May Day! May Day! But are EU ex-pats really in danger of mass expulsions?
About 30 Conservative MPs are expected to vote to give three million EU nationals the right to stay in Britain after Brexit.
After the defeat in the House of Lords on the Brexit Bill Baroness Molly Meacher, an independent crossbencher, said: “There are 30 Tories who are saying they will vote to support this amendment. Obviously the Tory whips in the Commons are going to work extremely hard with all sorts of bribes to get these people to vote with the Government.”
Theresa May has vowed to face down unelected peers over the Brexit Bill and stick to her timetable for triggering Article 50 despite the defeat. Peers overwhelmingly passed an amendment to the crucial legislation demanding an immediate guarantee of rights for EU nationals already in the UK.
The bigger-than-expected defeat by 358 votes to 256 was because of an alliance of Labour, Liberal Democrats, crossbenchers and a handful of rebel Tories.
However, Mrs May is said to be confident that the amendment will be rejected by the elected House – as it was last month.
Now she must choose between trying to overturn the measure in the Commons, or agreeing to guarantee the rights of 3.2 million EU citizens living here – even though Germany and other EU countries are refusing to give similar reassurances to 1.2 million Brits living in Europe.
In the run-up to the Referendum and afterwards, one of the most popular topics was how expats in EU countries might be affected.
Just over 4.5 million Britons live abroad, with 1.3 million of them in Europe and the top destinations in the European Union are Spain (319,000), Ireland (249,000) and France (171,000).
A former attorney general, Dominic Grieve QC, says that withdrawing from the EU would see British citizens living in EU countries becoming ‘illegal immigrants’ if Britain didn’t maintain some form of free movement after officially leaving.
There have also been fears that member states like Spain could ask British people to pay for healthcare or curb access to healthcare services outright. This could lead to retaliatory measures from the UK. There are three million EU nationals in Britain.
So, are there likely to be mass expulsions from Europe as Brexit scaremongers have been claiming?
Almost certainly not. Mass expulsions from a developed economy would shock foreign investors and probably cause economic turmoil.
Expats would have legal protection after Brexit. Lawyers say that British expats living elsewhere in the EU have individual “acquired rights” under international law.
This is based on the Vienna Convention of 1969, which says that the termination of a treaty “does not affect any right, obligation or legal situation of the parties created through the execution of the treaty prior to its termination.”
The House of Commons Library says that “withdrawing from a treaty releases the parties from any future obligations to each other, but does not affect any rights or obligations acquired under it before withdrawal.”
In other words, Brits who have already exercised their right to live in EU states can expect to keep that right.
But for people who are currently planning to move abroad, be aware, these rules will not apply to you.