BREXIT UPDATE

Below is a summary of recent BREXIT-related actions and events of interest to BRA members. The BRA is not a campaigning organisation but we will continue to keep our members informed of relevant actions and events as they arise. We are fortunate in having an Ambassador whose Embassy in Bern takes an interest in supporting UK citizens living in Switzerland. Through our close relations with the Embassy, the BRA will continue to make known the concerns and views of its members to the UK authorities.
31 January. BSCC Lunch in Geneva,
On 31 January , a number of BRA members took up The British-Swiss Chamber of Commerce Geneva Chapter’s kind invitation to join them for lunch at the Warwick Hotel to hear Swiss Ambassador Henri Gétaz talk about BREXIT: implications for Switzerland and Swiss-EU relations. As the leader of the team in the Swiss Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs dedicated to finding a satisfactory outcome to negotiations, Ambassador Gétaz explained the Swiss approach to negotiating with the UK and the EU about Brexit and the Swiss referendum on “free movement”. He described the Swiss aims as to “preserve rights and obligations based on CH-EU agreements also after Brexit and to extend relations in areas of common interest (e.g. foreign relations, economic policy)“. In short, where the UK aims to ‘avoid the cliff edge“, Switzerland wishes to “mind the gap“.
The BSCC keeps us informed of such events which are likely to be of interest to individual BRA members.10 February. BRA Letter to Ambassador
On 2 February, the UK Government published its White Paper on “The United Kingdom’s exit from and new partnership with the European Union (CM9417)“. On 10 February, I wrote to the UK Ambassador in Bern as a result of concerns expressed by members when the paper was published. I pointed out that, because the paper only dealt with EU countries, the rights of UK citizens in Switzerland were not included. David Moran has replied that “London has the situation of British citizens in Switzerland firmly on their radar. We are at an early stage. Nonetheless, I can assure you that the British Government wants to see an early agreement to mutually guarantee the rights of British citizens living in EU/EFTA states, and of EU/EFTA citizens living in the UK.”
 On 29 March the UK Prime Minister wrote to the EU triggering Article 50, the notice of intention to withdraw from EU membership. Although negotiations between EU and UK do not involve Switzerland directly, we will monitor how these will affect UK citizens living here.

March 2017. Cambridge University Brexit Information survey.
Cambridge University has a project, funded by the UK Economic and Social Research Council, to  create a ‘one stop shop’ for trustworthy Brexit information channels to the various types of UK migrants currently living in Europe. Of concern is the current void in well-grounded information which will update in time with the Brexit process.   This void could be increasingly filled with dangerous speculation and even so-called ‘fake news’ from partisan groups or those that would seek to prey upon the anxiety of UK over-65s. By determining the sources of information on Brexit available to UK citizens abroad, the survey aims to identify sources and communications channels to expats which can alleviate individual’s fears  by providing valid “unspun” information.

In March, BRA provided information about existing communication routes available to UK citizens living in Switzerland. We will monitor any survey results which are published.

April. UK General Election Called
On 21 April, I again wrote to the Ambassador in Bern pointing out that the commitment before the 2015 UK general election to restore voting rights to all UK citizens living overseas had not been met for the 2016 referendum on EU membership and is unlikely to be implemented in time for the election in June 2017. Previously, in October 2016, I had said that meeting this commitment would be seen as a matter of trust in government. I have now requested that the concerns of UK citizens abroad be passed to London along with the wish to have the 2015 pledge implemented as a matter of urgency.

Graham Robertson
23 April 2017

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