EU talks guidelines threaten citizens’ rights | Letters

Letters
European council President Donald Tusk after the special meeting of the council to set out guidelines for the Brexit negotiations. Photograph: Thierry Charlier/AFP/Getty Images

Perhaps the most urgent issues in the upcoming Brexit negotiations are the future residency rights of the approximately 3.3 million EU citizens in the UK, and of the 1.2 million UK citizens elsewhere in the EU. Many in the UK government and many EU27 leaders have advocated an early reciprocal agreement on this issue; the security of millions of ordinary citizens is at stake, and they have already suffered a year of uncertainty. But one of the European council negotiating guidelines, published on Saturday (Sort divorce bill first before any Brexit talks, Merkel tells Britain, 28 April) appears to place the future of these 4.5 million citizens in greater jeopardy. Core principle 2 of these negotiating guidelines says: “In accordance with the principle that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed, individual items cannot be settled separately.”

As stated, this means that any initial agreement on future residency rights for citizens would be rendered invalid if other, more contentious issues (such as the “divorce” bill) prevent a final agreement from being reached by mid-2019, leaving 4.5 million citizens at risk of losing residency rights. If it truly cares about ordinary citizens, the European council should answer the pleas of EU citizens’ campaign groups, such as The 3 Million, to amend core principle 2 and agree to strike an early, cast-iron agreement on citizens’ residency rights, ringfenced from the rest of the negotiations.

Legal experts have assured The 3 Million that such a ringfencing is legally possible. Short of immediate unilateral guarantees from both sides (which, sadly, neither side appears confident enough to give), an early, ringfenced agreement on this is the only moral course of action, for both the UK government and the EU27. The all-or-nothing approach is reckless in the extreme, given the uncertainty over whether a final agreement will be reached. It is also deeply wrong. While this may not have been the intention, it perpetuates the treatment of 4.5 million human beings as pawns in the negotiations.
Dr David Ellis
Queen Mary, University of London

• The allegation from Jean-Claude Juncker that after his Downing Street dinner with Theresa May he thinks it likely that Brexit negotiations will fail is unhelpful (May fights accusation of botched and humiliating start to Brexit talks, 2 May). While it is true that the British government’s position is currently robust, if not stubborn, the EU attitude is likewise uncompromising. What both sides need to appreciate is that negotiation need not be a zero-sum game. In traditional positional bargaining, if one person wins the other must lose. But over the last few years a new theory of principled negotiation has grown up and has been remarkably successful in all sorts of situations.

Pioneered by Roger Fisher and William Ury at Harvard University, this approach advocates throwing away the conventional restrictions of red lines and lists of demands. Instead, cultivating a lasting relationship is the key to producing creative solutions that benefit all parties. It would be refreshing if the EU could dispense with the rhetoric of Britain needing to be worse off outside the union, while the UK government might helpfully stop its claims that it might not pay anything on leaving. All options should be on the table. Nothing should be ruled out by either side. I heartily recommend Fisher & Ury’s Getting to Yes: Negotiating an Agreement without Giving In to both Mrs May and M Junker.
Jeremy Goldsmith
Queniborough, Leicestershire

• We hear about nurses having to use food banks and we know there is a funding crisis in the NHS (PM stumbles on issue of NHS pay, 1 May). We listen to headteachers talking about the shortage of funds in our schools, while young people struggle to buy their own homes. On top of all this, we learn that we’ll have to find around £60bn to leave the EU. Just think what we could buy with that were it not for Brexit. I conclude that, much as some people may want to leave the EU, we just can’t afford it at the moment. We know the direction, but now we must save up for the trip. While we do, let’s take a breather and review the situation. Such a pause would certainly give all of us in the UK time to assess what is now a far clearer situation than the one for which a little over half the population voted last June.
Mike Newby
Exmouth, Devon

• Isn’t it usually the richer partner in a divorce who stumps up the cash following a divorce? Further, wasn’t it Jean-Claude Junker who stated that the EU would not be blackmailed by the UK. It seems the EU has no such compunction in its demands for money before we’re even allowed to start negotiations.
Pete Lavender
Nottingham

• With the final leg of the French presidential election days away, surely Jean-Claude Juncker’s ploy in taking aim at Admiral May on her own quarterdeck was simply to emulate Voltaire “pour encourager les autres”?
Iain Mackintosh
London

• Is the “negotiating strategy” to speak in English, but louder?
David Robjant
Bedford

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