Home Secretary finally demands info on plans for UK expat rights

Published:  18 May at 6 PM
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As the UK government finally gets around to asking EU leaders about their plans for UK expats in Europe, British expats in the Netherlands continue to fight for their rights.

Earlier this year, UK expat campaigners in the Netherlands asked the Amsterdam court to decide whether British expats can become EU citizens after Brexit is finalised. In what seemed like a cop-out by Dutch justice, the court referred the decision up the line to the European Court of Justice which has the final say on the interpretation of all EU laws. Christiaan Alberdingk Thijm, the lawyer representing the expat campaign group, recently explained there’s still a great deal of debate as regards the fate of UK expats and their rights to become EU citizens. He is hoping the final hearing will clarify once and for all whether European citizenship and its conferred rights are, in fact, unalienable once granted.

Thijm believes the Brussels negotiating team is simply assuming Brexit means the loss of
European citizenship for all UK expats living in Europe. However, he says, European
citizenship and national citizenship are not necessarily linked one to the other as, on previous occasions, the ECJ has ruled that European citizens’ rights must be considered as autonomous. The original court challenge was mounted by Debbie Williams, leader of the protest group Brexit- Hear Our Voice as a vehicle for the 46,000 Brit expats in the Netherlands, but now represents the 1.2 million Brits living in EU member states.

In the meantime, the British Home Secretary Sayed Javid is pressuring EU leaders to give details of any decisions about the fate of British expats wishing to stay in Europe post-Brexit. His query came as part of a communication concerning the rights of EU citizens living and working in the UK, and is possibly the first time the issue has been brought up at negotiating level. According to Javid, it’s not yet clear what, if any, systems are being prepared as ways and means for Britons to stay in their chosen countries.

The process being put forward for EU expats in the UK involves the opening of an application scheme later this year which will allow those living in the UK for over five years to apply for settled status. Those arriving before the cut-off date of December 31 2020 will also be able to apply to remain until they qualify for settled status, but British citizens living in EU member states have received nothing in the way of assurances they too will have such rights.
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