Fast deal needed to protect rights of UK and EU expats

Published:  17 May at 6 PM
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In spite of prevarications by EU negotiators and the meaningless soundbites emitting from the British PM, the mainstream belief that nothing is more urgent than the need to regularise the post-Brexit status of 4.2 million expats is growing fast.

Brussel’s latest statement stresses how complicated the issue could be but, in theory, the issue is straightforward in that expats on both sides made their life-changing decisions whilst Britain was still firmly ensconced within the EU. Moving the goalposts in manner which would invalidate the game and cause untold misery to millions was not mentioned as part of the ‘non-legally binding, advisory’ referendum, and cannot be justified by either of the political entities involved.

The effect on Britain’s economy of the loss of millions of professionals may sound like just another argument in the major row initiated by Brexit but, viewed through the lens of the 33 per cent of key jobs held by EU-born expats in the City of London, it’s a serious threat. Some 3,000 EU citizen employees at Barclays, for example, would love to be given reassurance in the near future, with the bank’s CEO stating that ‘intellectual capital is London’s most important asset’.

According to the small amount of data as yet emerging, UK statistics already show a rise in EU citizens packing up and leaving Britain, as well as a fall in the numbers taking up UK jobs. Staff shortages are now being noted in the accountancy, engineering and hospitality sectors, along with a 30 per cent drop in expat professionals’ job seeking efforts in the City since the start of 2017. Major players in the financial sector believe would-be candidates are now evaluating the chances of having their right to work removed in just over 18 months’ time.

The answer could be as simple and durable as a straight deal based on non-discrimination, within which both sides would agree that all expats be treated in the same manner as the domestic populations. In other words, no government could remove rights from, say, UK citizens living in Europe without the EU citizens living in the UK also losing the same rights. An impartial treaty open to oversight could be used, thus allowing those now living in fear and confusion to get on with their lives.
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