- Campaigners have warned that British citizens who live elsewhere in the EU will lose key rights next year when the UK leaves.
- British in Europe, which campaigns for British citizens living in the EU27, said the withdrawal deal will end the EU’s freedom of movement policy.
- Instead, the draft terms of the deal would only give British citizens the right to live and work in the country where they currently reside, rather than the freedom to move within the EU.
- “To date, we have seen more energy spent on discussing the post-Brexit movement rights of jam than we have of people,” said the chair of British in Europe.
LONDON – British citizens living in Europe will lose key rights when the UK leaves the EU next year even if Theresa May does secure a transition deal, campaigners have warned.
British in Europe, a group which campaigns for the rights of 1.3 million British citizens who live elsewhere in the EU, said the draft terms of the Brexit transition deal only guarantee the right for Britons on the continent the right to live, work, and receive healthcare and pensions in their current country of residence.
That means freedom of movement, the EU policy which gives citizens the rights to work and study anywhere in the continent without applying for a visa, is not contained in the provisional transition deal – called the draft Withdrawal Agreement – which negotiators hope to secure this year.
The UK and EU agreed the conditional terms of the Withdrawal Agreement in March, but several thorny issues including the solution to avoid a hard Irish border must be resolved before it is formally ratified.
Despite assurances from both sides, campaigners say the rights of British citizens on the continent will diminish significantly.
Under the terms being negotiated, for example a British resident working in Belgium, would not have the automatic right to work in France during the transition period if they were offered a different job there.
Jane Golding, chair of British in Europe, said: “To date, we have seen more energy spent on discussing the post-Brexit movement rights of jam than we have of people.
“The draft withdrawal agreement doesn’t work for working people or their families as it doesn’t allow them the mobility that they need in their daily lives.
“Theresa May must ask her EU 27 counterparts to include free movement in the withdrawal agreement now if she is serious about her commitment to putting people at the heart of the Brexit negotiations,” she said.
A spokesperson for the Department for Exiting the EU (DExEU) said: “the issue of onward movement rights for UK citizens in the EU has not been forgotten and we will raise this in the next phase of negotiations.”
The debate about British citizens living abroad is often characterised as a debate about retired pensioners living in countries such as Spain. But 80% of British citizens living in the EU 27 are of working age or younger, and over half of British in Europe members say they are dependent on the ability to move freely within the EU for their job security.
British in Europe will give evidence to MPs on Wednesday alongside other campaign groups. The groups will say that British nationals living in the EU 27 still have no clarity or certainty about whether they will be able to carry on with their lives as normal after Brexit.
They will voice particular concerns in the areas of cross-border working, future registration requirements, and political representation and voting rights.
“We’ve reached a reciprocal deal for our citizens during the implementation period that recognises the valuable contribution that EU citizens make to the UK, and that UK citizens make to the EU,” said the DExEU spokesperson.
“The UK will seek to reach a final deal that is in the mutual interest of citizens living across the continent.”
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