After Brexit: What Rights for EU migrants and British expats?
by John Brian Shannon | December 30, 2016
Neither the European Union nor the United Kingdom has any particular obligation to host the others’ citizens after Brexit.
For example, EU citizens living in the UK have no special status and the UK isn’t obligated to allow them to continue to live or work in a post-Brexit Britain. The same is true for Britons presently living in the EU whether they are working on the continent, attending university there, or have retired in the European Union.
One would like to think a standardized agreement for reciprocal expat rights can be signed between the two blocs in advance of Brexit. Prime Minister Theresa May attempted to gain such an agreement in November 2016 but was rebuffed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and European Council president Donald Tusk.
It’s a situation where the benefits to politicians are relatively small as only tiny numbers of voters are involved out of Europe’s total population of 504 million, while the stakes for individuals are quite large. Which might not bode well for an agreement anytime soon.
At present, 1.3 million British citizens live in the EU, while 3.3 million EU citizens live in the United Kingdom
In the (hypothetical) worst-case scenario, three times as many EU citizens would be required to return to the EU — while only 1.3 million Britons would be required to leave the European Union following Brexit.
Wouldn’t it be great if politicians could agree on a standardized bill of rights for all European expats?
When factoring-in the gross total number of all EU citizens living in non-EU countries in Europe, almost 5 million EU expats would benefit from such a solution — and 2 million Norwegian, Swiss, Greenlanders, and Britons would benefit just as much and for the same reasons.
A Pan-European Agreement would lower angst between the EU and the UK
Instead of the usual tug-of-war where the only eventuality is a ‘Win-Lose’ outcome, Europe’s leaders should broaden their worldview and seek a pan-European ‘Win-Win’ agreement that works for all expats from Greenland to Finland and from Norway to Malta. And get it passed prior to Brexit.
Is that too much to ask from 21st-century politicians? Let’s hope not.