Rights deal should apply until end of 2020, says EU

The EU today set out its instructions to its negotiators for the next phase of talks

The Brexit deal that was negotiated on expat rights last year should apply to Britons coming to France until the end of 2020, the EU said today.

In negotiation directives for phase 2 of the Brexit talks, published today, ministers from the 27 other EU states agree in principle to a transition period which they say should last no longer than December 31, 2020.

UK Prime Minister Theresa May first asked for such a period in her speech in Florence last year - the aim is to give more time for Britain to prepare so as to avoid an overly abrupt change when the UK leaves.

The directives – essentially, instructions to the EU’s negotiators led by Michel Barnier – say that during the transition the UK would have left the EU but it would remain fully subject to all EU laws, including any new ones, the rules of the single market and the authority of the European Court of Justice.

As for ‘citizens’ rights’, on which agreements were made last year which will form part of an exit treaty to be drawn up this year, the EU says that the rules that have been agreed so far should apply to up to the end of the transition period.

These rules cover the rights of existing expats, not Britons who may come in future years, and they seek to maintain the key rights that people have now, including pensioners’ healthcare and uprating of UK pensions, although expats are likely to have to apply for some form of residence card. Campaigners have however criticised aspects of the agreement, such as the fact that it does not guarantee future rights to vote in local authority (or EU) elections or to maintain full freedom to live and work in other EU states apart from the one where people are already established.

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During the transition, the directives say the UK would no longer have MEPs, commissioners or ECJ judges and would no longer participate in meetings of committees advising the European Commission, unless, exceptionally, it is invited on a case-by-case basis.

It also could not conclude any new international agreements, such as trade deals, on areas linked to EU law unless authorised by the EU (however the directives do not rule out the UK holding talks).

On Thursday this week the European Parliament, which has an advisory role in the negotiation process and a final vote on the exit treaty, will hold a new debate on issues surrounding expat rights, at 14.00. It will be broadcast live on this website.

  • Tomorrow the UK’s House of Lords will consider the Brexit Bill, which a Lords’ committee has called “fundamentally flawed” and said “needs to be reworked”. The bill aims to bring EU law into UK law, allowing parliament and ministers to later change or revoke elements in due course. The extent of powers of ministers to make changes without consulting parliament has caused controversy.
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