Brits' rights must be protected in all Brexit scenarios, says departing British envoy

Brits' rights must be protected in all Brexit scenarios, says departing British envoy
After nearly five years of service, Alison Rose has left her post as British Ambassador to Belgium. Credit: British Embassy in Brussels.

As the Brexit negotiations enter yet another phase of uncertainty, the rights of the thousands of British nationals in Belgium must be safeguarded regardless of the outcome of the divorce, said outgoing British ambassador, Alison Rose, in a recent interview with The Brussels Times.

"We are in a period of uncertainty. We have a leadership election in the Conservative Party, so the policy of the new prime minister will not be clear until probably late July," she said.

A central concern brought to her by representatives of British citizens in Europe was the fear that, under a no-deal Brexit, citizens' rights could pass from being governed by a single, EU-wide policy to 27 national unilateral texts.

"The Belgian government has done a great deal to try and safeguard British nationals' rights in the event of a no-deal Brexit," Rose said, noting that her successor will be faced with the challenge of navigating Brexit against a backdrop of shifting political landscapes — on both sides of the channel.

"As we have a new government and as we negotiate with a new parliament and with the EU — and as the EU itself elects [new leaders], I think there is going to be another period of uncertainty," Rose said, as she prepared to leave her post at the end of last week.

"Stephen Barclay [recently] wrote to Michel Barnier asking again that citizens' rights agreements in the Withdrawal Agreement are respected — even in the event of a no deal," Rose said, referring to the U.K.'s and the EU's Brexit negotiators, respectively.

European leaders have recently warned that there will be no renegotiation of the divorce deal, whose repeated rejection by U.K. politicians ultimately triggered the current leadership election.

As leaders on both sides of the channel gear up for yet another round of negotiations, Rose said her successor will play a central role in making sure that the rights of the estimated 24,000 Britons who call Belgium home remain a top priority, as the most recently-set Brexit deadline of October 31 approaches.

Gabriela Galindo

The Brussels Times

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