IMPORTANT UPDATE: BIE Priorities
Statement from BiE Steering Team on engagement until the end of 2020
The BiE Steering Team has remained largely unchanged since December 2016. For almost four years, in partnership with our national group administrators and our supporters, ten individuals have been working hard to secure the citizens' rights of 1.2 million UK citizens living in the EEA and Switzerland.
Over this time, this significant workload has mainly been carried out on a volunteer basis. We have fundraised to help with expenses and some limited payments for specific projects. We estimated it would cost a minimum of 100,000€ to support this organisation through 2020, of which we have raised 65,000€ (thank you to everyone who has supported us so far). With two-thirds of the required funding, we have been unable to compensate people for the vast majority of the work they have done and have been running on empty since the end of August, with nothing in the bank for 2021.
Added to this, changes are afoot within the team. Debbie Williams and Michael Harris are stepping down at the end of 2020 [Our vice-chair Jeremy Morgan has been persuaded to stay a little longer than previously planned!]. Our Co-Chair, Jane Golding, has had to reduce her BiE workload drastically in order to concentrate on passing the German lawyers transfer exams in December 2020 and then April 2021 to fully ensure continuing recognition of her qualifications in Germany. Given the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as the huge amount of time they have devoted to British in Europe and the affiliated national groups, Co-Chair Fiona Godfrey, Kathryn Dobson and Kalba Meadows now need to reclaim some time in order to re-focus on their day jobs, businesses and families.
We expected that, by now, implementation would be well under way in most Member States and that hundreds of thousands of you would already have secured your status or be well on your way to doing so. But, thanks to the delay in the negotiations in combination with the global pandemic, implementation has yet to start in most EU states, including the ones in which we will have to reapply for our status and right to remain.
As we get closer to the end of transition, it is not surprising that we are seeing a rise in questions from you about your rights. Some of these are answered in our detailed Withdrawal Agreement and Guidance Note explanatory guides, on EU or Member State websites and the UK government “Living in” Guides.
Increasingly, however, many of the questions asked are technically complex and require in-depth answers.
For many questions, there are no answers yet. We (and the Member States) are still awaiting further guidance from the Commission Task Force, despite having flagged many of the issues you are raising to the EU and the UK over the last three years. Ultimately, it may be necessary for the Court of Justice of the EU to rule on some of your queries as we are in uncharted legal waters. Furthermore, we are not all qualified lawyers - and even our lawyers don’t have practising certificates in every EEA country and Switzerland. Thus giving what amounts to legal advice in different EU countries would itself not be legal and we need to be crystal clear about what we can, and what we cannot, do.
_A new approach_
From now until the end of the year we will be reducing the number of voluntary hours the team spends on BiE and, especially, on answering queries.
We will continue to put out BiE explainers and guides. For simple questions and information we will refer supporters to these BiE explainers and guides, to national FB groups and websites and to other sources of factual, reliable information.
Unfortunately, given our reduced capacity and lack of funding, we must pass the responsibility of answering more complex questions to the organisations that are funded to do this job. These are the Embassies’ Citizens’ Rights teams, the UK National Support Fund organisations and Your Europe Advice (which has 65 independent lawyers covering all EU states and languages who have national as well as EU legal knowledge).
_BiE priorities from now until 31 December 2020_
Given the above, as a team, we have agreed that our revised priorities will be:
- Updating, reviewing and disseminating information on citizens’ rights legislative developments and policy at EU, UK and Member State level
- Continuing to liaise with the Commission Task Force and Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office citizens’ rights team to get answers to outstanding questions and flag implementation issues
- Ensuring that responsive monitoring mechanisms are set up in the EU (EU Commission, European Parliament, European Ombudsman) to track implementation
- Supporting national group administrators and teams
- Monitoring court cases and opportunities for intervention
- Fundraising with an aim to support British nationals in the EU through the first months of implementation in 2021.
Our priorities for early 2021 will be reviewed once we have a better understanding of how well implementation is progressing and whether we have the funds to continue.
The BiE Steering Team
22 October 2020
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