Key victory for family rights of Britons returning to the UK from EU
Citizens rights group were celebrating on Monday after the House of Lords - the upper house of the UK parliament - voted in favour of maintaining the family reunification rights of Britons who move back to the UK from the EU.
Members of the House of Lords voted in favour of an amendment to the immigration bill that would allow Britons established in the EU before the end of the Brexit transition period to maintain the right to return to the UK with their European family members without them being subject to strict immigration rules and means tests.
Currently the law for Britons living in the EU is that they will be to bring non-British family members, including children, partners, parents and grandparents if they return to the UK before the end of March 2022.
Standard immigration rules will then apply to relatives brought in after the cut-off date meaning they would be subject to strict immigration rules, visa obligations and financial means tests.
The vote in the Lords was delayed from last week and came after hundreds of UK citizens living in the European Economic Area and Switzerland wrote to peers over recent weeks to explain what it would mean to them and their families if they were unable to return to live in the UK with our non-UK partners after March 2022.
The campaign group British in Europe reacted to the vote saying: "Peers heard our voices, took notice of our concerns, and voted to keep families together, and we are immensely thankful to them for doing so."
However the ball is now in the hands of PM Boris Johnson's government who must decide whether to accept the amendment as part of the new law when the bill returns to the lower House of Commons.
British in Europe have long complained that the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement in fact locks many Britons out of the UK because they would not be able to return home with their non-British partners in the future.
Those who return to care for family members for example won't be able to reach the minimum income requirements currently in place.
"Elderly parents will not have carers, siblings will not have support and non-British parents will be separated from their British children," British in Europe said.
"Nobody voted for British citizens to lose this right to return with our families. During the Referendum, Vote Leave and the current Prime Minister promised us that our rights would not be adversely affected by Brexit.
"But this Government’s planned changes to the immigration rules remove this most fundamental of rights. Thanks to this afternoon’s vote, the Government has another opportunity to make good on part of its pre-Brexit promises to 1.2 million UK citizens living in the EEA and Switzerland.
"We are a finite group of people asking only that our rights should not be taken away from us.
"Our amendment covers only those UK citizens in the EEA/Switzerland who fall within scope of the withdrawal agreements and who have existing non-British close family members at the end of 2020.
"Most of us will probably not leave the countries where we have made a home, but what we are asking for is the right to do so with our families if necessary. Is that too much for British citizens to ask of a British Government?"