British MP to Danish PM: Let expats stay

Tim Farron, leader of the British Liberal Democrat party, has sent an open letter to seven European leaders including Denmark's Lars Løkke Rasmussen calling for British expats to be treated fairly after Brexit.

British MP to Danish PM: Let expats stay
Pro-EU supporters in Green Park, London on 9th July 2016. Photo: Daniel Leal-Olivas/Scanpix DK
Farron, the strongly pro-Remain leader of the centre-left Liberal Democrat Party, the UK's third largest, declared shortly after the referendum that his party would base its next election campaign on halting Brexit and keeping Britain in the EU.
Now the Lib Dem MP has reached out to what he called his 'liberal colleagues' to ask for their support in protecting the interests of overseas EU citizens.
Farron has also called for the British government – which sees its leadership change hands from David Cameron to Theresa May on Wednesday – to agree that EU nationals should be allowed to remain in the UK following the referendum.
The Liberal Democrats will next week propose a bill aiming to offer such protection to EU citizens living in the UK, the party announced on its website on Tuesday.
In the open letter, Farron calls for Europe's liberal leaders for their support in 'campaigning for the rights of all British citizens who are residing in Europe to [have the right to stay] in the same circumstances' as EU citizens in Britain.
“Brits working and living abroad are worried about what comes next,  I am calling on these Prime Ministers to join me and offer a clear plan that nothing needs to change. I believe our nations are better and richer for this diversity and I am calling on my liberal colleagues to keep making the case,” said Farron in a statement on the Lib Dems' website.
As well as Rasmussen, Farron addressed the open letter to six other European leaders including Mark Rutte of the Netherlands, who also currently holds the EU's rotating presidency. The open letter was additionally sent to the prime ministers of Belgium, Finland, Slovenia, Estonia and Luxembourg.
The political unrest across the North Sea has seen a swell in Danish support for the EU following June's Brexit vote.
Farron's statement and letter in full can be found here.


Brexit: Brits in EU feel European and don’t want to return home

The majority of Britons who live in the EU, Norway, Iceland or Switzerland and are protected under the Brexit agreement feel European and intend to remain in Europe permanently, but many have concerns about travel problems, a new survey reveals.

Brexit: Brits in EU feel European and don't want to return home

The research also shows that problems exist and “travel is where most issues relating to the new status currently occur”. For instance, border officials are still stamping passports of UK citizens with residence rights under the EU UK withdrawal agreement, even though they shouldn’t.

“There is constant confusion around passport stamping. I was ‘stamped in’ to France on a short trip… but could not find anyway to be ‘stamped out’ again. I think I can only spend 90 days in other EU countries, but have no idea how anyone can check or enforce that – until someone decides to try. It’s a mess,” was one of the answers left in an open question.

“Every time I go through a Schengen border control, I need to provide both my passport and Aufenthaltstitel card [resident permit in Germany] and watch to check that they don’t stamp my passport. As I am currently travelling a lot that’s been 20-odd times this year…” another respondent said.

The survey was carried out by Professor Tanja Bueltmann, historian of migration and diaspora at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, between October and November 2022. About 1,139 UK citizens replied.

Of these, 80 per cent found acquiring their new status easy or very easy, 60.7 per cent feel their rights are secure, while 39.3 per cent have concerns about their status going forward.

Staying permanently

More than three quarters (76.6 per cent) of respondents said they plan to live permanently in the EU or the other countries of the European Economic Area and Switzerland. In fact, 65.7 per cent said that Brexit has increased the likelihood of this choice.

For some, the decision is linked to the difficulty to bring non-British family members to the UK under new, stricter immigration rules.

“My German wife and I decided we no longer wanted to live in UK post Brexit referendum. In particular, we were affected by the impact of immigration law […] We cannot now return to UK on retirement as I cannot sponsor her on my pension. We knew it was a one-way journey. Fortunately, I could revive an application for German citizenship,” was a testimony.

“My husband is a US citizen and getting him a visa for the UK was near impossible due to my low income as a freelance journalist. We realized under EU law, moving to an EU country was easier. We settled on Austria as we had both lived there before… we could speak some German, and we like the mountains,” said another respondent.

Professor Bueltmann noted that the loss of free movement rights in the EU could be a factor too in the decision of many to stay where they are.

Citizenship and representation

Among those who decided to stay, 38.2 per cent are either applying or planning to apply for a citizenship and 28.6 per cent are thinking about it.

A key finding of the research, Bueltmann said, is that the vast majority of British citizens do not feel politically represented. Some 60 per cent of respondents said they feel unrepresented and another 30 per cent not well represented.

Another issue is that less than half (47.5 per cent) trust the government of their country of residence, while a larger proportion (62 per cent) trust the European Union. Almost all (95.6 per cent) said they do not trust the UK government.

Feeling European

The survey highlights the Brexit impacts on people’s identity too. 82.6 per cent of respondents said they see themselves as European, a higher proportion than those identifying as British (68.9 per cent).

“Brexit has really left me unsure of what my identity is. I don’t feel British, and I certainly don’t identify with the mindset of a lot of British people who live there. Yet, I am not Danish either. So, I don’t really know anymore!” said one of the participants in the survey.

Professor Bueltmann said the survey “demonstrates that Brexit impacts continue to evolve: this didn’t just stop because the transition period was over or a deadline for an application had been reached. Consequently, Brexit continues to shape the lives and experiences of British citizens in the EU/EEA and Switzerland in substantial, sometimes life-altering, ways.”

Considering the results of the study, Professor Bueltmann recommends policy makers in the EU and the UK to address the issue of lack of representation, for instance creating a joint UK-EU citizens’ stakeholder forum.

The report also recommends the UK government to rebuild trust with British citizens in the EU introducing voting rights for life and changing immigration rules to allow British-European families to return more easily. 

This article was prepared in cooperation with Europe Street News.