MPs asked to help put free movement back on table

British houses of parliament seen across river at sunset

Campaigners for British people living in other EU countries yesterday asked British MPs to help put full free movement rights back on the Brexit negotiating table.

At present both the UK and EU are treating the agreement on expat rights as being finished while they wrangle over other remaining exit deal issues like the Irish/Northern Irish border and a framework for the ‘future UK/EU relationship’ including agreeing what kind of trade arrangement they will aim at.

However the draft exit agreement, of which expat rights is a crucial part, restricts the free movement rights currently enjoyed by British people living as EU citizens in other EU states.

It only protects the Britons’ rights to freely live and work in the countries where they already live before Brexit (or the end of a transition period), not any other countries of the EU. Campaigners say that this will disrupt many people’s lives and plans especially for those working regularly across several EU states. The draft exit deal also says expats’ rights to live and work in a country would be lost if in future they spend five years away from it.

Negotiators on both sides now say such issues of ‘onward’ free movement will be discussed later when an agreement is concluded on the ‘future relationship’, however this is not now expected to be fully fleshed out until a post-Brexit transition period.

Members of the British in Europe coalition told the House of Commons’ Brexit select committee that the government could easily solve the issue by asking the EU to put the matter back on the table at the exit deal talks.

One Conservative MP, John Whittingdale, asked why Britons in other EU countries should maintain full EU freedom of movement if Britons in the UK did not, but campaigners said it was different because expats had invoked their EU free movement rights by moving to another EU country while those who stayed at home had not. (It is also possible that maintaining free movement for other Britons could be agreed later as part of the future relationship).

British in Europe also this week raised similar issues with EU Brexit negotiators and MEPs in Brussels.

The failure to include onward free movement is in opposition to what MEPs have said they wish to see agreed in the exit deal, which could also put the deal on course for a clash with the European Parliament, which will have to ratify it.

  • Would restrictions on full free movement rights affect your working life or your plans for the future? Let us know at

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