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The Long Goodbye

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29 March 2019
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The Long Goodbye -

A full 24 months after the UK triggered article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, it seems that it is still undecided on how, or even if, it should leave the EU. It is even possible that no withdrawal agreement will be finalised between the European Council and the UK. This means that the UK would leave the EU with “no deal” on April 12. But every day we are treated to a new coup de théâtre.

What’s going to happen today?

This is the question that probably every British citizen, as well as every newspaper editor around the world, asks every morning after waking up.  In fact, almost every day in the last month, the picture has changed and we have had to get used to completely different scenarios.

This Brexit uncertainty has real consequences, just think about the more than 1,200 British officials (and their families) working in EU institutions, as well as EU staff residing in the UK. As EU-citizenship is a pre-condition of employment for anyone working in EU institutions or for the EU, one can conclude that employees cannot expect to keep their jobs when, or if, they lose citizenship of the Union itself. This means that these British citizens – ironically the ones who have invested more in the European project – do not have any guarantees regarding their professional status post-Brexit. In particular, temporary or contract agents face the very real risk of having to come back home without a job, as the EU has no obligation, after Brexit, to renew their current contracts, and it is not clearly defined who is eligible for exemptions.

At the same time, even if reassurances come from both the UK and the EU about an agreement on any liabilities related to pensions and other post-employment benefits, the two haven’t yet made a final decision. Besides, post-Brexit, EU British officials may not benefit any longer from the privileges and immunities associated with EU citizenship, i.e. the right of residence and special taxation rules.

It is entirely understandable that British officials are quite frustrated about their professional future, being in a sort of limbo, not able to make plans with any certainty.

If they are worried, they have good reason to be so. And they are probably even more concerned following the Prime Minister Theresa May’s speech to the nation last week. While declaring she was on the side of people, who were “tired of infighting and political games”, and recognizing that: “You, the public, have had enough. You want this stage of the Brexit process to be over and done with. I agree – I am on your side”, she asked and obtained another delay of this long goodbye, once again putting off the conclusion of this saga.

To continue with the cinema metaphor, it seems more and more a NeverEnding story. In the end, British officials can just hope to be saved by some sort of fantastic white dragon.


Sara Parolari EUreka! Eurac research blogsSara Parolari is Senior Researcher at the Institute for Comparative Federalism of Eurac Research. She got her PhD in Comparative and European Legal Studies at the Faculty of Law, University of Trento (Italy) in 2007. Her main research interests are Italian and European regional law, Regional Law of Trentino-Alto-Adige/South Tyrol, and the British legal system. In her free time she manages the free time of her three kids…

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