‘UK nationals living on the continent are still in a holding pattern with no clear landing path in sight.’
Jane Golding, Chair British in Europe
Two years on from the Referendum, the 1.3mn UK nationals living in the EU 27 have no real clarity or certainty about whether they will be able to carry on with their lives as normal after Brexit. That’s the main message British in Europe campaigners will deliver to MPs when they give evidence in front of the House of Commons Committee for Exiting the EU on 6th June.
Contrary to what the UK and EU have said, the withdrawal agreement that was agreed in December and signed off by the EU Council in March does not offer adequate guarantees for British people living on the continent, particularly in the areas of cross border working, future registration requirements and political representation and voting rights.
Campaigners will highlight the following concerns:
- Free movement is a lifeline not a luxury
At present, the withdrawal agreement only guarantees the right for Britons on the continent to live, work and receive healthcare and pensions in their country of residence. Free movement and its
associated rights of cross border working, study and pan-EU recognition of professional qualifications are not included.
This matters because:
- 80% of Brits in the EU 27 are working age or younger;
- 58% of British in Europe members rely on free movement for their livelihoods and families NOW.
Jane Golding, Chair of British in Europe said:
‘The draft withdrawal agreement doesn’t work for working people or their families as it doesn’t allow them the mobility that they need in their daily lives. Theresa May must ask her EU 27 counterparts to include free movement in the withdrawal agreement now if she is serious about her commitment to putting people at the heart of the Brexit negotiations. To date we have seen more energy spent on discussing the post-Brexit movement rights of jam than we have of people. This needs to change’.
- The UK needs to step up the political pressure on the EU 27 over its post-Brexit registration plans for Brits in their countries
Due to the UK’s insistence on the creation of new ‘settled status’ that will require EU citizens to reapply for their rights the UK, this option has also been available to the EU 27 since December.
The requirement for UK citizens in the EU to establish all over again their rights to live in their homes is a major source of worry, particularly for the elderly, self-employed people, those on low incomes or welfare benefits and carers.
Fiona Godfrey, Deputy Chair of British in Europe said:
‘The current registration systems across the EU27 are largely working well but the UK government has negotiated us into a settled status situation at the last minute. It has been planning for settled status for the three million EU citizens for nearly a year. Yet, with less than 8 months to go before Brexit we don’t even know which countries are intending to impose settled status on us, how or when’.
Registration is a particular source of concern in France where, hitherto, there has been no requirement to register, meaning many or most UK nationals living there don’t have experience of being in contact with officials about their residence status.
At present, there are only five Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) staff providing consular advice and support for affected Brits across the entire EU 27. This is clearly inadequate and the FCO needs to be given more resources to deal with it.
Kalba Meadows, Coordinator of Remain in France Together said:
‘If British people living in France are required to reapply for the legal right to remain without any existing central register of British people in France, this will rely on Brits understanding the system, knowing that they have to apply and being aware how to do it. At the moment we are spending our evenings and weekends fielding complex questions from UK nationals living in France and other countries who don’t know which way to turn or where to get help. The UK Government must provide more practical guidance –- as well as consular, financial and legal support to help
British citizens in the EU 27 carry on their lives as before Brexit’.
- Brits in Spain will have no political voice after Brexit
Around 300,000 Britons live in Spain, a country which does not allow for dual nationality for most non-Spaniards.
Renouncing their British citizenship would be a last resort and would also force them to re-enter the UK as third country nationals in a hostile immigration environment if they ever needed to return to look after elderly or sick relatives.
Furthermore, as of 2019, those who have been out of the UK for more than 15 years will lose all political rights as they will no longer be able to vote in local elections in Spain.
Michael Harris, Chair of EuroCitizens said:
‘As things stand, overnight, 300,000 Britons in Spain will be disenfranchised and with no obvious solution due to no dual nationality. From being full European citizens, we will become serfs.’
For more information or to arrange an interview with a spokesperson please contact:
+ 32 (0) 497 409 884
British in Europe is the largest coalition group of British citizens living and working in Europe. It is comprised of ten core groups across the continent representing a membership of around 35.000 Brits working together to stand up for the rights of UK citizens in the EU and EU citizens in the UK.
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