Roger Boaden is a cofounder of ECREU, a France-based citizens group which is championing the rights of British citizens abroad with regard to Brexit negotiations. ECREU belongs to British in Europe (BiE)- the umbrella group set up by Jane Golding, a British lawyer living in Germany, of which Bremain in Spain is also a member.
For 30 years Roger worked for former UK prime ministers Ted Heath and then Margaret Thatcher as their election campaigns manager and was the Conservative Party European elections officer for the first direct elections to the European Parliament in 1979.
Despite saying that he is “critical” of some aspects of the EU, Roger considers himself “European.” He says he is “of the generation who helped to reconcile differences” with Germans following World War Two and spent time in Germany before the Berlin wall was built as well as while it was still standing.
He moved to France with his wife 15 years ago and is considering moving to Spain. However, with uncertainty over rights post Brexit, a move from one EU country to another looks set to be complicated by the British government's plans for EU citizens living in the UK having to apply for 'settled status.'
We first (and last) spoke shortly after the referendum when citizens' groups were starting to mobilise. What has happened since then?
ECREU, along with other groups like Bremain in Spain have joined forces and now belong to the umbrella group, British in Europe. I am on the BiE steering committee and we have managed to meet regularly with European politicians, including Michel Barnier, who told us that his “door is always open.” Unfortunately we haven't been able to get a meeting with David Davis and have only been able to speak to junior ministers and civil servants.
We have been told that our rights as UK citizens living in the EU will be protected post Brexit. Does this give us some sense of hope?
There has been some progress, yes, particularly in terms of health care and pensions for those who are already retired. But figures show that over 70 per cent of UK citizens living in the EU are still working and the next round of negotiations, on trade, are going to be crucial in terms of recognition of qualifications and those who are self-employed. There is still a great deal of uncertainty.
You mentioned that you and your wife are considering moving to Spain.
Yes, we're 50/50 over the decision. As EU citizens we currently enjoy freedom of movement and the right to live where we want in the EU. However, with the potential for bilateral agreements between the UK and individual governments after Brexit, because of the UK's 'settled status' programme, it could well be a lot more difficult to move from one EU country to another. We could become landlocked. We'd have the right to reside in the country we're already living in, but moving to another could be very complicated.
With just over a year to go until 'Brexit Day' what are BiE's priorities?
To keep campaigning. Now that the negotiations are moving to trade there is a danger that citizens' rights will be sidelined and we can't allow that to happen.