Election result ‘gives certainty’ to Britons in France

The election result is very likely to mean the UK will leave the EU with the negotiated deal – and thus avoid a no-deal “catastrophe that has been keeping us up at night,” say campaigners.

25 December 2019
By Oliver Rowland

The British in Europe (BiE) coalition says it will now focus on the detail of how the rights section will be implemented.

It will also challenge the UK and EU states over requirements to make people’s continuing legal residency status dependent on applications.

Instead, it demands that rights apply automatically and that citizens receive proof of their status by simple registration.

It will also remind the EU of statements during the exit talks that continuing free movement for Britons living in the EU – the automatic right to move to, or work in, another EU country  – could be discussed during “future relationship” talks.

Chris­topher Chantrey, vice-chairman of one BiE group, British Community Com­­­mittee of France, said: “A hung parliament would have meant continued uncertainty. At least with this result we know where we are.”

He said he now hopes Mr John­son’s majority will enable him to ignore hard-right MPs and consider EEA membership “for the sake of the trading relationship”, thus protecting the status quo for current and future expatriates.

“It could be done by the end of 2020, as he wants, because it’s off-the-shelf,” he said.

“It would give us more than the With­drawal Agreement.”

He said he intends to write to the UK government about this and to say that lifetime voting for Britons abroad must now be addressed – and that any future Scottish independence referendum should be based on the general election register.

“It’s got to include everyone who could be impacted and that’s all Britons, if the risk is that the UK ceases to exist.”

Reader Dr Mireille Pouget, from Clackmannanshire, Scot­land, who is an Honorary Senior Research Fellow in Education at the University of Glasgow, wrote to Connexion to contest Mr Chantrey’s idea that the general election register should be used for a second Scottish referendum.

That would exclude EU citizens living abroad in the UK and “worse, it would be English voters … who would decide Scotland’s fate”, because they are far more numerous, she said.

Scotland has its own strong parliament and institutions and is not part of England, she said.

Dr Michaela Benson, of Goldsmiths, University of London, a researcher on the impact of Brexit on Britons in France, said her post-election correspondence suggests people are not experiencing the election result as giving certainty.

She said that the deal being passed by MPs in time is still not guaranteed.

“There is no telling what will happen in Parliament these days. Even with a majority, I think this will be tricky to pass. And if Johnson tries to renegotiate, who knows?”

Even if it is finalised, some people might struggle to secure their rights in France, by obtaining a residency card, she said

Fiona Godfrey,  co-chair of BiE, said: “The word that came up a lot in response to the election result was ‘gutted’.

“It’s how I feel too. BiE was unhappy at losing key rights, such as free movement and cross-border services supply, and we were hoping to see what could be done to restore those in the future relationship.

“It’s pretty clear that we have a hard-right government that will deliver a hard-right Brexit and immigration policy, and there is very little chance of the direction of travel on further rights being anything other than down towards a new low.

“We all need to rest now over the holidays, regroup and, above all, remember what we have achieved, rather than what we have lost.”



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