As immigrants across the European Union anxiously await triggering of Article 50 by U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May, jitters increase as well as uncertainty in the midst of statements that the rights of EU citizens are paramount send a message that just maybe expats won’t have to go back home.
European Union’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier was clear on Wednesday, according to Reuters, when he said the bloc’s conditions for talks to secure the rights of some 4.5 million EU and British citizens living abroad was paramount.
But the European Commission’s point man on London-Brussels talks also warned of the risks if no deal was reached as Great Britain paves its way out of the EU.sought to leave.
Barnier said all Brexit negotiators are aware of the enormous uncertainty all EU citizens face, including Polish students and Romanian nurses in the U.K. as well as British pensioners living in Spain.
The main concern of immigrants is over rights to residency and access to the labor market, their pensions, healthcare and schooling.
“Guaranteeing their rights as European citizens, in the long term, will be our absolute priority from the very start of the negotiations,” said Barnier in a speech before the Committee of the Regions in Brussels.
Mrs May has also said she wants the issue handled as a priority, while emphasizing a solution should be mutual.
A couple days ago, the Spanish government said they want the more or less million British expats to remain in Spain.
However, the British government has shown no will to guarantee existing rights outside of a broader agreement.
Theresa May is scheduled to formally launch the Brexit on 29 March.
Barnier said a scenario where the Brexit is passed on the deadline of March 2019 with no deal was not one the EU was looking forward to, while London insists on the possibility.
“Some hardline eurosceptics in May’s conservative government have said that no deal — which would mean, for example, Britain falling back on World Trade Organization tariffs — would be better than a bad deal or no clean break with the EU,” wrote Reuters.
Another major issue is regarding funding for programs financed by the EU budget.
Mr Barnier highlighted the 685 billion euros of EU programs to help people and regions in difficulty and to fund infrastructure projects and research.
“There is no price to pay to leave. But we must settle the accounts. We will not ask the British to pay a single euro for something they have not agreed to as a member,” he said.
But European Investment Bank President Werner Hoyer said Britain’s bill for settling its financial position with the EIB could be very costly.