Clarity needed over Britons' rights with 'no deal'

People standing in front of EU and UK flags
Rights of expatriates on both sides are unclear if the UK leaves with no deal

Connexion has this morning asked the British embassy if contingency plans are being drawn up for the rights of British expatriates in France as fears grow over the possibility of a Brexit with ‘no deal’.

We will report back if we have an update.

It comes after the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier told German newspaper FAZ he is “strongly opposed” to the British Prime Minister’s ‘Chequers’ proposals, saying they amount to cherry-picking and could “end” the EU because other third countries might ask for the same. Mrs May is also facing pressure from Eurosceptics in her own party, with prominent Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg claiming that he has spoken to Mr Barnier and they agree with each other that the Chequers plan is ‘rubbish’ and a free-trade deal such as that with Canada is more workable.

Talks are no longer expected to conclude in time for an EU summit next month but are expected to go on at least into November in a bid to salvage a last-minute deal.

Much has already been agreed between the EU and UK, especially with regard to expatriates’ rights on both sides, however all this is in jeopardy due to failure to agree on the management of the Northern Ireland/Ireland border after Brexit and an outline of the ‘future relationship’, including trade.

If there is a deal then the latter would be firmed up during a transition period to the end of 2020 during which rights and obligations would remain largely the same (though it is expected that the UK would not elect MEPs in next year’s EU elections and, as non-EU citizens, it is expected that Britons would not vote in them).

The UK has started to release papers on contingency planning for a ‘no deal’, but so far has not clarified important matters such as whether it would continue to pay for British expatriate pensioners’ healthcare in countries like France. Connexion has also been unable to obtain reassurance from the Brexit Ministry or the DWP that the UK has committed to uprating British state pensions paid in countries like France whether or not there is a deal.

As we previously reported, the French Prime Minister has asked his cabinet to work on their ‘no deal’ plans. The embassy posted on their Facebook page yesterday to say they are aware of people's concerns over this, however Connexion has asked if they can confirm they are in active discussions with the French on the plans for British expatriates and if clarifications will come soon.

British in Europe coalition, representing Britions abroad in the EU, has made a renewed call to the UK and EU negotiators to ‘ring-fence’ off the citizens’ rights part of the deal, so that even if the rest falls though a deal will remain on this.

They say they are “deeply concerned that citizens’ rights are still far from being truly safeguarded”.

They said more still remains to be done to improve the rights deal, however all the rights talks would have been “in vain in the event of a No Deal, Cliff-edge scenario, which would leave us without any legal status at all,” adding that “regrettably there seems to be no contingency plan either in the EU or in the UK for this eventuality”.

We have also asked the embassy if this idea, which has long been called for by campaigners on both sides of the Channel, is being considered as a solution to the 'no deal' scenario.

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