The Recurring Discussion of Rights

The Recurring Discussion of Rights

Toni Mikec, Foreign Policy Contributor

Opinion - The recent talks that have opened to discuss the plan by which Great Britain will leave the European Union have returned to the question of how best to protect the rights of the 1.2 million British citizens who live in the European Union, beyond the U.K.’s borders, and the 3.2 million EU citizens who currently live in the UK. In addition, the recent wave of terrorist attacks across Europe, especially the very near miss in Brussels, have also placed the issue of coordinating national security policies on the table again.

Although the talks have resulted in the various European governments petitioning social media giants like Facebook and Twitter to be more aggressive in their policing and removal of social media, it remains to be seen how effective these policies will be in cutting down on the publicity that groups like ISIS have achieved on the internet. Furthermore, the policing of social media has raised many questions, beyond those of free speech, among critics. Criticism has included the question of who should pay for law enforcement’s investigations into a suspect’s social media accounts, and recent social media crackdowns have aroused criticism that these efforts at regulation are being applied with a partisan bias. For instance,USA Today reported on accusations that Twitter cracked down on online hate speech from the right but left similar hateful phrases untouched when they were said by the political left.

Concurrently, the questions of the rights of British citizens who are living in the EU and the rights of EU citizens who are living in Britain were also addressed at the same summit. While German chancellor Angela Merkel and EU negotiators have indicated their desire to fight for "the widest possible security guarantees for EU citizens," other European leaders at the summit continued to hold out imaginative hopes that, in the end, Brexit will not happen and the EU will go back to the way it was before. However, the U.K.’s situation has become far more complicated by the fact that the Conservative Party is currently a minority government after its lack of success at the recent election polls.

The political weakness of Prime Minister Theresa May, especially regarding the question of whether the U.K. should pursue a hard Brexit and leave the EU and the EU single market or just leave the EU (in what is called a soft Brexit), is certain to protract the negotiations with the EU. Although March 30, 2019, the day of the Brexit deadline is still very far away, many British citizens who are currently residing in other parts of the EU have grown afraid. Talk among these men and women regarding possibly being deported if something is not done regarding the rights of these expatriates is not uncommon.

Nor are these the Prime Minister’s only problems regarding Brexit. Although she has indicated her interest in addressing U.K.-EU trade relations, the EU has indicated that there are other issues that have to be taken into account first. Firstly, there are two EU agencies that are currently headquartered in London – the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and the European Banking Authority (EBA) – that have to move to a new EU country. Although many countries, including Belgium, the home of the EU, have put forth themselves as candidates, a vote on this issue will not be taken until October.

Secondly, there is the question of the border with the Republic of Ireland. In the past, the border was a lesser problem – as the only problem was if Northern Ireland was supposed to be part of the Republic or if it should remain as part of the U.K. Now, the border has returned as a political problem between the two countries, with a new twist. Northern Ireland was one of the most fervent regions in the U.K. to vote Remain during the Brexit elections. As a result, some politicians in this region have proposed leaving the U.K. and becoming part of the Republic of Ireland. However, with the tensions between Catholics and Protestants in the country still impelling the dissemination of bitter memories among the two groups, this is still a very touchy proposition.

While the Brexit talks continue over what exactly U.K. expatriates and EU expatriates are entitled to legally after the U.K. leaves the European Union and the EU continues to pressure social media to play a larger role in the fight against global terror, it is growing increasingly clear that the international arena is being forced to address international issues that it has not needed to before. The way that the EU addresses its issues will likely have an influence on how other countries, like the U.S., aim to resolve their problems with NAFTA and other international organizations.

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