There's been an interesting discussion on the Malta Forum Premium Boards about the possible consequences of a referendum vote to take the United Kingdom out of the European Union. As it's of wider interest (with possibly as many as a million Britons living in other EU member states), I'll recap the discussion here. (Bits in square brackets are paraphrased to make them non-Malta-specific.)
ZXC wrote:It looks like the Conservatives and Labour are considering holding a referendum in a few years time over the EU, and one result could be the UK leaving the EU. What impact would that have on UK citizens living in [EU countries]?
I'm guessing as long as the UK joins the EEA (along with Iceland, Lichtenstein and Norway), then no real issues. EEA membership means having to abide by all EU legislation related to the single market. One of the reasons some in the UK want to leave the EU is to get away from EU legislation, so presumably the big issue is whether those laws are acceptable.
If we don't join the EEA, I presume we will become third country nationals, and lose our rights of abode. [Individual countries may grant long-term residents continuing rights, but that may not be automatic, and the situation for those who haven't lived in their given EU country is likely to be difficult.]
Dave wrote:I can't see a great deal of benefit in leaving the EU only to join the EEA - there are already long-standing complaints among EEA members about "government by fax from Brussels" (and the fact that they talk about faxes show just how long-standing they are). Doesn't mean it wouldn't happen, though. [snip]
I think your analysis is right - if Britain leaves the EEA and fails to negotiate a Swiss-style bilateral agreement too, then I presume British citizens would lose their rights.
Of course, British expats retain the right to vote in UK elections for up to 15 years after leaving the UK. But are there enough in the EU to make a serious impact on the UK domestic political scene - even assuming their votes arrive on time, which as we saw in 2010 is certainly not a foregone conclusion?
And would they get to vote in any referendum? It seems obvious to me that they should - after all, they're precisely the British citizens who will be most affected by any change in the UK's status within the EU. But they may not, if the plans for the referendum on Scottish independence are anything to go by.
BNM wrote:What about the Americans, Canadians etc., etc., they seem to be here OK?
ZXC wrote:If they are married to an EU national, then they have the same rights as their spouse. For non-EU citizens with no EU partner, getting residency permits is difficult or expensive - work permits difficult to get for more than 3-4 years, and the new HNWI scheme is very costly.