Ex­pats need facts not 'glib' spin

Bri­tish in Europe cam­paign­ers hit out at PM's 'no deal' prom­ises

Costa Blanca News (North Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - By Jack Troughton

UK Gov­ern­ment min­is­ter vis­it­ing Madrid ac­cepts wor­ried ex­pats need spe­cific in­for­ma­tion

THERESA May’s uni­lat­eral ‘guar­an­tee’ to Euro­pean Union cit­i­zens liv­ing in the UK they would be wel­come to stay even in the event of a ‘no deal’ Brexit has done lit­tle to re­as­sure Bri­tish ex­pats, claims a cam­paign group.

Bri­tish in Europe has hit out at the Prime Min­is­ter for fail­ing to men­tion UK na­tion­als liv­ing on the con­ti­nent even as she aimed to re­as­sure some 3.3 mil­lion Euro­peans what­ever the out­come of ne­go­ti­a­tions.

It main­tained the cur­rent po­si­tion from Lon­don ap­peared to be that the re­main­ing 27 mem­bers of the bloc must now do the same for 1.2 mil­lion Bri­tish ex­pats in Europe – in­stead of ring-fenc­ing agree­ments reached last De­cem­ber over cit­i­zens’ rights.

Bri­tish in Europe also said it was un­able to ex­plain peo­ple’s wor­ries to the Bri­tish gov­ern­ment be­cause two years af­ter the his­toric June 2016 ref­er­en­dum, the prime min­is­ter and her Brexit Sec­re­taries – first David Davis and cur­rently Do­minic Raab – have “ei­ther ig­nored or re­fused our re­quests for a meet­ing with them”; and said sis­ter group ‘the3mil­lion’ which cam­paigned for Euro­peans liv­ing in Bri­tain had also been blanked.

Yet Bri­tish in Europe had twice met with chief EU ne­go­tia­tor Michel Barnier and had fre­quent con­tact with his team and had met EU Par­lia­men­tary spokesman Guy Ver­hof­s­tadt.

And the group’s chair Jane Gold­ing said: “We are a far cry from 2016 when Vote Leave and then the UK gov­ern­ment promised that we were a top pri­or­ity and that they would do ev­ery­thing they could to en­sure noth­ing would change for us af­ter Brexit.

“Many Brits on the con­ti­nent have been anx­ious for two years and a mi­nor­ity are ter­ri­fied about what ‘no deal’ would mean for them.”

Jane urged the EU-27 to “move faster” over a set­tle­ment for all cit­i­zens liv­ing abroad. “The idea that uni­lat­eral guar­an­tees by them­selves are equiv­a­lent to what’s been agreed in the – al­beit in­ad­e­quate – draft with­drawal agree­ment is in­cor­rect.

“This is be­cause nei­ther side is in a po­si­tion to uni­lat­er­ally guar­an­tee our rights on sev­eral im­por­tant is­sues.”

Prime ex­am­ple

A prime ex­am­ple, she said, was the fact that 80% of Bri­tish peo­ple liv­ing on the con­ti­nent were work­ing-age or younger – the work­ers pay­ing into 27 dif­fer­ent so­cial se­cu­rity sys­tems - and the same was true for EU cit­i­zens work­ing in the UK.

“With­out re­cip­ro­cal ar­range­ments, they won’t know what they will get back from their con­tri­bu­tions in one coun­try if they have worked in more than one coun­try,” said Jane, a prac­tis­ing lawyer.

Un­der cur­rent EU ar­range­ments, these con­tri­bu­tions were brought to­gether as if a per­son had only worked in one coun­try; in­di­vid­ual na­tional laws laid down qual­i­fy­ing pe­ri­ods for pen­sions, Euro­pean rules al­lowed ev­ery­thing to be counted in “one over­all pen­sion pot.”

And pay­ing into a lo­cal sys­tem al­lowed ex­pats to know they would be treated the same as host na­tion­als in such things as parental leave, health­care and ben­e­fits.

She said there was also the cur­rent uni­ver­sal recog­ni­tion of qual­i­fi­ca­tions – es­sen­tial to work­ing as be­fore Brexit – but that also de­pended on co­op­er­a­tion be­tween bod­ies and coun­tries.

“This is why we are urg­ing both the EU-27 and the UK to ring-fence the cur­rent with­drawal agree­ment even in its cur­rent form,” added Jane.

“Ring-fenc­ing still won’t al­low peo­ple to carry on their lives as be­fore – be­cause the cur­rent with­drawal agree­ment doesn’t cover sev­eral out­stand­ing is­sues; for ex­am­ple, in the case of Bri­tish in Europe, it doesn’t in­clude free move­ment or cross-bor­der work­ing rights, which many of us rely on for our fam­i­lies’ liveli­hoods.

“In­stead, free move­ment was kicked into the long grass of the fu­ture re­la­tion­ship ne­go­ti­a­tions where it pre­dictably got stuck be­cause of the North­ern Ir­ish bor­der is­sue is prov­ing so in­tractable.”

Jane said ‘ring-fenc­ing’ in it­self “would not make all our prob­lems go away” but even in a ‘no deal’ sce­nario “we need it now to give very wor­ried peo­ple cer­tainty so they can get on with their lives... which is all that any of us ever wanted.”

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