When the UK finally revealed its 'offer' to give EU citizens 'settled status' after Brexit, Theresa May said she "would not want to tear families apart". This was followed shortly afterwards by a statement that EU citizens couldn't possibly have more rights than UK citizens and therefore family reunion was off the table. My MP has reiterated this to me in person.
So what does this mean for me? Will I have the right to bring my mum over from the Netherlands at some point in the future, should she need care? Or would I need to leave my British husband and kids and move to the Netherlands?
Let me take you through the twists and turns in my personal history of this "right":
- When I came to live in the UK as a Dutch citizen, it was on the terms of Freedom of Movement. My move from Rotterdam to London was akin to, and as easy and seamless as, someone moving from Bradford to Bristol. Under EU Law (Directive EC/2004/38/EC) I had this right, and I must point out that any Brit who has lived in the EU in the past, even if now returned to the UK, also has this right.
- In May I became a dual Dutch-UK citizen (at vast expense), and discovered to my horror that I had lost the right, due to a flawed UK interpretation of a case called McCarthy.
- The UK Supreme Court had the good sense to check this question with the CJEU (the Lounes case - see this recent article) who have just given their inital opinion and said that a person in my situation should not lose this right.
- The EU offer on almost 5 million UK/EU citizens rights would ensure I keep the right.
- The UK counter-offer would take the right away from me again post Brexit.
Baroness Kennedy of the Shaws asked for clarification in the House of Lords, using the example of an Englishman married to an Italian:
The wife is an only child and her parents are elderly and in Italy. It is expected that, when one of her parents--the in-laws--dies, the lone in-law is allowed to come here, but it may not be within the next two years. What happens in that situation? Will it be possible for an in-law left alone in another country in Europe to be able to join their daughter or son to live here?
The answer from the Minister of State, Baroness Williams, was:
It is important to note that they will have the opportunity to do so by either applying under post-exit immigration arrangements for EU citizens who arrive after the specified date or by applying under the same rules as those joining British citizens. I hope that answers the question.
Well, no, respectfully, it does not answer the question!
Firstly, the government has not told us what the new immigration arrangements for EU citizens will be post-Brexit, and as for her second option, applying under the same rules as those joining British citizens is virtually impossible. The government rules are found here on the government's website.
The main stumbling block is proving that the care is not available in the country of origin - which of course will be pretty nigh impossible when considering The Netherlands. One immigration lawyer has commented on these rules, introduced in 2012, saying
It is now virtually impossible for an adult dependent relative, typically a parent or grandparent, to succeed under the current rules and the Home Office has conceded that far fewer cases qualify under the new rules than was expected. It seems that is considered an added bonus rather than a mistake.
My MP did not know this. It does not sound like the Minister of State does either.
Now it is all very well to argue that it would be unreasonable for EU citizens to have more rights than UK citizens (not entirely accurate in itself because UK citizens who have spent time working in the EU in the past also have these rights), but is it my fault that the British rules have recently been adjudged the least family-friendly of 38 developed countries?
Oh and by the way, considering the UK citizens living in the EU who Theresa May has been insisting she wants to protect? They would be equally stuck. If my British friend in Germany wants to resettle in the UK after Brexit, she could not bring her German mother-in-law to care for. (In fact, she would not even be able to bring her German husband unless she first found a job in the UK earning at least £18,600!).
So much for 'not splitting families'. I would argue for improving the rights for all British citizens, not stripping us of ours in a race to the bottom.