British people guaranteed to be able to work in Belgium until the end of 2020
British MEPs have called on EU leaders to urgently put in place a set of “continuity rights” for British nationals who may find themselves legally stranded on the continent in the event of no-deal Brexit. The move comes after the Belgian employment minister Kris Peeters said last week that the 21,000 British people that live in Belgium can continue to work in the country until the end of 2020.
Separately and in a letter, the UK MEPs say the contingency plans that are under way are not enough and will risk the rights of up to 1.5 million Britons settled in EU member states.
The deputies, from across the political divide, say they want these people to have rights including ongoing inflation-linked pensions and healthcare rights, and residency and employment rights, such as so-called frontier worker rights that would allow British nationals living in one country to take a job or offer a service in another member state after Brexit.
“We are writing to urgently request that you act now to ringfence the rights of citizens within the Brexit negotiations,” the MEPs said in a letter to Jean-Claude Juncker and Donald Tusk, presidents of the commission and council respectively. The letter was also sent to EU Brexit chief Michel Barnier and the European commission’s secretary general Martin Selmayr. The letter said the Euro deputies would urge the UK to do the same for EU citizens in Britain.
Meanwhile, the Belgian government has approved a new royal decree, one of several initiatives it is taking in case of a no deal Brexit when the UK leaves the EU on 29 March. The new decree relates to what will happen to newly arrived British employees in Belgium, who, it is feared, could lose their right to work in the country if there is a “no deal” Brexit.
If there is a no Brexit deal, British people that arrive in Belgium after 29 March will not automatically have the right to work there and will be subject to the same rules as people from countries outside the EU.
Belgium wants the UK to reciprocate this gesture by giving the 35,000 Belgians living in the UK the same legal rights and status.
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Peeters said, “Transitory measures have been drawn up in case there is no withdrawal agreement between the UK and the EU. Of course, we are still hoping the UK will approve the Brexit deal.”
The latest developments come as campaigners step up efforts to secure the rights of the estimated 3.5m EU citizens in the EU along with the 1.5m Brits who live and work on mainland Europe.
This is being championed by New Europeans, a group based in Ixelles which is also campaigning for an “EU Green Card” to ring fence the rights and status of Britons in Europe and EU citizens in the UK.
The campaign group continues to work with the Citizens Rights Friendship Group in the European Parliament led by Julie Ward MEP and with local Councils to secure the rights of Britons in Europe.
Following representations from New Europeans, Ixelles council in Brussels is currently debating a motion calling on the Belgium government to give unilateral guarantees to Britons in Belgium in the event of a no deal Brexit.
Casale said, “Britons in Europe are EU citizens and not just British expats and we have always argued and continue to argue that the EU has a duty to protect their rights directly on that basis and not through a degrading and humiliating process of horse-trading in the context of the withdrawal deal.
“We also call on the EU to support our campaign for an EU Green Card to ring fence the status and the rights of #the5million EU27 citizens in the UK and Britons in Europe post Brexit. This is needed in addition to unilateral guarantees of residency so that EU citizens in the UK have a physical proof of status and Britons in Europe can retain their rights to freedom of movement.”