UNISON members set for final lobby over their Brexit future

Union calls for citizens’ rights to be ‘written in stone’ – whatever happens to Brexit negotiations

UNISON members will send a metaphorical rocket – a Brexit firecracker – into the minds of Westminster MPs on 5 November.

Members will be taking part in what’s been dubbed the ‘last mile’ citizens’ lobby, a third and final effort to speak up for the rights of EU citizens in the aftermath of the UK’s departure from Europe.

The UK is set to leave the EU on 29 March 2019. But negotiations between the British government and Brussels continue to be chaotic, and inconclusive – with a strong possibility of no deal being made by that date.

So the next six months are crucial. While Theresa May has guaranteed EU citizens their right to remain in the UK, questions remain – especially in a ‘no-deal’ scenario – about the validity of that guarantee and the actual rights they will enjoy in the years to come.

As things stand, without any legal guarantees between the EU and the UK, EU citizens’ rights are extremely vulnerable to future changes. These could threaten:

  • automatic mutual recognition of some professional qualifications;
  • the right to be joined by existing family members, partners and descendants of any nationality after the transition period;
  • entitlement to all social security benefits, equal to UK citizens.

That’s why the lobby will be urging the government to ensure that an agreement on citizens’ rights is finalised, bilaterally between the UK and Brussels, and ring-fenced from the other Brexit talks.

UNISON assistant general secretary Roger McKenzie says: “The battle is still on. We know that people will be allowed to stay, but the question is in what way and what guarantees they have.

“We want the rights of EU Citizens in the UK and Britons abroad to be ring-fenced from the current negotiations. So if there is no deal, for example, those rights at least are determined and written in stone.”

UNISON has an estimated 70,000 members who are EU nationals and its national executive council has made it a priority to support them.

The union is one of the joint organisers of the 5 November lobby, alongside citizens’ rights groups the3million and British in Europe. The event will create a valuable opportunity for interested members to meet their MPs and share their stories and concerns.

For more information on the day of action contact Katia Widlak: k.widlak@unison.co.uk.