EU president to face expats legal challenge over negotiations ban

Published:  9 Sep at 6 PM
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Under the umbrella of the Fair Deal for Expats campaign group, UK expats are mounting a legal challenge against the EU president’s ban preventing any Brexit negotiations taking place before Article 50 is triggered.

This new legal challenge is based on proving EU President Jean-Claude Juncker’s ban on any pre-Article 50 negotiations between the UK and EU officials was an illegal act. Arguments attempting to shore up Britain’s bargaining position as regards informal preliminary talks with EU politicians will be heard at Luxembourg’s EU general court.

The legal action has the support of many UK expats living in EU member states, and is being brought by lawyers representing Fair Deal for Expats, a campaign group started in France to represent the interests of all British citizens living, working or retiring in EU countries.

The move by expats worried about retaining their rights to stay and receive various benefits in their chosen countries is the latest of several group lawsuits awaiting hearings in the UK courts, and the first to take direct action against the EU itself. Juncker’s controversial announcement of the ban on pre-Article 50 negotiations came just days after the Brexit referendum result was announced, and was greeted with concern by British citizens at home as well as overseas.

‘No notification, no negotiation’ was the central message of Juncker’s speech, effectively closing off any attempt by UK politicians to ensure a ‘soft’ rather than a ‘hard’ exit from the EU. Since then, it’s been made very clear by those involved that post-Article 50 negotiations are likely to take far more time than the estimated two years allowed for completion of Britain’s divorce from its former compatriots.

Extra time can only be allowed if all 27 remaining EU member states agree, with some politicians suspecting that particular vote might well be rigged in the EU’s favour, leaving the UK perched on a dangerous economic precipice. An EU spokesperson has already dismissed the validity of the legal action, saying the negotiations ban has been agreed between all 27 remaining EU countries.

Barristers preparing the legal challenge are working on arguments that the ‘presidential order’ as mentioned by Junckers does not exist and is simply an abuse of power by the EU president which prevents the UK from exercising its right to free discussion whilst it is still in a strong diplomatic position. Only being allowed to begin negotiations after Article 50 is triggered would, they will argue, put UK diplomats at an immediate disadvantage.
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