Alyn urges Barnier to support citizens’ rights in Brexit no-deal scenario

The EU’s Chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, today met with members of the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee (AFET) to discuss Brexit, leading to an "invigorating" exchange of views with the SNP’s Alyn Smith.

Alyn, who first joined AFET in 2014, said:

“I express my general feeling of sadness about Brexit but also a sense of embarrassment about the chaos into which Westminster has descended.

“No-Deal has become more likely over the past 24 hours. It remains very much on the table and is a matter of great regret. I and colleagues across the house have raised the question of whether in a No-Deal scenario, can we treat the Citizens’ Rights provisions as a stand-alone treaty. Too many people are a hostage to this process – I don’t mean Mrs May, although she is – too many citizens are in trouble, we must be able to give them clarity, we must be able to be the bigger party.”

Barnier responded: “I do listen to you very often when you take the floor, and it’s quite invigorating, I have to say. But I will continue to stick with this: I regret Brexit; you will never find any attempt to humiliate, be aggressive, or vengeful wording.

“It is time for the UK to assume its responsibilities. And this agreement is the only way to do that, having been done on an objective and legal basis

“The decision of the European Council is trying to say that. Either the UK approves the Withdrawal Agreement to leave in an orderly fashion – and this agreement is the only way to do that, having been done on an objective and legal basis – or it chooses to leave without an agreement, or it asks for extra time for negotiating – but it has to explain why. A new referendum, a new General Election, some political process of cross-party nature? I don’t know.

“What I do know is that the EU heads have looked at the issue of extending the time and will ask why.”

Speaking after the meeting, Alyn said: 

“It’s always useful to remind EU officials that Westminster is not the UK, and certainly does not represent the millions of people watching in horror as the UK Government lurches from self-inflicted crisis to self-inflicted crisis.

“We’ve all got a tough time ahead of us. The language of authoritarianism and intolerance is now commonplace in mainstream British politics, including from the current Prime Minister, and the groundwork for a stab-in-the-back myth painting the EU as the villain is being laid.

“The EU is solidarity in action, as evidenced by President Tusk reminding his colleagues that, for the time being, UK citizens are also EU citizens and as such deserve protecting. So do the EU nationals who have moved to the UK and enriched our communities. People are not bargaining chips. The clock is ticking.”

An extended version of Alyn’s contribution can be found here, beginning at 10.45.16 while Michael Barnier’s response to Alyn begins at 10.52.28