The Church of England’s Diocese in Europe has begun exploring the implications that Britain’s decision to leave the European Union (EU) might have on British-national clergy deployed to the continent.
present, as members of the EU, British nationals – including clergy –
can travel, reside, and work in any of the other 27-member states
without requiring visas or work permits.
That may change when Britain
leaves the EU.
There are also questions about whether the reciprocal
health-care arrangements for citizens of EU member states will also
continue to apply to British nationals once the UK completes the
The decision to leave the EU was made by the British people in a
referendum last year with 52 per cent voting in favour of departure and
48 per cent voting to remain. Prime Minister Theresa May has said that
she intends to trigger Article 50 of the EU Treaty – the formal start of
a two-year exit negotiation period – by the end of March. This will
allow the UK to complete its exit before the next round of European
This week the country’s Supreme Court ruled
that, despite the referendum, the government could not trigger Article
50 using reserved executive powers known as the Royal Prerogative. The
justices ruled that an Act of Parliament, approved by both Houses of
Parliament, was required before the Article 50 notification could be
The shape of the implications of Brexit on British citizens in Europe
won’t be known until the conclusion of the negotiations on Britain’s
new relationship with the EU. But the Diocese in Europe is beginning the
process of exploring what the effects might be on its churches and
their members across the continent.
The diocesan bishop, Robert Innes, hosted a meeting last month
involving delegates from across the Diocese and British government
minister Lord Bridges. “Major concerns centre on future health provision
abroad and in the UK, pensions affected by the lower rate of exchange
for sterling, clergy recruitment and the problems of families with dual
nationality,” the Diocese in Europe explained on its website.
“I was personally very pleased that the Government, in the form of
Lord Bridges, was prepared to put a whole day in his diary to meet with
us. . . ” Bishop Robert said. “We were taken very seriously by the staff
at the UK Representation in Brussels, and it is staff in this building
who will be conducting the actual negotiations, so I do feel we have
been properly listened to, and by the right people.
“The event brought home to me the sheer range and complexity of the
issues that the government will have to sort out. It was very clear that
the biggest worries are over health care and pensions. Of course for me
as a bishop, I have particular concerns that the most vulnerable people
should not be placed in situations of real stress, uncertainty and
“I will want to keep up my own contacts with government as the actual
negotiations get underway to help ensure that the needs of people in
our diocese, who sadly risk being treated as negotiating chips in a
bigger game, are properly understood and respected.”