Brexit Impact for UK Citizens living in the EU outside the UK

“This is the fourth of a five-part series of pieces highlighting the issues of concern to Liberal Democrat members beyond our shores. For the first in the series, click here…”

The 2016 Referendum result has plunged the lives of the 1.2 million British citizens resident outside the UK in the EU into a maelstrom of loss and uncertainty. It is important to remember that about 600 000 of them are disenfranchised by the 15-year rule for overseas voting and thus many of the individuals most heavily and directly impacted by Brexit are those with no democratic voice in the process of the removal of their EU Citizen’s Rights.

As Prime Minister Johnson continues to wield the threat of a No-Deal Brexit to extract concessions from the EU and plays fast and loose with the rights of our EU citizen friends and relatives resident in the UK, he is entirely dependent on the goodwill of the other 27 EU Member States towards our Citizens, resident within their borders. For while it is in this British Government’s power to grant rights to EU citizens resident in the UK, British citizens must rely on the generosity of the EU Member States to maintain at least some of the rights that they depend on to conduct their lives.

There are a myriad of reasons why British citizens took the opportunities afforded to them by their EU Citizens rights and moved to live in other EU countries and the scenarios in which they now find themselves are no less diverse. There are those who depend on their Freedom of Movement in order to work across multiple countries, particularly those who are involved in the service sector, who will find themselves heavily impacted by the increased barriers to trade after Brexit.  Then, there are retirees, with pensions that have already seen their value fall by about 25% due to the Pound’s downward course since 2016 and now face the loss of their S1 reciprocal healthcare provision and the removal of pension uprating in 3 years time. So, while the British Embassy Outreach events seek to assure us that nothing much will change in our daily lives, it is actually hard to gloss over the fundamental erosion of rights and opportunities that is occurring.

Now, as Prime Minister Johnson gambles with our futures in his No-Deal high stakes game, across Europe the rights of British citizens are being stripped away, Liberal Democrats stand firm in their belief that we need an Exit from Brexit. We believe that all British Citizens overseas need better political representation as shown by the Liberal Democrat commitment to votes for life and overseas constituencies in our 2017 manifesto. This year Liberal Democrats Overseas and in Europe have reached out to the British communities in Europe and across the globe through surveys and consultation in order to better understand their needs and worries during this turbulent time. Taking this input we have created a policy document “Modernising the Relationship between Britain and its Citizens Living Abroad”

Come and hear more about this topic at the Conference Fringe Meeting hosted by Liberal Democrats Overseas and In Europe groups on Sunday 15th September at 1:00 pm.

More in this series of articles:

Brits living abroad – let’s hear their voice too!

Closing the Citizenship gaps

What is the UK’s relationship with the British Overseas Territories?

* Rob Harrison is Chairman Lib Dems in Europe. Katherine Rose is on the Lib Dems Abroad policy committee.

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