Lord Lawson: Brexit and expats

Former UK chancellor Lord Lawson – a leading figure in the Vote Leave campaign – has said a Brexit would not affect the fundamental rights of Britons in France.

However they might ‘have some extra paperwork’ – and the rights of future generations wanting to come to the country might be subject to quotas and meeting certain desirable criteria, Lord Lawson told Connexion.

This came as leading Brexit campaigners Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and Priti Patel said that in the future immigrants to the UK should be subject to an ‘Australian-style points system’ based on issues such as work skills and competence in English.

Asked about retirees wanting to live in France in the future, Lord Lawson, who was Vote Leave’s chairman until recently and remains active on its campaign committee, said he thought it would “probably still be possible”.

He said: “It certainly doesn’t affect people who are already resident in France and as to future retirees they will have to decide what they wish to do and there’s no reason to believe they wouldn’t be able to live in France or Spain or Italy if they wish to, just as there are large numbers of French, for example, living in the UK.

“So I think it is a load of nonsense, though there may be some extra slight complications, such as more forms to fill in but that’s not the end of the world.”

Asked about his message for Connexion readers concerned about uncertainty if there is a Brexit, he said: “There won’t be uncertainty, the Vienna Convention ensures they’ll be alright – the legal advice I have is this is something on which we can rely.

“It’s about an institution called the European Union, which is a terrible mess and causes enormous problems, not just for the UK. And I think there are many, many people in France who are getting thoroughly fed up with the EU.”

This is contrary to advice from several legal experts Connexion spoke to, who believe the Vienna Convention does not provide guarantees for expats’ rights. Also France was not a signatory to it, which may make it more difficult to rely on, Connexion was told.

Concerning the recent comments of the prime minister of Spain he said: “These people don’t want Britain to leave and will say anything to try and support the position of the government and the Remain campaign.”

As about ‘Remain’ campaigners’ wish to place restrictions on EU citizens rights to freely move to the UK – and any potential knock-on effects for Britains moving to the continent, Lord Lawson said: “It’ll be a matter for the British government to decide how many immigrants we can cope with each year and who they should be and it will be the same for the EU to decide how many they want and who they should be.

“But the EU has a huge immigration problem at the present time, causing great concern, and it is not about people coming from Britain.”

Lord Lawson lives in the Gers department of France; however he said accusations by the ‘Britain Stronger in Europe’ campaign voiced in the June issue of Connexion that he ‘wants to pull up the drawbridge’ for young Britons wanting to study, work and live in France after enjoying benefits of EU free movement rules himself, were “a particularly stupid thing to say”.

“The idea that I am hypocritical because I put first the interests of Britain and the British people, as I see it, is outrageous,” he said.

He added: “There’ll still be freedom of movement. People go all over the world. That’s ridiculous and they must be pretty desperate in the ‘Remain’ campaign to resort to this kind of thing. Are they suggesting youngsters are only allowed to travel in the European Union?” He also added that the Erasmus university exchange programme is available in a number of countries that are not in the European Union.

The Connexion has been trying to speak to Lord Lawson for several months via the Vote Leave campaign communications team – however Lord Lawson said he was unaware of this.

The Vote Leave campaign press team declined to comment about whether our requests to speak to Lord Lawson had been passed on.

In our June 2016 edition we cover in depth the rights which could be subject to change following a Brexit. In such a situation two years of negotiation would begin in order to clarify the position of the UK’s future relationship with the EU, including reciprocal rights for expats. You can find the edition on sale across France or download a copy for €3.80 here.