Around 4 million British and EU expats have lived in uncertainty since the Brexit referendum vote a year ago – and despite some clarity from British Prime Minister Theresa May few are clearer about their futures today.
The expat split is roughly three to one, with around 1.4 million Brits living in the EU and 3 million EU nationals in the UK. May has pledged that no EU national would be expected to leave the UK, providing they are here legally and the rest of the EU nations give an equally binding pledge about the future of British expats in their countries.
Settled status is promised for expats from the EU, Norway, Liechtenstein, Iceland and Switzerland who have lived in the UK for five years. The status is not automatic and everyone will have to apply for the right to stay.
Equal rights for EU expats in Britain
Those qualifying will have the same rights as British citizens to claim benefits, access treatment on the NHS and draw the state pension.Those with less than five-years in the UK can either go home or decide to stay to build their five-year settled status rights. The rights include family living in the EU if they are in the UK before March 2019. A yet to be agreed cut-off date will apply to qualifying for settled status.
For British expats in the EU, the government wants benefits and healthcare to continue under the current rules and tourists to continue to access medical care under the emergency health card agreement.
Starting place for talks
Both sides still have plenty to talk about and May’s promise is more of a proposal than a given. Much needs discussing about qualifying and cut-off dates, who can access state services in a foreign country and who pays for them.
The EU wants the European Court of Justice to rule on cases of EU citizens with grumbles about their treatment in the UK, but Britain wants no foreign court to have jurisdiction over UK sovereignty. May hinted that the agreements could be covered by international law, which would mean setting up a new monitoring body to handle disputes.
The EU response has been luke warm – with European Council President Donald Tusk saying the offer was below expectations.