Neutralising the fear, uncertainty and doubt of the Remain campaign
Two million UK citizens working abroad could become illegal immigrants overnight if Britain were to leave the European Union according to remain fear mongers playing fast and loose with the facts . This is one of the more flimsy and morally objectionable deceits given that it is designed to disseminate anxiety amongst the expat community and in many cases this myth is proliferated by people who should, and probably do, know better.
The status of treaty rights acquired while a treaty is in force, when that treaty comes to an end, was dealt with in a 2013 Parliamentary briefing, and is covered in much more detail by UN lawyers. A clarification has even been issued via a House of Commons Library note, which stated:
“Generally speaking, withdrawing from a treaty releases the parties from any future obligations to each other, but does not affect any rights or obligations acquired under it before withdrawal.”
The (1969) Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties is clear, in article 70.1.b it states that a termination of a treaty:
“Does not affect any right, obligation or legal situation of the parties created through the execution of the treaty prior to its termination.”
To summarise, “acquired rights” – also known as “executed rights” or “vested rights” – do continue to apply to individuals. So firm are they embedded in the international order that they have acquired the status of “customary law”, which means the principle does not need to be anchored by any particularly treaty, but stands alone as a fundamental principle of international law.
Thus, should it come to the UK leaving the EU, those persons who currently live in other EU member states, invoking the right to remain under the “freedom of movement” or “freedom of establishment” provisions of the treaties, will be able to retain that “acquired right”. There may be some details around the margins that have to be settled which will make up part of secession negotiations, in both informal talks that begin in the aftermath of a vote to leave, and formal talks that begin after our Article 50 notification.
The issue is settled. Spreading fear amongst expats is now the reserve of barrel scraping social media campaigners, with even Europhile think tank British Influence conceding the lack of credibility to this argument:
“General principles of EU law concerning legitimacy and legal certainty as laid down in the Treaty of Lisbon presuppose that the UK and the EU would be required, or at least strongly recommended by civil servants, diplomats and government lawyers, to agree on the protection of acquired rights…”
The report concludes that it is likely a transitional agreement will be achieved, but even if one did not materialise, or if the transitional agreement had problematic “gaps”, acquired rights are covered my international law:
“International law should be sufficient to protect acquired rights. For example, under the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, while parties to a treaty can be released from future obligations by withdrawing from the agreement, rights and obligations acquired under the same treaty are not affected”.
Stop lying to expats. They have nothing to fear from Brexit.