Two million British people living abroad will be left in legal limbo if Britain decides to withdraw from the European Union.
Brexit would make validating the rights of Britons living in the EU and of EU citizens resident in Britain “complex and daunting,” a cross-party parliamentary report warns, according to The Guardian.
Negotiations may have to be extended beyond the deadline of two years, although the European parliament and individual member states could put at risk any extension of the process, according to the House of Lords European Union committee.
Peers suggest that it would take between four and nine years to reach an agreement on a trade deal with the EU.
The British people will vote June 23 on whether to maintain the country’s 43-year membership of the EU. Many opinion polls have so far said the result of the vote is too close to call.
Despite the UK government’s assertion that the referendum vote will be final, the report notes that it would still be possible to reverse a decision to leave the EU, for instance, if there was a change of government.
The 19-member committee, chaired by the former Conservative MP Lord Boswell of Aynho, refused to comment on Brexit.
Their review is the result of testimony from two senior lawyers, Sir David Edward, a former judge at the court of justice of the European Union, and Prof Derrick Wyatt QC, emeritus professor of law at Oxford University.
“There is nothing in article 50 [the only exit route to leave the treaty on EU] formally to prevent a member state from reversing its decision to withdraw in the course of the withdrawal negotiations. The political consequences of such a change of mind would, though, be substantial,” the committee said in its conclusions.
“The European parliament’s right not to give its consent to the adoption of the withdrawal agreement would give it considerable influence. One of the most important aspects of the withdrawal negotiations would be determining the acquired rights of the 2 million or so UK citizens living in other member states, and equally of EU citizens living in the UK. This would be a complex and daunting task.”
Wyatt said that “for every example in the UK there is an example of a UK citizen elsewhere. We would want to tidy that up.”
An online poll conducted last week for The Independent found that the British public is split 50/50 on whether to stay or leave the European Union.