No relief as yet for UK expats in limbo

Published:  23 Aug at 6 PM
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The upcoming talks in Brussels over the fate of millions of expats are expected to centre on reciprocal rights acceptable to both sides.

Brexit negotiations are due to begin again in Brussels in September, leaving the lives of the four million and more expats affected by last year’s referendum in limbo, along with the huge number of British businesses dependent on EU expat labour. The controversy is based on reciprocal rights for Britishers in Europe and EU citizens living and working in the UK, with neither side seeming willing to find anything remotely seen as a sensible solution fuelled by compassion for those affected.

The EU’s starting point that all expats, whether in the UK or Europe should enjoy the same rights seems to be the fairest solution, but Theresa May is having none of it, saying EU expats in the UK would gain unfair advantage over their British citizen counterparts in European member states. Ongoing talks are expected to focus around the European expat five year rule, in that European Union citizens living in other member states for over five years are entitled to full rights of residency.

Crunch time for EU expats in Britain can’t even be sorted, as a cut-off date seems too controversial for any agreement to take place. Possible dates already put forward include the date of last year’s referendum, the March invoking of Article 50 and even any other suggestion a negotiator might like to put forward. Millions of lives are now precariously balanced on this uncertainty.

Examples include families whose members or spouses arrived in the UK at different times, expats claiming benefits or state pensions and expats who’ve lost or never had the reams of paperwork necessary to prove their dates of arrival. Other categories at risk but rarely mentioned are prisoners, as yet unborn babies, unemployed expats, students and those looking for work.

Expats from the European Economic Area (EEA) now working and living in the UK are in an even worse situation as they don’t seems to be able to tick any of the required boxes as regards entitlement. The upcoming Queens’ Speech at the reopening of the UK parliament following the summer recess is expected to contain a raft of relevant measures aimed at calming the fears of EU expats. Should the pledges not please EU negotiators, the already tenuous rights of UK expats in Europe may be heading for the political dustbin.
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