Skip to main content

Britons in Europe: Is the EU stepping up the pressure?


Britain in Europe's Dr Dimitrios Giannoulopoulos recently spoke to Channel 4 News' Europe editor and LBC presenter Matt Frei on LBC's Nick Ferrari programme, about the emerging complications with the rights of UK citizens in the EU.

It emerged from the second round of Brexit negotiations last week that, after Brexit, UK citizens already living in the EU stand to lose the right to move freely between EU Member States.

Dr Giannoulopoulos, Senior Lecturer in Law at Brunel and Director of the Britain in Europe think-tank responded:

"This development is simply a reflection of the wider problematic approach that both the UK and the EU have adopted on the issue of citizens' rights. They are both applying existing solutions (stemming from UK immigration law or EU legislation) to an unprecedented situation that calls for new, bold, tailor-made, solutions.

“From a strictly technical point of view, the EU is correct that the right to move across the EU derives from EU citizenship - and this, of course, is why UK citizens moving into the EU in the future will probably not be able to exercise this right to the extent this is happening today - but to deprive of this right UK citizens currently residing in the EU, who have made life choices based on the ability to move freely across the EU, makes no sense at all.

“The EU would deprive UK citizens of an existing fundamental right that is part and parcel of their right to stay in the EU.

“Michel Barnier said at the press conference on Thursday that the key guiding principle in these negotiations is that EU citizens in the UK and UK citizens in the EU should continue to live their lives as before. So the EU must put their money where their mouth is."

Matt Frei asked Dr Giannoulopoulos whether the EU was unreasonable to make these demands, threatening to restrict the rights of UK citizens in the EU.

Dr Giannoulopoulos then offered an analysis from the viewpoint of the EU:

"We can turn this argument on its head of course. We can interpret this latest development as the EU stepping up the pressure on the UK.

“The EU wants to safeguard the rights of EU citizens in the UK. As things stand, EU citizens will have a limited right to move freely in the EU after Brexit. They would risk losing their permanent residence status or 'settled status' after being away for more than two years, and would then find it much more difficult to re-enter and re-settle in the UK. This is because they will be subjected to the stricter UK immigration regime that will probably apply to EU citizens after Brexit.

“From this angle, the EU is right to require reciprocal arrangements from the UK.

It is another matter that the EU is bound by international law (the European Convention on Human Rights in particular), and by EU legislation (e.g. the Directive on Long Term Residents), to guarantee the rights of UK citizens in the EU, and the same applies to the UK (as far as the ECHR is concerned).”

Dr Giannoulopoulos concluded that:

"Ultimately, the main problem here is reciprocity and the fact that there is a negotiation about rights that according to international law are non-negotiable. Both the EU and the UK should have unilaterally recognized citizens' rights from the outset; there are far more complex issues ahead in the Brexit negotiations and this issue should have been settled a long time ago."

Read the latest news from Britain in Europe on


Reported by:

Sarah Cox, Media Relations