UK is ‘speaking different language’ to EU

The UK government’s negotiating proposals for expat rights after Brexit lack clarity and are hard to compare with the EU’s offer because the UK is ‘speaking a different language’, according to campaigners for expat rights.

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In a joint statement, the British in Europe coalition and the3million (representing EU27 citizens in the UK) say the biggest problem with the UK offer unveiled last week is that rather than just reciprocating the EU’s offer, which guarantees most rights enjoyed by expats under current EU free movement arrangements, it seeks to substitute it with new concepts based in British law, which may offer a lesser degree of protection.

These centre around what the UK refers to as 'settled status'.

The campaigners warn also that if EU citizens in the UK lose important rights the EU may reciprocate for Britons in the EU.

Lawyer Jane Golding, a Briton who lives in Germany and chairs the BiE, said the UK’s proposal represented “an entirely different offer… about the future immigration status of EU citizens in the UK” and “there is almost no detail on safeguarding the rights of UK citizens in the EU”.

The EU offer should have been the starting point, subject to certain clarifications, she said. BiE say the UK could have simply offered to incorporate the EU rights that the EU negotiation position seeks to protect, into UK law.

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Potential problems the campaigners have identified in the UK offer also include lesser rights for family reunification after the UK leaves the EU, and a failure to commit to an overarching principle of equal treatment for EU27 expats and British citizens as exists currently under EU law.

BiE and the3million say they also have concerns over specific issues like healthcare, pensions and rights of students, concerning which they say the UK offer is not clear enough.

The groups also call for expat rights, once agreed on, to be ring-fenced from the rest of the Brexit negotiation so that even if the rest of the talks should fail – for example due to disagreement over the ‘bill’ – the rights agreement should stand. This proposal, which is in neither side’s official offer at present, is also backed by The EU Citizens Taskforce, a group of MEPs seeking for expats to have the best possible protection after the UK leaves.

BiE and the3million however say they welcome some aspects of the UK offer such as an intention to minimise documentary evidence EU27 citizens in the UK will need to show they are settled in the UK, and the fact the UK says it intends to continue to export and uprate the UK state pension. However the UK offer says the latter would be 'subject to reciprocity', and the campaigners say they would welcome clarification as to exactly what 'reciprocity' means in this regard.

The UK’s offer is here, whereas the EU position can be found at this link.

Following an opening day in which the parties agreed on the order of how the talks will proceed, the EU and UK are set to meet next for formal negotiations in the week starting July 17.

More analysis by the campaign groups of the UK offer can be found via their sites. Connexion will also be looking again at the expat rights topic in more detail in the August edition of our newspaper (and online for subscribers).