Czech govt. official: UK must “very quickly” say how it will deal with EU residents

Theresa May, photo: CTK

UK Prime Minister Theresa May has outlined uncompromising plans for her country’s exit from the EU, including restricting workers from member states and quitting the common market. However, her speech on Tuesday has also raised a host of questions, particularly for people from other EU states currently resident in Britain. To get the Czech government perspective, I spoke to Tomáš Prouza, the state secretary for European affairs.

Theresa May,  photo: CTK
“Yesterday we heard what we expected to hear, i.e., the British wish-list of what they would like to achieve.

“But what we have not heard is what the British will put on the negotiating table. Especially how they will deal with people from Europe who already live in the UK and who are attacked, who are threatened and whose job security is being put in question.”

Do Czechs currently working in the UK have reason to worry about their futures, do you think?

“I think so. There’s an ever-increasing number of attacks, most of them verbal, but some of them physical.

“They also remember ideas from the Conservative Party conference that employers should publish lists of foreigners they employ.

“That of course has a very negative impact on how they are being treated. It puts a big question mark over whether they will be retained by employers – and that makes their life very uncomfortable.”

Tomáš Prouza,  photo: archive of Czech Government
Are you seeking reassurances from the UK government that they will protect people from the Czech Republic and other former Eastern European states?

“I think from all European states – this is not a question of Central and Eastern Europe versus Western Europe. There are hundreds of thousands of people from all over Europe.

“What we need to hear very quickly is how the British government will deal with these people – whether the rights that they have because they have been living in the UK and paying taxes there will be protected or not.

“Then we’ll have to see what that does to the situation of these people.”

A British friend of mine in Prague says he’s now planning to get Czech citizenship, so as to protect his future. Is that a wise move?

“Many Brits do that. When I speak to my colleagues from other European countries, they all report an increase in British citizens’ interest in having a European citizenship.

“Ireland of course is the prime example, but I hear that from many other countries in the EU.”

If the UK Parliament does approve Theresa May’s plans, what do you think will be the main impacts on trade between Britain and the Czech Republic?

“I don’t see any significant impact on trade. I think both sides do very well.

Photo: Public Domain
“A lot of the trade between our countries is based on the automotive industry, which is something you cannot change very quickly.

“So I assume there will be interest from everybody in keeping the trade going and that the touchy issues will be different: the status of both Brits in the EU and Europeans in the UK.

“The only thing I worry about is the speed by which we would have any new arrangement after this divorce is completed, three years from now.”