British expats in Europe to be allowed to stay

Published:  23 Nov at 6 PM
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In a surprise turnaround, it seems that British expats living in EU member states are about to be granted the right to remain.

Hundreds of thousands of British citizens working or retiring in EU member states have spent the last five months worrying they might be forced to lose everything and repatriate to the UK. According to political correspondents, the good news is that a majority of EU member state governments are in agreement about a reciprocal rights deal with Britain.

Quotes from senior government sources are stating only a few countries out of the 27 which make up the EU have yet to agree to a broad-based reciprocal agreement which gives both EU citizens in the UK and British nationals overseas the right to remain after the Brexit divorce is finalised.

The news is set to calm the fears of business owners, retirees and UK students living, working or studying in the EU. British business leaders have been told by senior government representatives that, although no actual deals have yet been signed, the informal understanding is likely to be unveiled at next month’s key EU summit.

At present, around 1.2 million Brits are living in the 27 EU member states, with an estimated 3.3 million EU citizens living in the UK. Spain is home to the largest UK expat population, estimated at over 300,000, with Ireland the choice of a quarter of a million and France hosting 185,000. Until now, Theresa May has refused to give any reassurances or even basic information to British expats overseas, citing doing so would jeopardise the UK’s negotiating position.

Although UK expats in the Eurozone may well feel more secure as the result of today’s tentative announcement, resentment over the total lack of information since Brexit isn’t likely to disappear. The first indication that an agreement is on the cards came from May at a CBI meeting earlier this week, during which she said she wanted an early agreement on the issue so that both sides could plan effectively.

Prior to the meeting, denials of any such agreement were still being made, with one minister being asked by the Migration Watch chairman to state which EU governments had publicly indicated existing UK expat rights would be preserved. The minister’s reply was that no member state had yet reached a formal view on the issue, and a government source is now being quoted as saying no deals have yet been struck.
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