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Planning for no-deal Brexit must be ramped up as UK descends into political chaos, argues MPI Europe research
Press Release
Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Planning for no-deal Brexit must be ramped up as UK descends into political chaos, argues MPI Europe research

BRUSSELS – British politicians of all persuasions have torn into the European Union withdrawal deal agreed last week, ensuring that the spectre of a chaotic no-deal Brexit still haunts the continent. Policymakers in EU countries cannot wait for political machinations in London to run their course. They must act now to ensure their British residents—particularly pensioners and families—are protected in every scenario, the Migration Policy Institute (MPI) Europe says in two new studies.

The End of the Retirement Dream? British pensioners in the European Union after Brexit offers a detailed analysis of the situation of British pensioners in the European Union—thought to number around 200,000—before delving into the challenges and policy implications of Brexit.

Report author Helen McCarthy, of Middlesex University, notes that if Britain cannot approve the withdrawal agreement, each Member State will be tasked with negotiating separate agreements to allow pensioners continued access to health care, pensions, residency rights and other services that allow them to continue their lives as smoothly as possible.

After the divorce: British Families Living in the EU-27 Post-Brexit isolates the crucial concerns for families in continental Europe, such as reunification with relatives, residency rights, naturalisation and rights of children.

Author Aliyyah Ahad, associate policy analyst at MPI Europe, writes that the withdrawal agreement has done little to resolve existing problems in many of these areas—such as rules on entry and residence that already disadvantage families that include same-sex or unmarried couples, or members from non-EU countries. Brexit could make many more families vulnerable, particularly those with cross-border interests.

Both studies note that failing to plan properly for a no-deal scenario could jeopardise the lifestyles and livelihoods of thousands. And the British government must also plan for the pensioners and families who will inevitably be forced to return to the United Kingdom, some of whom will require help with accessing health care or other benefits.

Ahad makes the case that ensuring families are protected after Brexit is not just a legal problem for the European Union, it is an existential question as to ‘whether freedom of movement has evolved from the movement of labour (as it originally began) into genuine mobility for EU citizens and their families across Member States’.

McCarthy concludes: ‘Whether or not there is a withdrawal agreement, it will be imperative for both the European Union and the United Kingdom to maintain open channels of communication between key agencies—particularly those related to health care and pensions’.

These case studies were commissioned as part of the MPI Europe project ‘UK Nationals Abroad after Brexit’, which is funded by the Barrow Cadbury Trust.

Read the pensioners study here: www.migrationpolicy.org/research/end-retirement-dream-british-pensioners-european-union-after-brexit

And the family one here: www.migrationpolicy.org/research/after-divorce-british-families-living-eu-27-post-brexit.


Helen McCarthy: ‘These pensioners are generally among the most vulnerable groups in society, and Brexit is just going to exacerbate this. The UK government has never given the impression that they were a priority and it is yet to indicate that it understands the seriousness of the situation. After Brexit many of these pensioners may come back to Britain, and they will be a burden on already stretched services. The UK needs to wake up and start planning for this right now’. 

Aliyyah Ahad: ‘Lots of British people living on the continent will be relatively undisturbed by Brexit— many have been living there for a long time or have solid family ties to EU nationals. But there are many others whose lives could be turned upside down: those with non-EU partners, in same-sex relationships or unregistered partnerships, not to mention their children. As they are spread across 27 countries, there is a real risk they will simply end up being ignored and falling through the cracks’.

About the authors

Helen McCarthy is a doctoral candidate at Middlesex University whose research interests include immigrant integration, the labour market, and citizenship.

Aliyyah Ahad is an associate policy analyst with MPI Europe, where she focuses on European migration and integration policies, particularly EU partnerships with outside countries, free movement and Brexit.

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MPI Europe provides authoritative research and practical policy design to governmental and nongovernmental stakeholders who seek more effective management of immigration, immigrant integration and asylum systems, as well as better outcomes for newcomers, families of immigrant background and receiving communities throughout Europe. MPI Europe also provides a forum for the exchange of information on migration and immigrant integration practices within the European Union and Europe more generally. For more, visit www.mpieurope.org.