After months of fraught Brexit negotiations British Prime Minister Theresa May heralded an agreement with the European Commission on Friday that covered three thorny issues: the Irish border, the divorce settlement and citizens' rights.
The “hard won” agreement allows the British government and Brussels to move Brexit negotiations onto trade talks.
The initial deal brought smiles to the face of May, who was probably in danger of losing her job if talks had broken down again, but left many British citizens living in Germany and other EU countries less than happy.
While the deal guarantees their rights to remain and work in Germany, the agreement does not guarantee them the right to continue moving freely around Europe, as is the case currently.
In the small print of the agreement it says the issue of freedom of movement was “outside the scope” of the initial negotiations, meaning the rights of Brits living in France to be able to move and work freely in other EU countries may depend on how trade negotiations go.
The pressure group British in Europe, which claims to represent the 1.2 million British citizens living in the EU, accused the government of “negotiating away our rights” and said “the deal was even worse than expected”.
British in Europe's chair Jane Golding described it as a “double disaster”.
“For the demographic of British citizens in Germany – particularly those in Munich – freedom of movement is key for us. We need to have the right to travel for work, especially those of us who offer cross border services,” Golding told The Local.
“The problem is that freedom of movement is now being deferred and will be just one of a whole host of issues up for discussion in the second round and risks being lost in a mass of trade issues.”
She also warned that, while it is sensible to apply for German citizenship, this is “no panacea.”
“The lack of agreement on freedom of movement has knock-on effects for the recognition of qualifications. It means that they would be recognized in the country that you have residency in but not in other EU countries,” she said.
“For people working for companies with multiple locations this could be an issue.”
“This is a double disaster for British people living in Europe. At the moment, not only is it unclear whether we keep our automatic residency rights, but it looks like we can also kiss goodbye to continuing free movement beyond any agreed transition period – which so many of us who work across Europe rely on to support our families.”
“This deal is even worse than we expected. After 18 months of wrangling the UK and EU have sold 4.5 mn people down the river in a grubby bargain that will have a severe impact on ordinary people’s ability to live their lives as we do now.”
— British in Europe (@BritishInEurope) December 8, 2017