Brexit: UK citizens living in the EU face losing the right to move to another member state

EU makes threat unless Britain allows its nationals living in UK to stay - even if they move to another EU country temporarily

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Thursday 20 July 2017 16:00 BST

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British people living in the EU face losing their automatic right to move to another member state after Brexit, as the exit talks turn increasingly sour.

It emerged that Brussels has threatened to, for example, make it harder for someone currently living in Germany from relocating to France or Italy, once Britain leaves the EU.

The EU said its stance would not change unless Britain agreed to allow its nationals living in Britain to move to another EU country and then return to the UK.

Under the Government’s plans, the 3m EU citizens in the UK will be stripped of their right to return if they leave “for more than two years, unless they have strong ties here”.

EU officials said they would be pushing to resolve the fresh disagreement when the negotiations resume in August and then September.

“We would start from the assumption that, in order to maintain the right of EU citizens to move around the EU27, this would require the UK to reciprocate by allowing EU citizens to continue to move around freely,” one said.

Other points of disagreement emerged after the talks ended, including:

* Brussels seeking to block the Government from carrying out criminal record checks on EU nationals who apply to remain in Britain after Brexit.

* An apparent rejection of Britain’s hope for holidaymakers to continue using the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), to claim free or subsidised treatment.

The clashes over future citizens’ rights have come despite both sides insisting they want removing the uncertainty facing millions of people to be a priority.

Furthermore, Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, has previously insisted that existing rights must not be watered down in any way.

However, at a press conference, Mr Barnier criticised the UK for a lack of clarity and warned there was still a “fundamental divergence” between the two parties.

The EU would not give way on its insistence that the rights of citizens must be guaranteed by the European Court of Justice, he said – a red line for the UK.

“Citizens must be able to identify the legal certainty that they need for their day-to-day lives,” Mr Barnier told the press conference.

The talks would not move onto future trade – Britain’s priority – until the UK had provided the “clarification needed”, he made clear.

The disagreement over citizens could be the biggest immediate stumbling block, as the EU is demanding a precise guarantee – while not setting out a precise figure for the so-called “divorce bill”.

British officials raised the issue of ex-pats moving to a different EU country with their European counterparts, during the three-and-a-half days of intense technical talks.

On criminal records, Britain is insisting they should be checked when EU nationals' apply for the new category of “settled status” – and is understood to be happy for EU countries to do the same for its expats.

But the EU is adamant that systematic checks are not permitted under the Brussels free movement directive and that they can only be done on the basis of reasonable suspicion.

On the EHIC, it appears the UK may be forced to set up its own healthcare insurance scheme, rather than being allowed to piggy-back on the existing scheme.

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