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Thu 18 July 2019
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Alex Varley-Winter reports on how British Citizens resident in the EU are left in a ‘void’ by UK politicians about the risk of being made ‘illegals’.

A panel of campaigners for UK ex-pats told MPs yesterday that they unanimously oppose Johnson’s ‘do or die’ threat of a hard ‘no-deal’ Brexit and that they feel disenfranchised, unrepresented and unlistened-to.

Hilary Benn MP asked lobbyists from British in Europe and Eurocitizens: “What would you, as an organisation, say to those in the UK who advocate, to borrow a phrase, that come hell or high water we should leave, either with a deal or, if not, with no deal, on 31 October?”

Increasingly, as this game plays out, we are more and more becoming bargaining chips… citizens’ rights are above that.

Jeremy Morgan, Vice-Chair, British in Europe

The panel unanimously opposes Johnson’s ‘do or die’ threat to leave the EU without a deal on the 31 October this year.

John Richards, of EuroCitizens in Spain, indicated that people in the UK do not understand the uncertainty that British ex-pats are facing: “In the UK, there tends to be a bit of an off-the-cuff reaction of ‘Why don’t you just apply for nationality? Surely they’ll give you nationality.’ That is obviously, from what I have described, not an appropriate response.”

In Spain, for example, post-Brexit, it is highly likely that any British citizen applying for Spanish citizenship would have to give up their British citizenship.

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Richards hears frequent complaints from his members that British citizens abroad having no voice in Parliament: “Our membership stress over and again that it is impossible to engage with an elected House of Commons representative, or very difficult… There is a feeling of basically being in a void.”

Jeremy Morgan, Vice-Chair, British in Europe said: “Increasingly, as this game plays out, we are more and more becoming bargaining chips… citizens’ rights are above that.”

Hilary Benn, chairing the committee, told the panel that the Exiting the EU Committee will try to fill that ‘void’ by raising campaigners’ concerns in Parliament: “It is the other 27 member states we are trying to talk to through a megaphone, as well as the Government of this country,” he told the campaigners.

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