Brits in Denmark left shocked and concerned by Brexit
The Local spoke with a handful of British expats living in Denmark on Friday and not a single one was happy about the referendum result.
Published: 24 June 2016 14:58 CEST
British expats in Denmark were left feeling like these supporters of the 'Stronger In' campaign who watched the referendum result in London early on Friday. Photo: Rob Stothard/AFP/Scanpix
As British PM David Cameron resigned on Friday morning after he failed to convince the British people that it was better to remain a part of the EU, he reassured Brits living abroad “that there would be no immediate changes”.
But his words are hardly likely to soothe the estimated estimated two million Brits living in the EU, including around 12,000 in Denmark.
While no one will be asked to move home or even be made to apply for a visa or residency permit just yet, what is certain is that uncertainty will reign for the next two years, at least.
Cameron declined to trigger Article 50 of The Lisbon Treaty which would begin the painful two-year negotiation process for leaving the EU, preferring to leave it until his successor, which could well be Boris Johnson.
That negotiation process, whenever it begins, will be key to how life will or won't change for Brits living in Denmark or Danish people in the UK.
Stephanie Brickman and Simon Cooper
“A slap in the face”
The Local spoke to a handful of British expats in Denmark on Friday and they shared a sense of shock in the aftermath of the Brexit results.
“Waking up and seeing the result was surreal and I still don’t think it’s properly sunk in yet to be honest,” long-time Copenhagen resident Simon Cooper said.
“Being a Brit living in Denmark, my knee-jerk fear is for my status and rights living and working in an EU country, but we’ll wait to see how the intricacies and negotiations pan out,” he added.
For Scottish citizen Stephanie Brickman, the results were “like a slap in the face”.
“EU membership was a major consideration in the  Scottish referendum – stay or you will be out of the EU – was the message and now this. I am in a state of complete disbelief that this could even happen,” Brickman, a communications consultant from Edinburgh, told The Local.
“Leave voters will be disappointed”
British journalist Peter Stanners said he was left “devastated” by the results.
“There is no plan for how to leave so the uncertainty will have far reaching consequences. What's worse is the vote fuels nationalist voices across Europe. The entire European project is now threatened,” he said.
Stanners, who has lived most of his life in Denmark and is the editor-in-chief of The Murmur, said those celebrating Brexit should be careful what they wish for.
“The Leave campaign used misinformation and made promises they can't keep to paint a future that Britain can't have – economic prosperity outside the EU with controls on European migrants. Leave voters will be bitterly disappointed to discover that remaining a member of the single market will mean paying into the EU, applying laws they had no role shaping, and with limited ability to control migration,” he said.
Peter Stanners and Michael Booth
Things will get complicated…
Many expats now fear that the referendum results will have a direct and negative impact on the lives they’ve built up in Denmark.
“It seems naïve to think that this won’t affect my family’s ability to stay in Denmark longer term. I saw our move to from Edinburgh to Copenhagen as being no different to moving to London, but things will not be that simple in the future,” said Brickman, who has been in Denmark for five years.
Cooper, who works as a scientific communications assistant and has lived in Denmark for seven years, said that people like him were overlooked in the run-up to the referendum.
“In my opinion the Remain campaign didn’t do enough to highlight the two-way street of freedom of movement, that in a united Europe there are also Brits abroad who benefit from the same privileges as those upping sticks and settling there. It’s as if in the collective British consciousness we’re all simply living it up as sun-kissed retirees rather than being subject to the same stresses and strains, struggles, and realities of everyday life,” he said.
“A catastropher for everyone”
If it were up to British author Michael Booth, the referendum never would have been held at all.
“We should never have left a decision as important as this to the English provinces who are stubbornly in thrall to a print media largely owned by tax exiles and porn pedlars. It is a catastrophe for everyone, not just the UK, but Europe, and that of course includes Denmark,” he told The Local.
Booth, who wrote the best-selling book ‘The Almost Nearly Perfect People’, he wouldn’t be surprised if Denmark tried to hold a referendum next. Indeed, it was only a matter of hours after the UK referendum results were known that the first calls came in for Denmark to follow suit.
But he said he wasn’t overly concerned about the immediate impact on his life in Denmark.
“In personal terms, I tend not to worry about things over which I have little or no control. I'm going to join the local handball team and complete my integration into Danish society,” he joked.
How Brexit has changed life for Brits living in Denmark
Since Britain left the European Union, Brits living in Denmark have been deported, forced to change their jobs, and faced a long list of new bureaucratic hassles. Here are some of the problems our readers have highlighted.
Published: 6 March 2023 10:15 CET Updated: 6 March 2023 16:02 CET
But Brexit is still far from popular. A full 76 percent of the Britons in Denmark who responded to our survey said that Brexit had affected them either “quite” or “extremely” negatively (42.3 percent and 34.6 percent respectively).
Only one respondent said that their life had been very much improved.
Here are some of the ways people said Brexit had made life less convenient and more expensive.
Losing the right to stay in Denmark
William, an account manager based in Copenhagen, was deported from Denmark after failing to apply for post-Brexit residency in time and is even now trying to find out if the decision to deny him residency will be reversed and whether he might be entitled to compensation.
The Danish Agency for International Recruitment and Integration (SIRI) failed to send letters to as many as 1,800 British people informing them of the deadline.
“Siri failed to notify me of the requirement to update my status, I got deported and I experienced stress, anxiety and sickness due to the year-long application and appeals process,” he complained.
Denmark’s immigration minister Kaare Dybvad Bek said last month that the roughly 350 British nationals who risk losing their right to live in Denmark after missing the deadline to apply for a post-Brexit residency permit would get a reprieve. Bek said on February 10th that his department would “present a solution soon”.
“Siri have not yet decided what they will do regarding making changes to finalised decisions that were affected by the rejection of appeal,” William said.
For another British woman living in Copenhagen, Brexit means her UK-based husband can only visit her in Denmark for three months in every six month period, with his passport getting stamped every time.
“It’s usually enough, but if we wanted to visit France for a month that would count too,” she said.
Having to handle a work, residency, or study permit
Brits not eligible for post-Brexit residency now need to apply for a work permit, family reunion, or study permit to get residency in Denmark, which several of those answering the survey complained was difficult, costly and involved long delays.
“This is so annoying,” wrote one reader, who works in the pharmaceuticals industry. Registering for post-Brexit residency had been “a hassle”, agreed a music industry professional.
A 50-year-old woman from Scotland who married a Dane post-Brexit said her application for residency to come and live with him had been rejected on the first attempt, and that she had been so far unable to find a job.
“For two years, I’ve been living an uncertain life worrying about the future,” she said.
Susan, 41, said she found it frustrating not to be able to bring family members from the UK to live with her in Denmark.
Extra hassle getting personal number or bank account
Hannah said that it had taken significantly longer for her to get a Danish personal number (CPR) than it had for her Swedish husband and children.
“Getting CPR, bank accounts etc took a lot longer than rest of family, who are Swedish,” she complained, adding that she was as a result applying for Swedish citizenship.
Unable to get a long-term lease on a car or a monthly mobile phone contract
The pharmaceuticals industry professional blamed Brexit for his inability to get a car through private leasing, although one major car manufacturer told The Local that all that was required was to have a registered address in Denmark, a Danish social security number, and a good enough credit rating.
“I tried several private long-term leasing companies, but they simply told me that they couldn’t lease a car even though I work for a big pharmaceutical company with a permanent position,” he said. “The main problem is my work permit is of type J. If you leave the EU with the car, they wouldn’t know where to find you. Even if they knew when I was, the cost of prosecuting someone in a non-European country is too high.”
He also complained that he had been unable to get a monthly contract from his mobile phone provider meaning he could not upgrade to the new iPhone.
Problems keeping business going
David Darlington, 58, closed down his import and distribution company Food From Home after more than 18 years after Brexit, as it became too difficult to import British goods to Scandinavia.
“One of the reasons I lost my business was because of Brexshit,” he wrote in the survey.
Problems with post and customs charges
Almost everyone who answered the survey complained of the way Brexit had made sending and receiving post and parcels more difficult.
“I had to produce receipts for Easter eggs which my dad had sent to my children. The supermarket receipt wasn’t good enough and in the end I told them to return the parcel,” complained Matt, 47, a Brit with Danish citizenship.
“I’ve stopped ordering books and other items from Amazon UK because of uncertainties with tax regulations,” he added.
“My sisters have to watch the value of presents they send to my grandchildren to avoid paying import taxes,” said a woman living in Copenhagen.
Only people who got their licence after Brexit and who want to keep a higher category than a normal car license, entitling them to tow a heavy trailer, take more than eight passengers, or drive a truck or lorry, need to take a so-called “control test”.
Harder to buy a house
“Buying a house involved an extra approval from the ministry and adds additional restrictions,” complained AJ, pointing to the requirement that non-EU citizens apply to the Department of Civil Affairs for permission to buy property in Denmark.
“You have to prove you have strong ties to Denmark,” she said of the process. “We were lucky. We had a great lawyer who got us through it all and we received our approval from the Ministry in two weeks but some people wait up to 12 weeks and then lose their house.”
“I will have to give up my online teaching for a college in London because I’m not allowed to teach more than six weeks in another country,” complained the woman living in Copenhagen.
Queues at airport passport control
It can be maddening for Brits to be faced with a much shorter queue for EU citizens at airports in Denmark, while the queue for non-EU citizens edges forward painfully slowly.
Unable to live and work in other EU countries
“We only have the right to reside here. Much as we love Denmark, it’s a bit like being trapped,” complained AJ, one of many people who listed no longer being able to get a job in or move to another EU country as one of the major drawbacks.
Michael, a project manager in the wind industry, said that he faced problems as a result of the limits on how long her can work in other EU countries, with the 90/180 rules only enabling him to work 90 out of any one 180 day period in another EU country.
“Restrictions on travel throughout EU (90/180 rule. Border crossings and risk of stamps in passport that kick 90/180 rule in,” he said.
“The only way to regain my European rights fully is by becoming Danish and the rules on this seem to change quite frequently, so as a result life seems more precarious and uncertain,” said Liz, who lives in Zealand.
One recent retiree who had lived in Denmark for 25 years said she was annoyed that Brexit had lost her “my right to live, work, study, retire in the rest of the EU”, but that she had recently applied for and received Danish citizenship.
Uncertainty about retiring
“I am concerned about the future,” said Sandra. “When I retire will I still have the same rights or will I be told to leave?”.
Uncertainty about extending post-Brexit residency card
Under the EU withdrawal agreement, British citizens living in EU countries at the time Britain left the European Union were offered post-Brexit residency status indefinitely, but the certificates they were issued were only valid for five years, leaving many uncertain as to what happens when they try to renew.
“I expect to find it more difficult to obtain permanent residency on completion of the Article 51 Temp Residency I got in 2021,” wrote Ian.
For many respondents, the biggest change was emotional. Brexit has changed how comfortable and secure they feel living in Denmark.
“It feels different to be needing a resident’s card, rather than being more a ‘part of the European family’, with the feeling of being ‘on probation’ for remaining,” said Stephen.
“It makes me feel far away from daughter and friends,” said Caroline, a retiree.
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