Disclaimer: The views expressed within this article are entirely the author’s own and are not attributable to Wessex Scene as a whole.
Whether Brexit is indeed going to be delivered in three months or in one year, or never at all, we should all keep a look out to ensure that legislation will be drafted to ensure a smooth continuity of the human rights of UK and EU citizens.
I would like to focus, for instance, on Article 22 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights: ‘We all have the right to affordable housing, medicine, education, and childcare, enough money to live on and medical help if we are ill or old’. Even if it is still debated whether the Declaration has legal value at international law, I think we can all recognise it as a guide for domestic law.
Let’s start with education rights: after Brexit, education prices will be higher for EU students, as they will no longer have the opportunity to pay the same fees as national students. But fees will also increase for UK students considering that if an agreement is not reached, UK universities will lose £1.1 billion in research grants from the European Union.
What about access to health care? Today, UK citizens can visit any EU country relying on the fact that they will receive the same treatment, on the same terms, as the citizens of the country they are visiting. What will happen after Brexit is not yet known because Boris Johnson’s revised withdrawal agreement sets out a transitional period till the end of 2020 to negotiate in detail the terms with the EU. In case of no agreement, the Admiral travel insurance estimated that health costs for UK citizens travelling in Europe will increase as far as 90%. Furthermore, it is still unclear how the government will face the incoming shortage of drugs: on the first week of October the UK government signed deals worth £86.6 million with shipping companies to ensure supply of vital medications.
A final example is the right to work. The system and agreements in place today with the EU will be kept until the end of 2020. After the transitional period, an EU passport will no longer be sufficient proof of the right to work or to visit a family member in the UK and visa permits will be required according to a new immigration system. As before, much depends on the agreements that will be drafted during the next year.
Just looking at even one of the 30 human rights recognised by the United Nations, we understand that with Brexit both EU and UK nationals will lose many of the benefits and simplifications that are in place today within the EU. Thinking about the possible replacements and the necessary legislation to ensure a smooth transition is not simple and lawmakers are (or should be) better prepared than us to do so.
Nonetheless, it is our right and duty as citizens to keep our attention focused on these problems, in order to hold our local MPs and our government accountable of their decision.