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Former Conservative MEP appointed to lead EU citizens’ rights watchdog


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The UK government has appointed a former solicitor and Conservative Member of the European Parliament as chair of the EU citizens’ rights watchdog.

Sir Ashley Fox, leader of the Conservative MEPs between 2014 and 2019, backed Remain but later called for an end to EU free movement. He was confirmed as head of the Independent Monitoring Authority today, along with three other board members.

The watchdog has been set up under the terms of the EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement. Article 159 requires there to be an “independent authority” with the legal power to look into breaches of EU citizens’ rights under the Withdrawal Agreement and bring cases before the UK courts. Schedule 2 of the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020 has more details on the organisation’s functions and governance. It also has a website.

The Justice Committee of MPs has endorsed Fox but noted that he was one of only two qualified candidates for the job out of nine people who applied. It also recommended that he take care to avoid conflicts of interests — Fox has been a Brexit consultant since leaving the European Parliament last year — and should promise not to run for elected office during his four-year term.

Fox told the committee during a pre-appointment hearing that he would be encouraging EU citizens to report issues related to their immigration status so that the Monitoring Authority can identify “systemic problems”, but stressed that it was not a “complaints-handling body” that can resolve individual difficulties. The watchdog will start its work on 1 January 2021.

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CJ McKinney

CJ McKinney

CJ McKinney is a specialist on immigration law and policy. Formerly the editor of Free Movement, you will find a lot of articles by CJ here on this website! Twitter: @mckinneytweets.