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BRITONS ACROSS EUROPE NOW LIVING IN LIMBO
An estimated one to two million Britons live across the EU/EEA as a direct result of their EU citizenship rights. But following Brexit, we’re now living in limbo, writes today’s Guest Writer for today, Jill Morrison (a Briton living in Spain).
Within hours of the Referendum result, for many British pensioners, the pre Referendum fears became reality as we saw our income depleted by the tumbling pound.
And despite platitudinous words of comfort from the Brexiteers, the pound and our income have failed to recover.
Add to this an already fragile housing market that has been brought to a standstill, making it almost impossible to do anything except sit out the crisis in a state of limbo, where the future seems both uncertain and alarming for us all.
I have sent multiple emails to my MP, the current Home Secretary Amber Rudd, but have received only standard responses to the government’s policy which carries only the confusing message: ‘Brexit means Brexit’.
During the weeks leading up 23 June 2016 we consoled ourselves with the knowledge – as supplied by the government – that the Referendum was for ‘advisory’ purposes only. That at the very least no decision would be made until the result had been debated in Parliament. That no responsible government would allow Britain to implode.
How wrong we were!
Understandably we want answers, and when Sara Munsterheijm, British Vice-Consul in Alicante paid a visit to our local area we hoped that she would be able to supply some, and hopefully to allay our fears.
We are lucky in our small village to have a British councillor to represent us in the Town Hall and she was able to address the following concerns to the vice consul:
1. Will we still have the right to residency now and in the future?
2. Will we still have access to free health care and medication for pensioners? Those British people who are registered to work have access through contributions.
3. How will our tax status be affected? Will different levels of taxation apply when British residents are no longer EU citizens, in particular inheritance tax?
4. Will pension payments be frozen at current levels when the UK withdraws from the EU as is the case with British citizens who immigrate to Commonwealth countries such as Australia, New Zealand, and Canada etc.?
5. Under EU regulations some benefits, other than State pensions, are considered ‘exportable’ i.e. Attendance Allowance, Carer’s Allowance and Disability Living Allowance (soon to be replaced by Personal Independence Payment for 6 to 64 age group). Will these continue to be paid?
6. Will free movement across all EU countries continue or will changes, such as a limit on length of stay be applied, as was in force before Spain became a member of the EU?
7. How will Brexit affect the present right to live and work in other EU countries?
8. Will existing passports need to be changed before expiry and will there be a charge for this?
9. Will professional qualifications continue to be recognised by EU countries or will a process of examination / registration be applied?
10. Will there be changes to voting rights? At present, British residents of EU countries have the right to vote and stand for office in local elections and vote for members of the European Parliament. Presumably this will no longer apply if the UK withdraws from the EU.
11. Currently, British citizens who have lived outside the UK for 15 years or more, lose their right to vote in UK elections which meant that many were not entitled to vote in the Referendum, despite the fact that they are deeply affected by the result.
The Vice Consul was unable to address any of these issues.
The only statement she made was that the British Government will stand by the result of the Referendum and that she could not offer an opinion on what the extent of withdrawal from the EU will be until negotiations begin.
So, for us Brits abroad, Brexit still means limbo. How long will we have to wait for answers?
• Jill Morrison moved with her husband Peter, from East Sussex to the Valencia region of Spain in 2002. Since retiring from teaching Business ESL, she has concentrated on writing – fiction, biography and poetry and is published under her maiden name of Jill Lanchbery. Although born in Essex she has lived in many different countries and is fiercely British, having traced her ancestry back to Robert Catesby of Gunpowder Plot notoriety! Despite this she classifies herself as a ‘citizen of the world’.
• UK passports, embossed with ‘European Union’ on the front, give Britons the right to reside, work, study or retire across the entire European Union plus Norway, Switzerland, Iceland and Liechtenstein. This ‘right’ is likely to be lost after Britain leaves the European Union.
• Numbers of Britons living across the EU/EEA: Only estimates are available. Widely reported has been the research by the Institute for Public Policy Research which estimated 2.2 million British migrants living in EU27 countries in 2008. The Oxford Migration Observatory undertook an analysis of 2011 Census data from 25 EU countries for which data was available. Based on this data they estimated that there were around 1.1 million people born in Britain living in other EU countries in 2011. The most recent estimates of the number of British migrants living in other EU countries come from the United Nations Global Migration Database, which estimated that in 2015 there were around 1.22 million British migrants living in other EU countries.

Source: House of Commons Library Migration Statistics Number SN06077, 7 September 2016: www.parliament.uk/briefing-papers/sn06077.pdf

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