The British electorate voted to leave the European Union in 2016. The departure of the UK from the EU, known as Brexit, remains a cause for concern for British expats in the EU. Even with agreements between the EU and the Prime Minister of Britain, Theresa May, there is still cause for concern. British expatriates are still unclear about how their lives will be affected by Britain’s exit.
Mrs. May has tried to appease her country by making clear her first priority is to protect the rights of British expats in the EU and vice versa. Although not completely substantive, this should give Brits expats some bit of hope.
The EU is mainly worried about the welfare of its expatriates in Britain. It is likely to treat British expatriates in a similar manner that EU expatriates will be treated in Britain. If Theresa May can guarantee that EU expats in Britain will continue to enjoy their rights as before, it could also mark the same for the British expats.
In December, May wrote a letter to British expatriates in which she sounded delighted. The delight came from the fact that her government and the EU reached an agreement in which British expats would be treated well in EU and vice-versa.
The Withdrawal Agreement guarantees British expatriates rights in the EU. They will be treated as residents and they will continue to enjoy the benefits that they enjoyed before. These rights include pension and healthcare rights. It was further agreed that even when the UK has left the EU, British expatriates can still be visited by:
- Civil partners
- Unmarried partners
- Dependent parents
- Children that were not born or adopted in the UK any day later than 3 / 29 / 2019
Although there was great progress made during the negotiations, there are still some few areas of concern that have not been finalized. These are very worrisome because the EU did not show interest in discussing
them during the Withdrawal Agreement. One such issue is what happens when British expatriates move from one EU member state to another. The refusal of the EU to discuss this matter shows they may take a hard line on granting
British expats the same rights as before.
This could be a big bone of contention as the free movement of British from one EU state is controversial. If they are restricted to continue enjoying the movement benefits that they had before, it could force them to make some big changes and adjustments. They would have to weigh what they would set to lose by leaving and what they what they would gain by settling in a new Euro Zone.
The future and the On-going Negotiations
The ongoing negotiations will depend on what the British will offer the EU. During the first phase of negotiations,
some of the EU members believed that Britain was offering less than what it wanted to be offered in return. The EU negotiators are likely going to continue with the same stance. They will only give British expatriates a better deal if they feel they are being treated fairly and squarely as well. However, the future looks promising after May
mentioned that further negotiations will continue to be carried out in a way that will benefit both sides. She further believes that the final agreement will reflect a good relationship between the UK and the EU. If this happens, there is hope that British expats will continue to enjoy the benefits they enjoyed before.