|Unfortunately for UK expats in the EU, they don't have much say in a process affecting them greatly.|
That means protections for expats need to be secured as part of Britain’s exit negotiations. But will they be? If the country sought an arrangement similar to Norway’s, whereby it kept the trade benefits of EU membership in exchange for preserving freedom of movement, this might well be possible. But the Leave campaign is increasingly defining a pro-Brexit vote on June 23rd as a mandate for a draconian clamp-down: on June 1st Vote Leave, the official Out campaign, proposed slamming the door on all EU citizens except those with particular skills. If this happened, reciprocal restrictions would presumably apply to Britons planning to move to the continent. How it would affect those who have already done so is unclear. In the event of Brexit, European leaders are likely to try to discourage copycats by pointedly restricting the full benefits of EU citizenship to full EU citizens.In an age when diaspora communities are regarded as resources--bringing knowledge and skills back to the home nation or sending remittances from abroad--the UK is curiously of the "out of sight, out of mind" disposition towards its own:
All this is part of a wider story: Britain tends to disregard its diaspora. The country limits its expats’ voting rights (which are withdrawn after 15 years abroad) and certain welfare payments. It freezes their pensions and makes relatively little effort to find out where they are, what they are doing or even how many of them exist.There are many "known unknowns" in Rumsfeld-speak for the UK itself if it leaves the EU; what more for those actually plying their trade on the continent?
And this in a technological age when other governments are going to new lengths to engage their emigrants. Ireland is building a giant database of its diaspora, to help nurture and woo it; New Zealand runs a social network for far-flung Kiwis. Mexico, India and China see their emigrants as soft-power warriors and try to lure high-flyers, with their international experience and connections, back home. France and Italy both have overseas parliamentary constituencies and let their expats vote in embassies...
Yet why should such Britons, many of whom have paid into the welfare state for decades before moving abroad, be treated as second-class citizens.