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What Does The Future Hold For British Expats In Europe?

The future status of expats after Brexit is becoming clearer even though the British government and European Union negotiators remain poles apart.

Prime Minister Theresa May has published a policy paper laying out her thoughts about what should happen to millions of expats once Britain and the EU part.

European Parliament chief negotiator Guy Verhofstadt has also made his views clear.

Nothing is settled and the talking is set to go on from September.

May wants to protect the rights of around 4.5 million British expats across the EU – living mainly in Spain, France and Ireland.

Key points for Brits abroad

She has pledged two key points:

  • Free healthcare should continue for expats living in Europe under a revised EHIC (European Health Insurance Card) scheme
  • Anyone living in the EU receiving a British state pension will see their payments index-linked as if they were receiving them in the UK

Verhofstadt wants British expats to have ‘associate citizenship’ of the country where they live after Brexit.

This status is likely to be offered to British expats who ‘feel and wish to stay part of the European project’ and may come with a vote in EU elections.

The sticking point between the two sides appears to be agreeing which court decides disputed citizenship cases.

A red line for the British government is giving jurisdiction to the European Court of Justice.

May would find rallying support impossible for any expat solution handing sovereignty to the foreign court.

Meanwhile Verhofstadt is opposed to a British court making key legal decisions about EU nationals.

Both sides still talking

The EU has also confirmed that British expats will only gain rights in the country where they are living in March 2019, when Brexit officially comes into force.

“It does not guarantee the holder of those residence rights any right to onward movement within the EU, for example to work or study in a neighbouring member state,” said Britain’s Brexit minister David Davies in an update to the House of Lords EU Select Committee.

“We have questioned whether this is consistent with the principle of reciprocity, and also with the commission’s desire to protect rights currently enjoyed under EU law. This will be the subject of further discussion in due course.”

To try to bridge the gap between the two sides, May has suggested handing the responsibility to an independent, international arbitrator.

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