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UK Government says it will not act unilaterally to guarantee the rights of EU citizens in Britain
Four out of five British expats fear they will have their automatic right to live abroad stripped from them after Brexit, a survey shows.
The UK Government has consistently said it will not act unilaterally to guarantee the rights of three million EU citizens to remain in the UK until it has agreement that the EU 27 will do the same for the estimated 1.2 million Britons living elsewhere in Europe.
But a poll of more than 5,000 UK nationals living in the EU showed that Theresa May’s policy of withholding guarantees to Europeans until reciprocal protections were provided for Britons was stoking fears in the expat community.
More than a quarter of respondents listed retaining their right to reside in their adopted home country as their top concern.
The survey follows last week’s Commons vote that gave the Government the green light to begin formal Brexit negotiations by triggering Article 50.
The vast majority of the 5,170 Britons who responded to the survey, organised by the Brussels and Europe Lib Dems (Beld) group, resided in Spain and France.
Melanie Marshall, who lives in Ireland but is British, said she feared her husband may be deported from Europe because of Brexit.
She said: “My husband is not an EU citizen. He is eligible to work here solely because I am an EU citizen.
“Non-EU spouses of non-EU citizens do not automatically get work permits here. Spouses of EU citizens are entitled to work regardless of their citizenship.”
Dave Chadwick, a 25-year-old British student in Paris, said he feared for his future employment prospects: “I am studying for a master’s degree in European history.
“Upon graduating I would like to work in either Belgium or Germany; I don’t fancy spending over half my salary on renting a bedroom in London.
“I fear that the future loss of my rights as an EU citizen may put off prospective employers.”
Catherine Bearder, Liberal Democrat MEP, said: “The Conservative Brexit Government is playing fast and loose with the lives and families of Brits living elsewhere in the EU.
“It denied many of them a vote in the EU Referendum and now it is using them as bargaining chips.”
The survey recorded the responses of 5,170 British citizens, the vast majority of whom were not Liberal Democrat members, living in the EU, Norway, Switzerland, Iceland and Liechtenstein, between 7 and 22 January, 2017.
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