What would happen to the two million plus ex-patriates in a Brexit?

Labour Party

One area which has not been considered fully in the event of a Brexit, is the major impact it would have on the estimated 2 million (plus) ex-patriate community who live across countries within the European Union.

Should the British electorate vote to leave the European Union in the 23 June referendum, then the current reciprocal arrangements between the UK and other member states which see ex-pats health care and pensions protected would likely stop. At the very best they would be re-negotiated out of all recognition and any EU member state could legitimately say: “We are no longer prepared to have this on-going reciprocal arrangement with you.”

While the ‘divorce’ will take some time to negotiate, the impact on the expatriate community could be immediate. And if Britain were to go ahead and deny EU citizens special arrangements then it is very likely this would be reciprocated by EU member states.

For example, ex-pats would probably lose their right to freedom of movement within the EU and could be limited to stays of just 90 days out of 180 unless they are granted a permanent residency card, and even then they would need to provide proof of sufficient income in order to be able to support themselves.

Of course it’s not just the ex-pat community who could face such restrictions. Anyone wishing to work in a member state may well be required to apply for a visa in order to work across mainland Europe.

Another area of obvious concern is the implications for health care provision. The ex-patriate community would also likely be affected by changes to rules applying to health care. The current arrangement, whereby using the European Health Insurance Card guarantees free treatment, would no longer be valid and healthcare provision which currently exists would likely be withdrawn meaning ex-pats would be forced to pay for treatment or buy private healthcare insurance.

There would also be implications for pension payments if Britain left the EU British pensioners would effectively be frozen out of any increases in the UK state pension in the same way that ex-pats who live in other parts of the world such as South Africa or Canada are forced to abide by.

Meanwhile the British Government would also have to embark on a series of country-by-country negotiations. Indeed the UK could end up with 27 different bi-lateral agreements; progressing this would be protracted, complicated and would inevitably lead to months of uncertainty.

Furthermore, not all ex-patriates are eligible to vote in the EU referendum. Despite the Government’s promise to abolish the 15 year rule, which bars long term ex-pats from being able to vote in UK parliamentary elections, the Votes for Life Bill has yet to be tabled in Parliament, which means those who have lived outside the UK for more than 15 years will not be able to participate.

Ex-patriates who are eligible to vote must register online urgently.

This is an area which is easy to forget about but those campaigning to remain in the European Union should pay attention because it will have huge consequences for the two million (plus) people currently residing abroad.