EU brushes off Britons’ ‘onward movement’ rights

EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier has brushed off requests for ‘onward free movement’ rights to be maintained for Britons in the EU, saying they are not part of the ‘first part of the negotiation’.

13 October 2017
Part of Britons' EU rights is the right to 'onward movement', for example to move from France to Spain
By Oliver Rowland

Onward (or ‘further’ or ‘future’) movement refers, for example, to the right of a British person living in France to decide in the future, after Brexit, that they would like to move to live in Spain instead. It is part of the current rights of Britons as EU citizens to live and work anywhere in the EU.

Campaigners for Britons in the EU – and the British negotiating team – consider that onward movement rights should be maintained for expats, however Mr Barnier said after the end of the fifth round of talks yesterday: “I have a restricted mandate and we do things in order. We can’t mix things up. We are dealing with things in the first part – subjects about rights that have been acquired on Brexit day, and life choices people have made up to that day.”

He said onward rights concerned “future life choices after Brexit” and he was ready to discuss it – but not yet.

The comments implied that onward movement might be part of a ‘second phase’ of talks, about the future UK-EU relationship, not part of the exit deal.

In the fourth negotiation round last month Britain had offered to allow EU expats established in the UK on Brexit day the right to leave and live elsewhere and then come back again freely to Britain if they chose, called a ‘right of return’, in return for Britons keeping their onward movement rights.

UK negotiator David Davis said yesterday he was still “looking forward to the EU’s response” to this.

The chairwoman of campaign organisation British in Europe coalition, Jane Golding, said: “It is deeply disappointing to hear Michel Barnier talk about free movement for UK citizens in the EU as part of the future relationship, when our livelihoods and families depend on these rights now.”

Ms Golding, a Berlin-based lawyer, considers that the EU right to free movement, which for example British expats are making use of when they choose to settle in France, is indistinguishable in EU law from the ongoing right to live in other parts of the EU. So far, however the EU is arguing for just maintaining Britons’ rights to stay in the country where they currently live.

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British in Europe say onward movement is a concern for many expats but may be especially important for ‘frontier workers’ who may need to change countries for work reasons in the future. Connexion is interested to know to what extent it is a priority for our readers (email us at

The comments came at the end of an unproductive negotiation round, with no significant progress reported apart from on unspecified technicalities.

Mr Barnier said he would not be able to recommend to the EU that matters had progressed enough to move on to trade talks this month, however he hoped this would change by December.

However he added: “A ‘no deal’ would be a very bad deal, and on our side we would be ready to face any and all eventualities.”

Ms Golding said Britons in the EU were worried that the negotiations would not deliver the protections for expat rights which had been “promised” by both UK Prime Minister Theresa May and by Mr Barnier.

“We feel let down – in the UK party politics seem to be taking priority over people, with renewed talk of no deal.

“After the fifth round there has been no progress on fundamentals – free movement for UK citizens in the EU – and no real move on ‘settled status’ for EU citizens in the UK or on the scope of economic rights and professional qualifications.

“We are no further forward than we were after the referendum last year and there is now a very real fear that the UK may crash out with no deal and we will be thrown under the Brexit bus.

“On top of that Mrs May admitted herself two days ago on radio that she had no idea what would happen to us in this case despite repeatedly claiming that it was her priority to protect our rights.” 

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