Prime Minister Theresa May has already taken the first step to secure the rights of British expats living in Europe without crossing the Brexit start line.
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Speculation in the European Union headquarters in Brussels leaked to some British media outlets suggests that most EU states have agreed a reciprocal rights policy to allow expats to carry on as normal regardless of how the Brexit process turns out.
Westminster has been quick to scotch the rumours although ‘senior government figures’ have allegedly told business leaders that only a few of the 27 EU states need to rubber stamp the agreement.
The deal is a template for allowing EU expats in the UK or British nationals living in the EU the right to carry on living as normal without disruption when the pact is eventually annulled around March 2019.
Although the government claims talk of a deal is premature, the timing suggests May and other EU leaders will announce the agreement at a European summit in Brussels in December 2016.
Relief for expats
The news will hearten hundreds of thousands of British expats worried about their jobs, homes and finances after Brexit.
Official data estimates 1.2 million British expats live in the EU, mostly in Spain (309,000); Ireland (255,000) and France (185,000).
The Department for Exiting the EU has already announced the hope of an early reciprocal agreement for British and EU expats.
Although officially denying talks over the matter with other EU states, May has told the business leaders at the CBI that she was seeking an early agreement so expats and their governments could talk about Brexit with certainty.
Government sources have also hinted that the matter had been raised by May and her ministers in dealings with EU counterparts over the past weeks.
Lord Bridges, a DExEU minister, cryptically stated earlier this month that he did not know of any EU state that had reached a ‘formal view’ on the issue in response to a question raised in the House of Lords.
“We hope and expect to guarantee the reciprocal rights of EU and British citizens, but this is premature and wrong. No deals have been struck, formal or informal,” said a DExEU spokesman.
“The government has been clear that it wants to see this issue resolved, if that can be done in both directions.”
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