Zero Chance EU Citizens To Keep Same Rights After Brexit
1.3 M Britons and 3 M EU Citizens to Pay the Price of BREXIT
Lack of Knowledge at Government Level, Safeguarding All EU Rights: Not the Best Strategy
The chances of EU citizens settled in Britain retaining all their rights to live, work and retire in the UK after Brexit have been rated as zero by legal experts.
A leading barrister who specialises in international public law told a House of Lords panel on September 13, 2016 it was “inconceivable” that the laws would survive entirely intact.
Prof Alan Vaughan Lowe QC | 1.3 M Britons and 3 M EU Citizens to Pay the Price of BREXIT
Prof Alan Vaughan Lowe QC said this was the price millions of people – including 1.3 million Britons abroad and 3 million non-Britons living in the UK – were likely to pay for Brexit.
Such was the uncertainty surrounding negotiations and the demands of other EU states, he said, that the British government might have to consider compensation for British citizens abroad if some rights, such as access to Spanish or French healthcare, were lost.
Lowe QC | Lack of Knowledge at Government Level
But Lowe told the Lords justice subcommittee that what worried him most was the lack of knowledge about the issue at government level. “There is very little evidence of people knowing what they are trying to do,” he said.
“If it’s been drafted with future citizens in mind, you would take a different view of rights that would naturally fade out with mortality,” he said.
Could any reassurances be given? | Absolutely NO
The chair of the committee, Helena Kennedy, said the complexity of the so-called acquired rights was a concern to millions who wanted to plan their futures. Could any reassurances be given?
“Absolutely no,” Lowe replied. “I think there is zero chance [that the] … existing legal system affecting European nationals in this country will not change.”
Lady Kennedy said she was mindful of the number of lobbyists now attaching themselves to governments who would end up as negotiators.
Lowe’s Suggestion | Decolonisation Provisions
Lowe suggested that in the absence of any evident expertise on the topic, the government could look at “decolonisation provisions” used in the 1950s and 1960s to protect the rights of British nationals in Rhodesia and Burma.
Sionaidh Douglas-Scott | What Interests Government Seeks to Protect?
Sionaidh Douglas-Scott, a professor of law at Queen Mary University of London, pointed out there was no transparency in the Brexit negotiations, so it was difficult to assess what interests the government would seek to protect.
Sionaidh Douglas-Scott | Greenland Treaty
She said the Greenland treaty, which governed that country’s exit from the EU following a referendum in 1982, could be a starting point.
On the plus side, the Lords were told, the Greenland model was vague enough to allow Britain to attend to the legal detail over a period of 10 years after Brexit. On the minus side, it was mainly concerned with the protection of fisheries.
Kennedy said it was not clear with what “vehemence” the government would seek to safeguard some rights, and which ones would be “negotiated away”. She also questioned the seriousness with which the issue was being taken. “So it is worrying,” she said.
Safeguarding All EU Rights: Not the Best Strategy
Safeguarding all EU rights might not be the best strategy, said Lowe. It might be that the government would have to step in to offer protection for Britons abroad.
“If [they] lose rights to access to a free health system, then maybe that is something the British government should pick up,” he said. “I can’t see any practical possibility whatsoever of getting a withdrawal agreement that ties up all the legal issues.”
Douglas-Scott said it was not clear who would be leading the negotiations on acquired EU rights – whether it was a government minister or a collective body that would include experts and opposition politicians.
Both Douglas-Scott and Lowe stressed that EU rights would fall away unless specifically protected under new British law.