Anxiety rising over Brexit ‘no deal’ scenario

Levels of concern for Britons living abroad in the EU are rising again as the possibility of a ‘no deal’ exit (with no transition period) appears more likely than ever.

27 August 2018
By Oliver Rowland

The UK and EU were due to reach a final draft of the withdrawal agreement by the EU summit on October 18, including an outline of intentions for the ‘future relationship’ (trade, security cooperation etc). However time is running out for agreement on issues such as the Northern Irish border or the future trading relationship.

The UK government has issued papers on its ‘no deal’ contingency planning (see here) and the Prime Minister has called what commentators say is a ‘cabinet crisis summit’ on September 13. It is widely thought talks will now run into November in a last-ditch effort.

The pound is at a new low of €1.106 versus €1.44 in 2015 (but slightly higher than a post-referendum low of €1.08 in 2017), impacting UK pensions.

Calls for a referendum on the final deal (if there is one) including a ‘no Brexit’ option, are increasing, with a ‘People’s Vote’ march due in London on October 20, which members of the British in Europe (BiE) campaign groups will attend. Meanwhile People’s Vote has teamed up with The Independent newspaper’s ‘Final Say’ campaign, which more than 700,000 people have signed to support (see tinyurl.com/y8qyeuvt).

YouGov polls this summer found that a majority of UK constituencies now back ‘remain’ with 112 having switched since the referendum.

British barrister Jolyon Mau­gham, who has been running several cases related to Brexit (see here), told Connexion there are three likely outcomes: an EEA (‘Norway’)-style arrangement, no deal at all or remain.

“I cannot see anything else getting through parliament,” he said.

“I understand Labour will be whipped to oppose any ‘Chequers-style’ deal [as proposed by Prime Minister Theresa May] and as for the ‘Canada+++’ proposed by the [hard right] ‘Leave means leave’ campaign, there is no basis in the stance of the EU to think it’s a deal that’s on the cards for the UK.”

Due to ‘no deal’ fears and also the fact that further improvements to the draft deal negotiated for expatriate rights are now unlikely, BiE has formally called for the UK to remain in the EU. It also demands that all Britons in the EU should be allowed to take part in any new referendum, bearing in mind the UK government’s repeated promises to end the ‘15-year rule’ which bars long-terms expatriates from UK general election votes (this barred them from the 2016 referendum as it was based on the same franchise).

However, Conservative MP Sir Roger Gale told Connexion he “sees no prospect” of a referendum and, if there was one, Britons abroad more than 15 years would be excluded until a legal change on the 15-year rule has gone through parliament (this is currently not due until early next year).

Christopher Chantrey, who represents the British Community Com­mittee of France for BiE, said: “From the beginning, BiE has defended the interests of UK nationals living in EU27 member states, and their citizens’ rights.

“We didn’t take any particular position for or against Brexit. The change came because neither of the probable outcomes sufficiently safeguards our rights or delivers the Prime Minister’s promise that nothing would change for us. A  no-deal exit would be disastrous. “The other option is the draft withdrawal agreement, which curtails our rights in several key areas.

“Hence, the only way our rights can be safeguarded is if the UK remains in the EU. And if there is a new popular vote to reverse the Brexit decision then of course all UK citizens living in EU27 countries, all of whom would be directly and adversely affected by the UK’s leaving, must be allowed to vote.”

Citizens of other EU states  in the UK may be in a slightly stronger position than Britons abroad in the EU as the UK’s so-called ‘settled status’ for them was put into domestic UK law this summer.

There has been no EU-wide clarification on Britons ‘no deal’ rights however in August’s Connexion the French Interior Ministry said it would respect the residency rights of those with a carte de séjour and allow others to apply to stay with the same documentary proofs.

Many questions remain over rights in a ‘no deal’, from pensioner’s healthcare to uprated UK pensions, exportable UK benefits and EU pension aggregation (see also here, about insurance, private pensions and bank accounts).

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