18:24 GMT +320 October 2019
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    EU to Protect Expat Brits in Upcoming London Brexit Negotiations

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    The EU currently will offer to protect the welfare and residence rights of Britons living in EU countries after Brexit, according to a leaked document seen by the Reuters news agency. The insight into the EU's draft policy position comes ahead of the official start of Brexit negotiations, which are due to begin in London in June.

    In April 2017, European Parliament negotiator Guy Verhofstadt said he wanted Brits to retain some EU citizenship rights.

    Some pro-EU "remainers" in the UK may have welcomed the suggestion. However, the official response from British Prime Minister Theresa May's government was curt.

    Brexit Secretary David Davis said that the UK was ready to "discuss" any proposals put forward by Mr. Verhofstadt.

    Fast-forward a month, and with just weeks before the EU and UK will sit down to begin the lengthy Brexit negotiations in London, Reuters has published excerpts from an EU draft proposal showing that the issue is back on the agenda.

    "The Withdrawal Agreement should protect the rights of EU27 citizens, UK nationals and their family members who, at the date of entry into force of the Withdrawal Agreement, have enjoyed rights relating to free movement under Union law," EU officials wrote in the draft paper.

    It builds on comments already made by Mr. Verhofstadt that a key priority for the EU in terms of Brexit, is that the "full protections" of citizens — both British and European — are clarified.

    For her part, Prime Minister May, who is expected to win the upcoming June 8 UK general election, has also called on the EU to guarantee expatriate citizens' rights after Brexit.

    However, she has stopped short of unilaterally granted EU citizens the right to remain after Brexit.

    In January 2017, the British Home Office published a letter arguing that Assuring EU citizens of right to stay "would lose UK negotiating capital."

    This led to public consternation from migrants groups, and UK education institutions, fearing that migrants could be used as bargaining chips by May's government.

    The University and College Union general secretary Sally Hunt issued a statement saying:

    "Instead of pulling up the drawbridge, the next government needs to ensure that the UK remains an attractive destination for academics and students from around the world… They should start by immediately guaranteeing the rights of EU nationals currently working and studying here rather than using them as a bargaining chip in Brexit negotiations."

    However, between both sides, the exact legal details of migrants in the UK and on the continent are far from clear.

    There are also reports of tensions behind he scenes between high level EU officials such as the President of the European Council Donald Tusk and the British government.

    Recently, Mr. Tusk tweeted an appeal for emotions not to "get out of hand."

    Even European Parliament negotiator Guy Verhofstadt, who has made repeated overtures to British public, has made no bones about his view that Brits made a big mistake in voting to leave the EU.

    As uncertainty over the status of migrants continues, there has been a spike in applications from Brits for Irish and Dutch citizenship.

    Whether the intentions in the EU draft policy proposal will be stuck to or not, any legal guarantee of expats on both sides of the English Channel will be a complicated deal to hash out.

    After all, there are 27 remaining members in the EU. All will need to approve a Brexit deal, in addition to the British government.

    Related:

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    Tags:
    Brexit negotiations, Brexit talks, expats, expatriate, Brexit, EU membership, UK General Election 2017, European Parliament, European Union, David Davis, Guy Verhofstadt, Theresa May, Europe, Britain, United Kingdom
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