The Embassy hosted events in Antwerp, Tervuren, Mons, Waterloo and Brussels in October to update British nationals in Belgium about Brexit negotiations and in particular the position on the rights of British citizens already in Belgium. Around 450 people were able to raise their concerns and ask questions about Brexit.
Following the events, here’s a message from Ambassador Alison Rose
I want to thank each one of you who attended our events. I recognise that the decision to leave the European Union is an emotive subject for many British citizens in Belgium. I know that you are very worried about what this decision means for the lives of you and your families. We have heard your concerns and individual stories. From questions regarding spouses and children’s rights, on pensions, taxes, university fee status, on vote for life: all of your questions will be fed back into London. I promised a summary of what had been discussed, and this can be found below.
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Summary account of issues raised by British citizens in Belgium
The British Embassy held five meetings with British citizens in Belgium in October 2017 to discuss the United Kingdom’s forthcoming exit from the European Union. The subject provoked strong feelings and the discussion was frank and spirited.
Where representatives of the Belgian administration were present, in Antwerp and Brussels, there were also questions about the procedures for obtaining Belgian nationality. We have summarised the discussions under the following themes.
There were questions about the status of those working at international organisations in Belgium and whether time spent on the ‘special ID’ card would count towards settled status.
There was frustration that British citizens living abroad lose their right to vote in the UK after 15 years. All wanted the promise to introduce Votes for Life to be honoured swiftly.
Most were very concerned that they should not lose the ability to live and work across the EU27 as they enjoy now.
Concerns were raised about the potential difficulties for families whose members might have different nationalities and/or different residence history. There were concerns about the ability to return to the UK with an EU spouse in the future. And about the ability of children who had grown up in Belgium but were now working in the UK to get settled status in Belgium.
Most wanted more details about when they would know for certain what would happen to them, and felt they were receiving mixed messages. Some asked about the status of the EU and UK offers in the event that no Article 50 deal was reached.
Other subjects raised include
Pensions, uprating of military pension, payment of pensions to past and present employees of EU institutions, public sector pensions, access to higher education in the UK and in Belgium at the same rates as EU nationals, property rights, access to financial services including private pensions, mortgages and insurance, pet passports, inheritance rights, taxation, social security, healthcare.