Yet more of the same from Brit Foreign Office to UK expats

Published:  14 Apr at 6 PM
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Tuesday’s British Foreign Office Facebook question and answer session repeated more of the same to UK expats, but failed to dampen fears of the future by giving straightforward answers.

The session, held on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s Facebook travel page and led by Julia Longbottom, offered no new guarantees but seemingly rehashed information any concerned expat would already have read on expat sites online or in their local English language newspapers. Longbottom is the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s director for consular services, and may have disappointed or even annoyed a large number of expats by regurgitating last week’s news.

She did, however, admit the government office was ‘impressed’ by the number of protest and action groups which have sprung up since the referendum, although recent reports from several of the groups have lamented the FCO’s refusal to take any notice of them or even acknowledge their presence in the various expat communities. Embassies, she added, are keen to hear from such groups in order to have further meetings on the issue.

Longbottom attempted to reassure Brit expats over government aims to increase communication and contacts between groups, individuals and the authorities responsible for Brexit negotiations, especially on the crucial issues of residence rights and pensions. Repeating the oft-heard but as yet empty reassurance that a key priority in negotiations is to reach agreement on the status of the UK expat communities affected, she played the ‘families, lives and businesses’ card hard, stating the government’s keenness to maintain the status quo. However, she ommitted to mention the fact that, should a huge number of expats be forced to return to the UK, the political and financial chaos a well as the human cost would be unprecedented.

Questions were many, with all concentrating on the devastating insecurity caused by the ‘leave’’ vote and most unanswerable at this present moment in time. The repeated assurance that, for the next two years, everything would remain the same didn’t help those who needed information now in order to re-plan their lives and businesses. Recent reports that Spain is in favour of allowing UK expats to stay weren’t mentioned, nor were other EU member states’ lack of enthusiasm for retaining their UK expat residents.

Two relevant questions received the same whitewashed answers, with the first concerning the inability to vote in the referendum due to postal chaos and disenfranchisement and its answer guaranteeing the expat vote in future, but not mentioning the fact that should negotiations fail, the expat population in Europe will be in dramatic decline. The second question concerned frozen pensions and was met by a statement that the pension rate for those still in EU countries would be decided at a later date.

Source: The Connection, France
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