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Brexit talks begin - issues for Britons and France

Negotiations on the UK-EU future relationship get under way today – here are key points relevant to Connexion readers.

3 March 2020
By Oliver Rowland

Both sides have set out objectives for the talks, which begin in Brussels today and tomorrow, with multiple groups of negotiators considering different topics simultaneously.

The EU states it aims to achieve as ‘much as possible in the short time-frame of the transition period, keeping in mind the possibility for an extension’. It says it stands ready to continue talks on remaining issues after the end of the transition period if necessary.

The UK insists on the current deadline of the end of 2020 for the end of the transition period, stating it hopes broad outlines have been agreed by the time of a summit in June, in view of negotiations being completed by the end of September (allowing time for ratification). If that does not look likely the UK says it will consider walking away and focusing on domestic no-deal preparations.

In this case ‘no-deal’ refers to no deal on trade and the other elements of the future relationship. The Brexit Withdrawal Agreement (WA), which includes arrangements protecting Britons who are already living in the EU before the end of the transition period, is now an international treaty and not tied to this year’s talks.

The talks will be wide-ranging, covering general matters such as trade, and defence and security cooperation. Beyond that, here are some key elements that the parties state they wish to discuss that are of relevance to Britons who come to live in France after the transition period or who have second homes here.

  • Social security coordination. The EU states briefly that this should be addressed. The UK agrees, referring to the need to look at healthcare cover for tourists and business visitors (currently dealt with under the EHIC scheme), coordination of state pension contributions in different countries, state pension uprating, and agreements avoiding people paying social security contributions in two countries at the same time (eg. the UK and a host state). These areas area protected for existing British expatriates in France under the WA, so this relates to tourists, second home owners and Britons who will come after the transition period.
  • Continuing participation of the UK in certain EU programmes. The UK says it will consider ‘standard third country participation’ in certain of these, including ‘considering options for participation in elements of Erasmus+ on a time-limited basis, provided the terms are in the UK’s interest’.
  • Judicial cooperation on criminal and civil matters (eg. divorce and child custody)
  • Mutual recognition of qualifications
  • Movement of capital, payments and transfers
  • Rules on transport and travel between the UK and EU by road, rail and air.

There are no pledges to consider simplified immigration for Britons to the EU or vice versa, beyond limited categories. The EU refers for example to study, training, research or youth exchanges, and the UK to temporary stays for business purposes.

There is no mention by either side of ‘continuing free movement’ to live and work across the EU for Britons covered by the WA.

The talks will continue every three weeks, moving between Brussels and London.

As before, the EU side is headed by the European Commission, with former French EU commissioner Michel Barnier as chief negotiator, while his UK counterpart is David Frost, a top civil servant who is the UK Prime Minister’s Europe advisor.

 Connexion will looking further at the negotiations, and other issues around Brexit and the future relationship, in our April edition, published later this month. Click here to subscribe to receive this (deadline March 12).

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