UK Brexit minister urged to tell France to ease up on Brit expats

Published:  28 Sep at 6 PM
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After a meeting with British expat groups on Thursday, junior UK Brexit minister Robin Walker urged the French government to guarantee British expatriate rights.

The official line from the British government remains that responsibility for ensuring British expats in Europe retain their rights post-Brexit is up to the individual lawmakers in all European member states. At the same time, the British PM has assured Brussels the rights of EU citizens in the UK will be fully maintained, leaving the British expat community under no delusions that their lives are at stake. Even since the referendum, doomsayers have predicted Britain has been using its expats overseas as a bargaining chip, a strategy which has now clearly failed in its entirety.

Campaign groups including British in Europe are demanding London and the EU should agree to abide by and ring-fence the UK citizens’ rights outlined in last December’s draft withdrawal agreement rather than leaving the matter of British expats to be decided by individual member states acting independently, as is France. Now that the talks are at an impasse, expats’ anger is mounting. According to Kalba Meadows of Remain in France Together, Theresa May’s recent Downing Street statement was unacceptable and ‘nothing short of disgraceful’ as it didn’t even acknowledge the existence of British expats in Europe.

At Thursday’s meeting, the British junior minister was told it like it is by Brian Robinson, the representative of Brexpats Hear Our Voice, who stressed May’s speech had caused consternation and fear in the expat community. Robinson beliefs the meeting was useful, but is in doubt that changes will occur as a result. A similar reaction came from Robin Baker, representing the British Community Committee of France, stating attendees were satisfied they’d aired their concerns, but believe the minister will not be able to address them.

A total lack of action in spite of repeated promises by the British government over healthcare and the 15-year disenfranchisement rule were major concerns, as was the fact that many British state pensioners were now suffering due to the fall in the value of sterling.
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