EU expats in the UK are deeply anxious about their future, report reveals

by Ray Clancy on December 19, 2016

European Union expats in the UK and British people living in other EU countries are deeply anxious about their future, according to a new report.

Since the referendum result in June some have been subjected to verbal abuse but all are very concerned about what will happen to their rights to live and work, with many having done so in their current homes for several years.

expat-brexitThe report from EU Justices Sub-Committee in the House of Lords says that the UK Government should give a unilateral guarantee now that it will safeguard the EU citizenship rights of EU nationals in the UK when the UK withdraws.

Failing this, it says that there is a strong case for agreeing EU citizenship rights as a preliminary and separate element of the negotiations as soon as Article 50 is triggered which the British Prime Minister Theresa May has said will happen by the end of March 2017.

French expats living in the UK are among those who are very concerned. France’s ambassador to Britain Sylvie Bermann told the sub-committee that French expats have lots of questions about the consequences of the vote to leave the EU.

Expats say they have invested a lot in the UK in on a personal and a professional level and Bermann revealed that in the immediate aftermath of the vote in June some French nationals were subjected to negative or aggressive language and she and her colleagues had received testimonies of such abuse.

Bermann said that this had been sad as Britain has been regarded as a dynamic country with respect for others but now some of the 300,000 French expats are considering whether they should stay in the country.

‘Some of them told me that before 23 June they felt like Londoners and now they feel like foreigners, which is different. Many express a sense of sadness and are waiting for answers,’ she said.

Ambassadors from Poland and Romania also told the committee that their citizens are anxious. There are around 984,000 Poles in the UK, by far the largest group of EU citizens and newspapers have reported verbally abusive attacks in the aftermath of the referendum.

The committee acknowledged that it is an anxious time for EU expats in the UK and in its report says that the British Government had a moral duty to provide clarity to EU citizens living and working in the country.

‘The Government is under a moral obligation to provide certainty and legal clarity to all EU nationals working, living and studying in the UK, who contribute so significantly to the economic and cultural life of the UK. It should do so urgently,’ the report says.

The report calls for more to be done to combat xenophobia and explains that the UK workplace relies on non-British workers for many jobs that cannot be filled. ‘The longer their future is uncertain, the less attractive a place to live and work the UK will be, and the greater labour market gaps will be,’ the committee report added.

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