On the eve of Great Britain leaving the European Union on the 29th of March as Brexit looms ever closer we caught up with the British Ambassador to the Republic of Croatia, Andrew Dalgleish, to discover what the future could bring for the relationship between Croatia and the UK. “Croatian citizens living in the UK needn’t worry if the UK leaves without a deal because the government has foreseen measures to make sure they are looked after,” stated the Ambassador. But the British government “is putting every effort it can into getting a deal.” The Brexit future for the UK has two possible outcomes, at least at this moment in negotiations, a deal or a no deal scenario, which would each bring differing questions and solutions for citizen rights.
After the UK leaves the European Union on the 29th of March with Brexit how, in the case of a “no deal” scenario, will this affect the status of Croatian citizens living in Great Britain?
The Prime Minister has been really clear about this issue right from the start of Brexit negotiations, citizens shouldn’t have to be negotiating pawns, because it’s people’s lives and livelihoods that really matter. And again as we come to the end of the negotiations, the Prime Minister has been clear that whatever happens, Croatians, like other European Union citizens who are resident legally in the UK, can basically expect to be treated exactly the same as they were before the 29th of March. Croatians shouldn’t see any change to the status in the UK immediately. This is a genuine indication of how much the UK values the EU citizens that reside in Great Britain. Irrespective of what other EU members do to reciprocate, the Prime Minister has made her stance clear. After the 29th of March, EU citizens will be able to continue living in the UK with all the social services, health care and education as they had beforehand and then we’ll see which way the negotiations go further. There are processes in place to explain to citizens after Brexit how they continue in the future and to make sure that they are looked after.
It is important to say that there two likely Brexit outcomes at this moment in time, a deal and no deal, and whichever option is adopted will effect what will happen on the 29th of March?
Yes, the British government is absolutely committed and is putting every effort it can into getting a deal. Exactly what that deal looks like we’ll see. But it’s fully clear for the government that leaving with a deal is the best outcome. However, we are also a responsible government which means that we have to prepare for a scenario that we don’t want to see but which might happen. This is why we want to assure Croatian citizens living in the UK that they needn’t worry if the UK leaves without a deal because the government has foreseen measures to make sure they are looked after.
Regardless if there is a deal or no deal how will Brexit affect your role as Ambassador?
Of course, it already has affected my role as Ambassador. I was appointed to my role in Croatia before the referendum had even been held in the UK, in fact I arrived in Zagreb three weeks after the referendum. Of course this meant that all of my preparations changed overnight. But Brexit is a reality and we are facing up and dealing with it. The relationship that the UK and Croatia have has existed longer outside the European Union that it is inside the European Union. Brexit will of course present challenges, because many of the things our two nations do at the moment are done around the table in Brussels. But it also presents opportunities, because a lot of our energy is consumed in the Brussels machinery. Because we won’t be at the table in Brussels anymore, we are going to be making a lot more effort in the future to speak directly between London and Zagreb than perhaps we did in the past, so there are opportunities there.
How are the negotiations with the Croatian government progressing, in the case of a no deal, as far as rights for British citizens living here?
Prime Minister May made it completely clear at the beginning of negotiations that the government would look after the rights of EU citizens living in the UK after the 29th of March and we hope that every other member state will reciprocate. The European Commission have stated that they hope that there will be a generous offer made to British citizens by EU Member States after Brexit, however it is up to each state to figure out their own offer. So these are discussions we are having with not just Croatia but all other Member States. Of course the Croatian government, like the UK government, wants to get to a deal scenario. It is important to understand that in the case of a no deal then there are lots of technical questions that need to be answered, from what it means to be legally resident here to access to health services and so on. All of these things require careful preparation and that’s what we are working on with the Croatian government at the moment.
Do you think that there will be any aftershocks from Brexit for the Croatian tourism industry?
There is no intention on any side of the discussion to make the lives of people more difficult, and going on holiday is a natural thing that people want to do. No government in this discussion is saying that obstacles should be put up to make tourism more difficult in the future. Of course if we have a deal then every party and country knows where they stand. In the event of a no deal situation, we have to make sure that the technical questions are solved so that Brits can come into Croatia on holiday, which is the intention of both the UK and Croatia.. I don’t see any likelihood that there will be any problems in the future as long as we all do our jobs in the meantime.