Expert View

UK expats will be left the Brexit orphans of no-deal

by Denis MacShane | 21.08.2018

Denis MacShane is the UK’s former Minister for Europe and author of ’Brexit, No Exit. Why (in the End) Britain Won’t Leave Europe’ (IB Tauris).

In the last quarter of a century millions of UK citizens have got used to living, working and retiring on the European continent as freely as if they were moving from Sheffield to Sherborne, from Glasgow to London, or Birmingham to Barnstaple.

Now these rights are about to be removed, putting those UK citizens at the mercy of whatever local immigration, residence and work permit rules are in place in 27 other EU member states.

In the UK, EU citizens will be given the right to remain, even if there is a no-deal Brexit, according to a leaked government document this week. That is very much to be welcomed (and indeed InFacts has been calling for just such a unilateral gesture for the past two years). But only as far as it goes. It only applies to those already resident before March 29, 2019 – and they will still have to register with the Home Office. Anyone who arrives in the UK later will have no such guarantee.

Meanwhile, in the event of no deal, UK citizens in the EU will be treated as third-country nationals like Russians, Mexicans or Koreans with their rights to live and work in EU member states governed by the sovereign laws of each country. Whose fault is that?

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Caron Pope, managing partner of Fragomen, a legal firm advising British businesses and individuals abroad, told the Evening Standard: “The heightened prospect of no deal is worrying our clients, not least because of the impact on their people in Europe. The EU needs to get a grip on it and say how they will be treated.”

This comment reflects the ignorance of many in London who think there is an entity called the EU which can dictate to 27 sovereign national states who guard jealously who can live and work in their communities if they are not EU citizens. Only those who have EU citizenship – conferred automatically if their country is in the EU or EEA – enjoy full residence rights.

The UK government insists it is leaving both the EU and the EEA, so UK citizens will automatically lose their EU citizenship. Each country has its own national laws on how non-EU foreigners are treated and Brussels does not dictate what those rules should be.

Fragomen would be better advised to approach all UK MPs to explain to them that there is now great fear amongst expats that the Brexit process will produce one guaranteed group of collateral victims – UK citizens in Europe.

In 2015 every Tory MP stood on an election manifesto promising a “vote for life” for British expats. Yet David Cameron, Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn made no effort in 2016 to allow all UK citizens in Europe to vote in the referendum. Only 264,000 expatriates out of an estimated 2 million in Europe had a vote in 2016, when Leave won by 1.3 million.

As the campaign grows for a new consultation on Brexit it is vital that UK citizens living across the Channel should not be forgotten. At the very least the Government should consult them. The best way to defend their existing rights is by not leaving the EU. And if a new referendum is agreed by MPs then all UK citizens should have a right to vote on their future whether they live in Bradford, Benidorm or Bergerac.

Edited by Quentin Peel

11 Responses to “UK expats will be left the Brexit orphans of no-deal”

  • Spain….. There are many Russians etc here and they have no problems and I suspect that’ll be the same for the suddenly brexited. The big issue is that the upcoming brexited around here mostly live in the “campo” (fields or country estates if you believe the reality bods). Those that live there cannot get a certificate of empadronament (mandatory) and they will become true illegal immigrants or economic migrants. They will not able to change their UK car plates to import their vehicles, become residents because a field is not a legal address, get medical attention or do a host of other normal stuff and will be subject to instant deportation. Even if a deal is struck for the brexited, these people will not be covered because they don’t have a legal address.

  • Sadly a lot of expats are being shafted, however fron personal experience a lot of expats stupidly voted leave Inc many of my parents friends living over in Spain.
    #madness #bitingthehandthatfeeds

  • I live in the Netherlands and work in Belgium and France. I visit family and friends in the UK about 5 times a year and was always quite proud of being British.
    Now it’s utterly depressing to be British. I can’t help worrying about what the future is going to be for me and my livelihood and I have absolutely zero confidence in the policitians who are busy arguing amongst themselves about it. Oh, and I wasn’t allowed to vote in the referendum either despite this having potentially more consequences for me than a Brit in Britian.
    Thanks a bunch everyone.

  • Reply to ‘pedals’
    Lots of people living in other European countries pay substantial taxes in UK. You could ask why some forms of income are taxed there especially if there Is no concern shown by the British government for the future of this group….What are we paying for?

  • I tried to vote – anti Brexit – as an expat and Britsh citizen but was not entitled to vote having been out of the UK for more than 15 years so obviously we are not and still not considered important.

  • And many people receiving British State pension live overseas, not only in Europe. Their monthly income is affected by the fall of the pound.

  • Dear Pedals, UK citizens’ living in the EU stand to be particularly affected by changes to Britain’s relationship with the EU, so their views should be taken into account. Simple!

  • Reply to pedals who seemingly does not dare give a real name. My country can be taken to war without my vote putting my family and me in potential danger. Some of my family, my house and a lot of my friends are still in the UK which is still my country and where I spend a lot of time. The nature of the EU is that one does not emmigrate any more than moving from Bradford to Burnley. I am only in another EU country because I am a British Citizen. Your simplistic argument may perhaps be applied to those in Australia or Africa or the Americas who have deliberately distanced themselves from Europe but is hardly applicable to our near continent.