If you will excuse my taking on the role of the prophet Cassandra, the Euro-land agreement struck in Brussels on December 8th 2011 could presage an exceedingly uncomfortable time for British expatriates in the European Union. The scenario unfolded below is unlikely, but let us follow it.
We have before us a position whereby at least 23 nations of Europe are forming a ‘fiscal union’ . It could well be that in time there will be 26 nations in this Euro-land club with Britain alone remaining outside.
At the moment all 27 nations (including Britain ) are signatories to the various European Union treaties from those of Rome to Maastricht .
These treaties enable British citizens variously, [though some items apply only or largely to pensioners who have never subscribed to the social care provision of their resident State (marked *)]
a. to move and live freely within Europe in any State, regardless of income.
b. to vote in local elections and become maires and councillors in their communes.
c.. receive health care cover*
d. to receive all Social Security benefits* to which they would be entitled in their home State.
e. to receive the State pension as they would in their home State*
Now consider – as time goes on would one not imagine that the 23/26 Nations will need to change the EU treaties to serve some new circumstance?
Is it not probable that such a circumstance could affect the arrangements with Britain ?
That would trigger a referendum in Britain , if indeed the British Government were to countenance such a change. If it did not then Britain might anyway have to pull out of the Union , for the 23/26 could not tolerate such a thorn in the flesh.
Is it not extremely likely that the right-wing faction of the Conservatives will use the existing situation today to attempt to force a referendum? Would they succeed?
If a referendum were forced, is it not very likely that the result would force Britain out of the Union ?
In the worst scenario (says Cassandra) then life for all British pensioners (450,000 of them) and quite a few other British citizens would be financially intolerable. Many would have to go home, because their health cover collapses, and their income could drop as well.
Pensions could be frozen, the Winter Fuel payment (for those who have been allowed to receive it!) would stop.
This is the doomsday scenario – But let us not listen to Cassandra and consider a more likely situation.
If Britain were to leave the EU a horror on such a full scale would probably, in some manner, be averted. Britain would probably adopt the same status as Norway or Switzerland , within the EEA but outside the EU as full members. (see note at the end)
Inclusion in the EEA means that Britain still is a signatory to the regulations covering Social Security, which would mean that the pensioner should not suffer. But Britain would have no say in the future development of the EU. There would be no British MEPs in the EU parliament. Yet, Britain would still be required to subscribe financially to the EU, just as does Norway and Switzerland .
But in all these changes where stands the opinion of the British expatriate in Europe ?
They will not be asked! The blessed few who have taken care to maintain their right to vote in the UK , will have a voice. They will be able to vote in a referendum.
Those who left Britain more than 15 years ago will have no chance of a voice.
But will those who have a voice be heard? One doubts it, because the tiny little voices of the expatriates are not united into one big bellow.
There is no structure for the REPRESENTATION of the British people living in Europe . The full range of pros and cons of EEA versus EU, or leaving totally, will not be presented to them for their consideration.
We should press for representation right now on www.votes-for-expat-brits.com
My bet is that a referendum is likely within the next few years.
Note— For more light on the EEA v. EU look at:
Author: Brian Cave – http://pensionersdebout.blogspot.com