Expats in the UK and across Europe need not fear the loss of their EU rights, following the fall-out from today’s triggering of Article 50, as they are protected by existing EU laws, according to a Cambridge European law specialist.
o negotiate the rights of more than a million UK expatriates in the remaining 27 EU member states and all European expats that live in the UK, as post-Brexit rights are already protected by a clause in EU law that is being overlooked by officials.
Arnheim believes that the UK government is trying to use the 3.2m EU citizens living in the UK and the one million UK expats in the Eurozone as “bargaining chips” and outlined the situation, in open letter to UK PM Theresa May, published earlier this month.
“I was surprised that nobody in the UK besides myself was aware that the “bargaining chip” argument for denying EU citizens’ rights was invalid,” said Arnheim. “[UK PM] Theresa May, pictured left, completely ignored my revelation of this uncomfortable fact. And Brexit Secretary David Davis has still not replied to a personal email alerting him to the invalidity of the “bargaining chip” argument.”
Commons Brexit Committee
Among the members of the Commons Brexit committee, Arnheim said that there was an initial “flurry of interest” in his argument, of which they had been unaware. But, he said, that after receiving some “pertinent questions” for clarification, when he offered to answer these queries by giving evidence before their committee they suddenly “went very quiet”.
Arnheim said that the EU Directive 2003/109/EC gives the right of permanent residence to most non-EU citizens who have lived in the EU for more than five years. Most UK expats of more than five years’ standing already have that right as EU citizens – under Directive 2004/38/EC. So, when they cease to be EU citizens after Brexit, they should be entitled to the same rights as long-term non-EU residents.
“It will only be a matter of changing the label under which they enjoy those same rights,” he said. “It is inconceivable that UK expatriates will not be allowed to carry over rights acquired as EU citizens to a situation where they are non-EU citizens. As no other EU member state (except Greenland, which is not comparable) has seceded before, the situation of an EU citizen ceasing to be an EU citizen is unprecedented.
“If need be, this matter may have to be clarified by the European Court of Justice. But the rights of UK expatriates is an EU-wide question – not a matter for negotiation with each of the 27 remaining EU member states individually, as the UK Government evidently believes.”
88 Non-EU Countries
In addition, nationals of 88 non-EU countries (including Russia) working in the EU are accorded the same rights as EU citizens by agreements between these countries and the EU, argued Arnheim. “Why can’t Britain become the 89th such country?,” he said. “As far as I am aware, this possibility has never been raised by anyone in the UK.
“And, once again, these are agreements with the EU as a whole, not with individual EU member-states,” he added.