(Editor’s note: The Supreme Court of the United Kingdom ruled today, 24 January, that Parliament must vote on whether the May government can start the Brexit process, a major victory for John Shaw and Fair Deal for Expats.)
Almost two months after the United Kingdom voted to exit the European Union, a group is emerging that seeks to unite the estimated 1.3 million UK citizens who live and/or work across the European Union. Fair Deal for Expats, just founded by a group of expats in Southern France, seeks to unite expats in an effort to make certain their interests are represented as the UK prepares to begin the legal process of exiting the EU.
It’s a surprisingly large and divers group of people.
• nearly 1 million UK citizens in Spain. According to a post in the statistical journal Significance, the 2007 Spanish census identified about 270,000 Brits as permanent residents. That number rises to about a million when you add the estimated population of unregistered UK citizens
• at least 300,000 in the Republic of Ireland
• perhaps 300,000 Brits in France, particularly the Dordogne region, which includes Nice
• at least 100,000 in Germany
• at least another 200,000 total in Portugal and Greece
Fair Deal for Expats has started its recruitment drive, raising funding to pursue a landmark October hearing in The High Court in London where the volunteer organization hopes to represent the interests of British citizens living or working in the EU.
From the Fair Deal for Expats website:
… the court is being asked to decide whether the UK Government may invoke Article 50 of the EU Treaty under its royal prerogative powers, or whether Parliament must first pass legislation authorising the Government to do so. The case will be heard before the Lord Chief Justice in October. Fair Deal has instructed specialist legal advisors Croft Solicitors and barristers Patrick Green QC, Henry Warwick and Matthieu Gregoire of Henderson Chambers. Some of Fair Deal’s members have been granted permission to intervene in the case, to ensure that expat voices are heard.
The following is from a Q&A with FDE spokesman John Shaw:
Dispatches Europe: Can your group unite all the British expats from Spain to Estonia under one umbrella organization? Is that the goal?
John Shaw: The answer to that is, we can’t see why not! The issues all expatriates face are the same, with slight twists in regard to laws in each country (such as French Napoleonic Law, for example!). But the problems caused by Brexit are the same across Europe. Our organisation will need to expand considerably to cope with such large numbers – we are a small un-paid association; but we are already in close talks with groups in Spain, Italy, Germany, Holland, even Bulgaria!
Dispatches: Why are you going to the High Court in London? Is this to get what we Americans would call “standing.” That is, recognized by the court as a party that will be affected by Brexit? And will you be able to use your legal standing to lobby against invoking Article 50?
I think this is covered in my speech – if you want to compel the UK Government to act in the way that you believe is legal, and in the best interests of all expatriates (let alone Brits themselves), then you must do it in a British Court; it is the only forum the UK Government is bound to respect and take cognisance of. There were already two actions before the High Court, brought by Mishcons and Binderman, but they are representing only the interests of their specific clients. A small group of Fair Deal for Expats campaign have become “Intervenors” in those legal actions, and our QC’s were able to persuade two High Court judges that we represent quite distinct and important interests and concerns – those of the Expatriate British in Europe. So we have distinct legal standing.
Dispatches: Do you feel either side considered the full impact of Brexit on British expats living in EU countries?
JS: Short answer: No, not at any time, and still not now.
Dispatches: In the United Kingdom, are organizations allowed to lobby representatives and government institutions? Could Fair Deal for Expats raise the funding to hire a lobbying firm?
JS: Organzsations do lobby representatives and government institutions in the UK, perhaps not quite in the way it occurs in the USA. But Members of Parliament are required to declare their specific
interests, and are supposed to give up those interests if they take any Ministerial rank, however minor. There have been a number of scandals relating to this in recent years.
As to whether we can raise the funds to hire a lobbying firm, I think it would be fair to say that is not a direction we are seeking to take at this time. We believe that right now there are other
better ways to get our messages across to the government.
Dispatches: Do you have a platform of concerns and requests for UK officials?
Again, for the first part of our action, I believe that the questions raised in my speech are very much the core of the issues – that we know about so far! It is the great “unknown unknows” that we feel need to be discovered. This is why our membership website questionnaire asks a wide range of questions; to try and build up the complete picture, the extent of problems, who it is who is affected by which issues, why are they affected, what will be the impact,both on them, and in turn on other expats in other countries.
Please encourage your readers to look at our website : fairdealforexpats.com and to join and support us. It is only together that we can create the numbers to make our pressure work.