in Bavaria’ hosted a lively discussion evening with two representatives from HM government on 27 February. David Hole delivered a sober analysis of where we are now and HM Consul-General Paul Heardman and Tim Jones from the British Embassy in Berlin fielded questions from the floor.
Here´s David Hole´s report on the evening:
British in Bavaria 27th. February, 2018
Report by David Hole on a discussion evening with
HM Consul-General Paul Heardman and Tim Jones, British Embassy, Berlin.
More than 80 UK Nationals turned up to the Kolpinghaus in Munich to hear the talks from representatives of HMG on citizens’ rights and to participate in the discussion.
I introduced the topic with a brief review of the stage reached so far. Tim Jones then spoke for HMG. He had initially expected a decision on citizens’ rights by September/October last year. In fact it took until December and there are still some questions open. Both sides are conscious of the huge value that EU and British citizens have contributed to the countries where they reside. To achieve agreement on their rights remains the highest priority.
Economic activity is not considered to be a citizens’ rights issue, but a question for phase II of the negotiations. The Prime Minister is to deliver a major speech on Friday, 2nd. March on the UK’s vision on how this phase is to go forward. The British Ambassador from Germany was present at Chequers when this was discussed in cabinet.
There are two agreements: the withdrawal agreement, which should not be as difficult as may seem, requiring a qualified majority on the EU side. This should be in place by October and include citizens’ rights. Then there is the question of how transition may work. UK would wish existing trade agreements to remain in force for the length of transition.
It is recognised that organising an election to the European Parliament would present great difficulty, if the UK had not departed the EU formally by March 2019. The legal text of the points agreed in the technical notes for Phase I should be available to-morrow (Wednesday, 28th. February). The question of freedom of movement (FoM) is still open. HMG will continue to raise this. There will be a continuing engagement procedure with British citizens. HMG is aware of and supports British in Germany. There remains a need to reach individual citizens to ensure we are prepared for it.
The question and discussion part was opened.
In reply to the question on where the information and observations generated this evening would go, it was stated that this goes to the Foreign Office and to the Dept. for Exiting the EU. There was scepticism expressed at the benefit of this, although there was an assurance that this is faithfully reported.
The UK does not require its citizens to relinquish British citizenship if another citizenship is taken. Control of immigration into the UK is a matter that requires a more developed policy. Some form of registration is going to be necessary.
A broad range of issues was covered in the questions, but the most pressing points were the loss/retention of British citzenship on naturalisation in Germany and the loss of the right to vote in the UK. This latter point continues to engender considerable anger, which became ever more apparent as the evening progressed. It was stressed that, as long as the UK is a member state of the EU, i.e until March 2019, those granted German citizenship by that date will be entitled to retain their British citizenship as well. Once dual citizenship is acquired, there will be no later requirement to choose between them. This is also confirmed by the German authorities.
There was assurance that pensions would continue to be uprated, and that state pension contributions would continue to be aggregated. However, it also emerged that the question of private pension has not yet been addressed, it being regarded as economic activity. Where payments are made into a private pension scheme in the UK, it is intended that this should continue to be possible.
There are no plans for a second referendum. This of itself would require an Act of Parliament. The Private Member’s Bill on votes for life currently before Parliament has just passed its second reading and proceeds to committee stage. There is no firm indication as to whether this will be passed into law or when.
The question of the Irish border after Brexit was raised and proved to be as intractable in the discussion that followed as it has been on every other occasion it has been raised.
The evening ended in something of an acrimonious atmosphere, as anger at disenfranchisement and the uncertainty for the future position escalated. From my subjective assessment, this comes partly too from the disappointment of the hopes that people have that HMG will say something positive on what is to be done on citizens’ rights. The position of HMG on this question, together with the position it takes on settled status for EU citizens in the UK, does not make any improvement in the situation likely.