How Brexit Will Affect British Nationals & Trade In The EU

&l;p&g;&l;img class=&q;dam-image getty size-large wp-image-1128676901&q; src=&q;https://specials-images.forbesimg.com/dam/imageserve/1128676901/960×0.jpg?fit=scale&q; data-height=&q;721&q; data-width=&q;960&q;&g; The U.K. leaving the European Union in an illustration. (Photocredit: Getty).

Preparing for the worst but hoping for the best might be an apt description of how some nations in central and eastern Europe (CEE) and across the continent are looking at Britain&a;rsquo;s exit from the European Union (EU), which is scheduled to happen next month on March 29.

Of course, it might not happen if one believes that there will be another twist or two in proceedings before then. But it&a;rsquo;s certainly a tight run in with some 36 days to go to what is being dubbed &a;ldquo;B-day.&a;rdquo; Some pundits on the &a;ldquo;Remain&a;rdquo; side argue that a second referendum is needed to resolve the impasse.

As matters were coming to another head as Theresa May, Britain&a;rsquo;s prime minister, went to the EU on a mission for further concessions, elsewhere in the EU some governments were making moves to deal with the fallout for their citizens as well as British nationals residing in other Members states.

Against the backdrop, late this January the Czech government was seeking to approve a bill that would protect the rights of British nationals living in the Czech Republic for a transition period &l;em&g;up until the end of December 2020 &l;/em&g;- in the scenario that the U.K. leaves the European Union (EU) with a &a;ldquo;No Deal.&a;rdquo;

The bill, which Jan Ham&a;aacute;&a;#269;ek, Interior Minister and leader of the&a;nbsp;&l;a href=&q;https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Czech_Social_Democratic_Party&q; target=&q;_blank&q;&g;Czech Social Democratic Party&l;/a&g; (&a;#268;SSD), has recently been lobbying hard to get approved in a fast-track legislative process, would ensure that British nationals will have the same rights as all EU citizens. The aim is to secure approval in both houses of parliament and be signed into law by the Czech president by March 29 at the latest.

The legislation concerns &l;em&g;&a;ldquo;18 spheres&a;rdquo; according to Czech Radio. The&l;/em&g;&l;em&g;y &l;/em&g;&l;em&g;include the conditions governing marriage, acquiring Czech citizenship, permanent residenc&l;/em&g;&l;em&g;y&l;/em&g;&l;em&g;, health and pension insurance and many other&l;/em&g;&l;em&g; areas&l;/em&g;&l;em&g;. &l;/em&g;

&l;a href=&q;https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nick_Archer&q; target=&q;_blank&q;&g;Nick Archer&l;/a&g;, British ambassador to the Czech Republic and a patron of the British Czech &a;amp; Slovak Association (&l;a href=&q;https://www.bcsa.co.uk/&q; target=&q;_blank&q;&g;BCSA&l;/a&g;) that was launched by Slovak politician Alexander Dub&a;#269;ek&l;em&g; back in 1990&l;/em&g;, welcomed the move on Twitter, stating that the Czech Republic&a;rsquo;s plan &a;ldquo;appears to be the most generous of proposals made so far by any other EU member state to protect the rights of British nationals.&a;rdquo;

&l;a href=&q;https://www.forbes.com/profile/andrej-babis/&q;&g;Andrej Babi&a;scaron;&l;/a&g;, the Czech Prime Minister since December 2017 and dubbed the Czech &a;ldquo;Donald Trump&a;rdquo; with an estimated net worth of $3.6 billion according to Forbes, presented &l;a href=&q;https://www.radio.cz/en/section/curraffrs/government-agrees-lex-brexit-extending-eu-rights-to-uk-nationals-until-end-of-2020&q; target=&q;_blank&q;&g;details of a bill&l;/a&g; earlier this month (4 February), which that he and his cabinet colleagues had agreed.

Ham&a;aacute;&a;#269;ek had said that if the legislation were not to be passed it could potentially threaten around &a;ldquo;40,000 Czechs&a;rdquo; currently residing in Britain. And, under current Czech laws, Britons would be in danger of losing access to the labor market and no longer being part of the local health and social systems.

Around 7,000 British nationals live in the Czech Republic today, while there are estimated to be up to 100,000 Czech nationals living and working in the U.K. Given that latter number, some MPs have expressed concern about Britain passing reciprocal legislation in time to offer similar protections.

By comparison, unofficial statistics indicate that there are some 90,000 Slovak emigrants in Britain. And, official sources have put 45% of Slovaks that live in the U.K. as working in administration, business and management.

&l;strong&g;Brexit Debate &a;amp; Landscape&l;/strong&g;

Angela Spindler-Brown, editor of the &l;a href=&q;https://www.bcsa.co.uk/british-czech-and-slovak-review/&q; target=&q;_blank&q;&g;British Czech &a;amp; Slovak Review&l;/a&g; based in London, commenting on the current landscape around Brexit said: &a;ldquo;Brexit negotiations are followed with a great interest in the Czech Republic, especially by those who have relatives and friends working in Britain. Apart from the economic&a;nbsp;issues, all Czechs appreciate visa free travel in Europe, which is seen as a great advantage given that such travel was not available under the Communist regime.&a;rdquo;

Prague-born Spindler-Brown, who came to London in 1968, further noted: &a;ldquo;Czech mass media and social media inform about Brexit negotiations and developments in Britain in detail. A number of correspondents report directly for Czech Radio and TV as well as the newspapers. Furthermore, Czech participation in the negotiations is always described and commented in a great detail.&a;rdquo;

But, as Spindler-Brown points out, many in the country comment in relation to the &a;ldquo;oversupply of news&a;rdquo; about Brexit&a;hellip;just like in Britain.&a;rdquo;

&l;strong&g;Slovak Republic &l;/strong&g;

&l;a href=&q;https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Pellegrini&q; target=&q;_blank&q;&g;Peter Pellegrini&l;/a&g;, the Slovak prime minister since March last year and who has previously served as Deputy Prime Minister for Investments and Informatization, has said according to &l;a href=&q;https://spectator.sme.sk/&q; target=&q;_blank&q;&g;The Slovak Spectator&l;/a&g; that the government there will have to intensify its steps in case the U.K. leaves the EU without any deal.

The Slovak prime minister underlined a possible impact on industry from such a scenario, the situation of Slovaks working in the U.K. and relations in aviation and railway sectors between Europe and Britain following a meeting with Michel Barnier, &a;nbsp;European Chief Negotiator for the U.K. exiting the EU, in Bratislava last November.

&l;strong&g;Trade Prospects&l;/strong&g;

In terms of trade impact, Slovak Pravda reported on February 4 that Slovakia could lose &a;euro;6 billion in the event of a hard Brexit. The nation&a;rsquo;s exports might be cut by some 60%, which would amount to &a;euro;4.5 billion a year.

The Czech Ministry of Finance was reported at the start of this February as indicating that if the U.K. leaves the EU without having reached a deal it would lead to poorer economic results in the Czech Republic. A no-deal Brexit would result in GDP growth of below 2.0% this year, between 0.6% and 0.8% less than would have otherwise have been expected.

The data is contained in a new Ministry of Finance prognosis quoted by the newspaper E15. Were Britain though to exit the EU with a deal the Czech economy is likely expand by 2.5% in 2019, according to ministry officials in Prague.

Earlier – in mid-January – leading Czech business daily &l;a href=&q;https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hospod%C3%A1%C5%99sk%C3%A9_noviny&q; target=&q;_blank&q;&g;Hospod&a;aacute;&a;#345;sk&a;eacute; noviny&l;/a&g; reported that a &a;ldquo;hard&a;rdquo; Brexit would lead to a decline – by around a fifth – in direct and indirect Czech exports to Britain and the loss of an &a;ldquo;estimated 40,000 jobs&a;rdquo; on the domestic market. This was the view of &l;a href=&q;https://www.csas.cz/en/about-us/who-we-are&q; target=&q;_blank&q;&g;&a;#268;esk&a;aacute; Spo&a;#345;itelna&l;/a&g;, the biggest Czech bank in terms of clients.

Exports to the U.K. from the Czech Republic are in fact more than 50% higher than official figures suggest. This is due to indirect exports sent to third countries (e.g. motor parts despatched to Germany) before being forwarded on to the U.K. that are worth some 210 billion Czech Koruna (CZK) – equivalent to c.$9.8 billion – according to David Navr&a;aacute;til, chief economist at &a;#268;esk&a;aacute; Spo&a;#345;itelna.

Czech exports to Britain in fact peaked in 2016, then reaching something over CZK 208 billions (c.$9.2 billion) , after which they stagnated due to concerns over Brexit. daily. But even a &a;ldquo;hard&a;rdquo; Brexit would not necessarily send the Czech economy into recession, Navr&a;aacute;til added.

In 2018 the Czech Republic saw 3% growth (down from 4.5% the year before) according to data released by the Czech Statistics Office, and was the slowest among the Visegrad 4 (V4) countries. Poland&a;rsquo;s growth came in at 5.1%, Hungary&a;rsquo;s 4.9% and Slovakia&a;rsquo;s 4.1%.

One reason for the Czech Republic seeing slower growth is a very mild expansionary economic policy compared to the other V4 nations, according to economic expert Miroslav Novak cited by Novinky.cz.

Last year, the Czech Republic was the only country in the Central European region to tighten its monetary policy by raising interest rates.&a;nbsp;Also given that the country&a;rsquo;s biggest trade partner, Germany, is teetering on the brink of recession is cited as another reason for the slowdown.

Around 900,000 British citizens are understood to be long-term residents of other EU nations, with the largest age grouping being between 30 to 49 years of age. According to the Office of National Statistics, the executive office of the U.K. Statistics Authority, the greatest number of British citizens (put at 308,805) live in Spain &a;ndash; with just under a third (c.101,045) of them being aged 65 years and over.

The Czech Republic&a;rsquo;s ambassador to Britain, Libor Se&a;#269;ka, remarked after his &l;a href=&q;https://www.hamhigh.co.uk/news/politics/czech-ambassador-libor-se-ka-talks-about-meeting-the-queen-and-collaborating-with-the-uk-1-4696070&q; target=&q;_blank&q;&g;first 100 days&l;/a&g; in the job that: &a;ldquo;Prior to the British Referendum we had very much hoped that the U.K. would decide to remain in the EU. From our perspective, it is important to stress that we have suffered from two world wars. And, for us a stable and guaranteed evolutionary peaceful development is important.&a;rdquo;

And, with those words in mind, I recalled &l;a href=&q;https://www.andrewadonistour.org/&q; target=&q;_blank&q;&g;Lord Adonis&l;/a&g;, the Labour peer and former Labour cabinet minister under Tony Blair, speaking a public meeting just this February in North London organized by &l;a href=&q;http://www.chippingbarnetfor.eu/about-us/&q; target=&q;_blank&q;&g;Chipping Barnet for EU&l;/a&g;, asserted: &a;ldquo;The EU is the greatest international venture for peace, prosperity and freedom in the history of civilization.&a;rdquo; While not all will agree, there have certainly been no major wars in Western Europe since the EU was established.

&a;nbsp;&l;/p&g;

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