Once Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union is triggered, Bucharest’s main objective in the negotiations for Brexit will be to make sure that the rights of the Romanian citizens working and studying in Great Britain are observed. According to the authorities’ estimates, over 250 thousand Romanians are in the UK for work and study. What is going to happen with the Romanian community, which is involved in all domains of life in Great Britain?
In an interview to Radio Romania, Cristian Mititelu, the head of the former Romanian-language section of the BBC, says there is no reason of concern for the time being: “Great Britain is still a member of the European Union and it will continue to be a member for at least two years from now, if not for a longer time. Probably an interim agreement will be negotiated until its effective exit from the EU. According to latest information, the Romanian citizens will continue to enjoy the same rights even after Brexit. Probably there will be domains in which requirements will be stricter and the citizens who come to the UK without labour contracts will be more vulnerable. Not having a labour contract is not a good idea, because they will not benefit from free-of-charge or quasi-free-of-charge medical care and from social welfare. Actually, the British minister in charge of negotiations says that, in the near future, emigration is expected to increase, and a control system for emigrants can only be established on the long term.”
Radu Cinpoeş, a senior lecturer with the Kingston University in London, the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, who specializes in politics, human rights and international relations, looks at Brexit rather pessimistically. The effects will certainly be felt, he says, first and foremost, in relation to labour restrictions and social welfare.
Radu Cinpoeş: “One way or another, everybody will be affected, all the EU citizens. It is clear that following negotiations, a process will be started to regulate the status of EU citizens. Although the British government did not want to provide guarantees related to the rights of these citizens, they will eventually work out a system that will allow those who are working in the UK to be able to continue to live their lives there. But that will entail certain costs, material costs and others. Probably in this regulation process, the EU citizens who are in Great Britain, the Romanian citizens included, will have to apply for British citizenship at a certain moment. At present, the costs entailed by naturalization applications stand at around 1,200 pounds sterling, which is not accessible to everyone. Besides that, by the time naturalization comes into effect, these citizens will lose certain rights, such as the right to unemployment benefits. Great Britain cannot renounce all these categories of people at once, simply because there are domains in the British economy that are supported by EU workers. For instance, the constructions industry, the medical system and healthcare assistance heavily rely on EU citizens.”
At present, according to official figures, there are about 3.3 million European citizens who work and live in the UK, says senator Gabriela Creţu, the president of the Committee for European Affairs.
She says that some of the EU citizens have double citizenship, so, they will not be affected by Brexit: “Foreigners in Great Britain do not have the same collateral labour rights guaranteed, as the UK citizens. Citizens who are hired on a labour contract have a number of other rights associated to the right to work, namely rights related to children education, to lifelong learning, to pension and unemployment. The first people affected by Brexit are those unemployed and those who, at that moment, will be involved in entrepreneurial activities, because they will also lose the right to provide services in another member state, a right which is regulated on the domestic market.”
There are many Romanians in this category of EU citizens who will lose the aforementioned rights. According to official figures estimated based on current negotiations the number of Romanian citizens stands at 237,000, but the real number is higher, senator Gabriela Creţu added.