Barnier urged to protect rights of UK expats

Demands that, in the event of a no-deal Brexit, the rights be protected of 1.3 million Britons living, working and studying in the EU27 were presented to Brussels on Friday by an all-party group of MPs.

Keyboard with expat written on key
The meeting with Michel Barnier, the EU's chief Brexit negotiator, represented the latest stage in a campaign aimed at securing agreements on the preservation of employment and other rights, not just for UK nationals in Europe, but also for some 3.4 million EU27 citizens in the UK.

Expats could be left in limbo

The fear is that, in the event of a no-deal Brexit, the fate of all these expats could be left in limbo.Although Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay has called on Mr Barnier to back a ring-fenced citizens' rights agreement as proposed in the European Parliament, Brussels has refused to "negotiate mini-deals", saying such safeguards could only be guaranteed through the comprehensive withdrawal agreement, which has already been rejected by the UK parliament three times.Alberto Costa, a Conservative MP who successfully proposed a parliamentary motion in the spring calling for protections for UK and EU27 expats' rights in the event of a no-deal Brexit, led the delegation to BrusselsHe told BBC Radio 4's Today programme, "In the event of no-deal the United Kingdom Parliament can take measures to protect EU nationals in the UK. But we do not have powers to pass legislation extraterritorial, in other words within the EU, to protect our own citizens." Mr Costa said the UK would be "abrogating its responsibilities" to UK citizens without bilateral arrangements with member states.

The rights of British citizens could be terminated overnight

"If Britain chooses to exit without an agreement in place, it would be terminating the rights of British citizens overnight," he said. "I want to understand from Michel Barnier what his position is in carving out citizens' rights, why he has said, thus far, no to that."A spokesman for the3million, an EU citizens' rights group, called on Brussels to stop using expats as "bargaining chips". The spokesman added, "We represent five million people who are sick and tired of being used as hostages against a no-deal situation."The prospects of a no-deal Brexit have increased recently with Boris Johnson – the man tipped to replace Theresa May as prime minister next week – insisting that, if no new withdrawal agreement can be agreed with Brussels by October 31, the UK will simply drop out of the bloc and adopt World Trade Organisation rules. Mr Johnson has pledged to secure the rights of EU27 citizens in the UK, but will have no legal powers to protect British expats in Europe.Subscribe to Relocate Extra, our monthly newsletter, to get all the latest international assignments and global mobility news.Relocate’s new Global Mobility Toolkit provides free information, practical advice and support for HR, global mobility managers and global teams operating overseas.Global Mobility Toolkit download factsheets resource centreAccess hundreds of global services and suppliers in our Online DirectoryClick to get to the Relocate Global Online Directory