A referendum pertaining to the UKs future inclusion in the European Union has been proposed by PM David Cameron. Affecting the lives of over 1m British expats, the contentious vote could close the current legislative, somewhat non-democratic chapter that prevents British expats from making their voices heard, should they have lived abroad for fifteen years or more.
What also remains to be seen is whether or not British expats can participate in a process of utmost importance. The proposed referendum would take place no sooner than 2017, should Cameron be re-elected, but to experts and expats alike, it’s unclear as to just what impact the referendum could have on the British expat community.
Whilst some fear on-going EU inclusion and the financial burden that seemingly stems from it, others fear EU exclusion and how such a move could affect daily EU freedoms. Britain’s expat community will undoubtedly remain split; those who have already been excluded from such matters may remain dismayed, but others might relish the chance to help shape their everyday expat lives.
Property purchase, medical expenses, the EIHC card and other critical benefits such as winter fuel payments, now all hang in the balance. An EU exit for Britain could lead to an existence comparable with that of the US, although EU outsiders or European Free Trade Association states such as Norway have seen little separation from the EU. So, is this what the future holds for the UK?
The co-creator of the EU and ex-President of the European Commission Jacques Delors commented:
“The British are solely concerned about their economic interests and nothing else. They could be offered a different form of partnership … If the British cannot support the trend towards more integration in Europe, we can nevertheless remain friends, but on a different basis. I could imagine a form such as a European economic area or a free-trade agreement.”
Amongst others, current EU President Herman Van Rompuy fears that such an arrangement could seriously undermine the integrity and stability of the EU, so it would seem that Cameron is now stuck between a rock and a hard place. Whilst Brits demand clarity where the EU is concerned, his EU counterparts continue to frown upon the UKs “having cake and wanting to eat it” attitude.
Brits the world over are now concerned about what the future holds, with many being fearful of a life spent in an economically crippled country. As well as the potentially devastating financial impact, all other aspects of the eventual outcome remain smothered in speculation. Whether an EU exit proves to be right for the UK or not, its “make or break” time for Cameron’s confused campaign.
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