Fate of UK expats in case of “Brexit” unclear
(CS) The fate of expat Brits in Europe in case of a UK exit from the EU is unclear at this point, Britain's Minister for Europe David Lidington said during a visit to Luxembourg on Wednesday.
Speaking to a group of journalists on Wednesday morning, Lidington commented that the UK government is “seeking a successful renegotiation and a decisive positive vote for staying in the EU.”
However, Lidington also said that the referendum, proposed by Prime Minister David Cameron in 2013, is the “only way” to resolve the issue of membership, saying that the question is “a reality.”
Refuting claims that the UK strategy to push for reform amounts to blackmail, the Minister for Europe advocated the Britain's proposed reform package as beneficial for the whole EU and not just in the best interest of Britain.
Key elements of the proposals include a more complete single market, especially in terms of services and the digital single market, as well as more power for national parliaments and the ability of the EU to recognise and accommodate the diverse needs and interests of its member countries.
Citizen rights challenges
According to Lidington, reforms are urgently needed to tackle some of the key challenges the EU is facing, such as growing its economies, public disillusionment with establishment politics and tensions between member states on European integration.
“Europe cannot afford to be complacent about its future,” Lidington said.
What this future will look like should the British public vote to exit the union, however, is still largely unclear.
Not only are there legal questions related to EU trade agreements, which the UK might have to renegotiate in case of the so-called “Brexit”, but also the fate of British employees at the EU institutions, as well as immigrant workers, is unclear.
“The truthful answer is that if there were a British decision to leave that is exactly one of the problems, one of the challenges that will have to be sorted out,“ Lidington commented, “just as the question of rights of citizens from other EU countries living in the UK would have to be addressed as part of that.”
“Expect great things”
So far, Lidington said, there has been interest and willingness to sit down and discuss the reform suggestions. While remarking that it is “early days,” the minister also showed himself “pleasantly surprised” by the work of the Commission under president Jean-Claude Juncker. However, he added that the “proof of the pudding is in the eating.”
With the Luxembourg EU presidency on the horizon for June 2015, Lidington was set to meet Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn during his visit to the Grand Duchy. Lidington commented that the country's presence on the UN Security Council had shown that “we can expect great things for the Luxembourg presidency.”
The minister said that “our hopes would be” to see economic reform measures for jobs and growth, as well as the negotiations for the EU-US Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership move forward during Luxembourg's EU presidency. But, he added, “I would be very interested to hear more from him about his priorities.”
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