European Court to hear case over rights of British expats post Brexit

by Ray Clancy on February 9, 2018

A judge has ruled that a group of British expats in the Netherlands can have their case to keep all their rights when Britain leaves the European Union heard in the European Court of Justice.

The group of five expats want the Dutch Government to guarantee their rights after Brexit including free movement, which is currently due to end when the UK leaves the EU in March 2019. They argue their EU rights should be guaranteed by the Dutch Government regardless of what deal is done over Brexit or what Britain’s future relationship with the EU ends up being.

European Court

(By Valery Evlakhov/Shuterstock.com)

Experts say that if they win the case then it could pave the way for other British expats to argue that their rights should be retained by other EU Governments and could affect about a million British citizens living in the EU.

‘I am shocked and delighted with the decision. But we have to realise that this is just the first step to eventually getting clarity about our status,’ said one of the group Stephen Huyton.

British Prime Minister Theresa May has already said EU citizens currently living in the UK will be able to apply for settled status after Brexit and the understanding is that British expats should have the same right in other EU countries.

But the exact outcome of what it will mean for British expats is still unclear, especially regarding free movement which is due to come to an end in March next year but it now looks as if there will be a transition period almost two years.

But May is not keen on freedom of movement remaining during a transition period. During her recent trip to China she said that she wants to deny rights to EU expats who arrive in the UK during a transition period.

The EU has indicated that it wants a ‘status quo’ transition period of just under two years and this would include free movement and full rights for EU citizens arriving in the UK. May believes there should be a distinction between EU expats already living in the UK and those who arrive in the full knowledge the UK is about to leave.

But according to EU Brexit co-ordinator Guy Verhofstadt the issue of EU citizens’ rights during a transition period is simply non-negotiable as the bloc will not accept a two tier situation for EU citizens.

Details of the transition period are still unclear. It means that the positon of expats is now thrown into doubt from the period from Brexit happening in March next year and a 20 month transition period.

In the UK Frances O’Grady, general secretary of the Trades Union Congress, called for clarification over workers’ rights during a transition period. ‘We hope the UK and the EU can quickly reach an agreement that retains a level playing field on workers’ rights. And it must make sure UK workers benefit from any new rights that the EU introduces during the transition period,’ she said.

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