It is important to stay focused on the big picture, on the principled reasons for leaving the European Union. However, many people are — understandably — concerned about the potential impact on them personally.
We have close contacts with a number of British expatriates living in continental Europe. They are worried about whether they will still be able to live in France or Spain; about their continued access to healthcare; about whether they might even be forced to sell up and return to Britain. Cameron and his cronies are trying to exacerbate those fears, but without going so far as actually to endorse them. Because the fact is that those fears are groundless.
The key principle is that of executed rights, or acquired rights, as established in the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties. This provides that “Withdrawal from a treaty does not affect any right, obligation or legal situation of the parties created through the execution of the treaty prior to its termination”. All current ex-pats will continue to enjoy all the rights and freedoms which they chose to exercise before Britain decided to leave the EU. There will be no change to their situation, whatever the result of the referendum.
What of our children and grandchildren? What rights will they have? No-one can predict how the law might evolve in the future. But continued access to the EU Single Market will imply continued freedom of movement. And Britons have lived happily in France, Spain, Portugal, Italy for generations past. Why otherwise is the Promenade des Anglais in Nice so-called?