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BREXIT

Sign up for The Local’s Brexit & You newsletter

How will Brexit affect Denmark, a close ally of Britain in the EU, and the other EU nations? Sign up for The Local's 'Brexit & You' newsletter.

Sign up for The Local's Brexit & You newsletter
Photo: AFP PHOTO / Daniel LEAL-OLIVAS/Scanpix

On March 29th 2019 Britain will almost certainly leave the EU. Sign up to The Local's Brexit & You newsletter for the latest on how Britain's departure is affecting the EU's remaining 27 member states – and the Brits living in them.

Brexit & You will be your weekly guide to how the 27 remaining member states of the EU are preparing for the exit of one of the union's largest and most recalcitrant members.

Every Friday, multilingual correspondent Alex Macbeth will bring you weekly news and reflections from around Europe.

What we won't do is give you yet another take on the Brexit negotiations in Brussels (the latest round ended on Thursday, and was 'constructive' according to EU negotiator Michel Barnier), Theresa May's rows with her colleagues or Labour's attempts to paper over the cracks in its Brexit policy. What we will do is tell you how the rest of Europe is dealing with a situation that it didn't ask for, but is having to confront – and how Brits on the continent are managing.

And we're going to strive to make it constructive: Brexit might be bad news for many of us, but we're going to keep this practical and (mostly) non-whiny.

Below you can read the first edition. If you like what you read, sign up here to get it in your inbox every Tuesday.

Busting a move: A sneaky guide to cheating Brexit

The rights of British citizens in the EU and vice-versa are at stake in the Brexit negotiations. But how can Brits continue to live and do business in the EU after Brexit, regardless of the outcome?

Brits who didn't know what the European Union was before Brexit are going to find it much harder to discover the continent after.

Brexit melts away the privilege of moving seamlessly to and between Britain's estranged EU cousins.

If the awkward compound noun wasn't a term used to describe Britain's self-imposed European exile it could easily be the name of a toilet bowl cleaner or a Brazilian mining company.

Whatever it turns out to be, it will throw a spanner in the plans of 1.2 million or so Brits living in 25 Schengen states.

While nobody is getting kicked out of anywhere until at least 2019, Brits may well find they need to fulfil several conditions to haggle an invite to the European Union's free-for-all house party – the Schengen Zone – thereafter.

Phrasebooks, a taste for strange cheeses and basic differentiation of euro coins are enough to surf Europe now, but Brits are going to find their access to the continent heavily restricted after Brexit.

The worst news is it may yet take both sides of politicians in the Brexit negotiations another 18 months to decide who can live where and how.

Britain has suggested two-to-five-year residency terms for EU residents in the UK after Brexit; voices in the EU have said Brits may be able to obtain residency in one EU country but without the Schengen privileges of moving without a visa or a passport to another.

Some EU countries however are already actively recruiting British citizens. Estonia has launched How To Stay In, a website geared towards Brits with information on how to establish an EU company through the country's e-residence programme.

“The Brexit referendum led to a sharp increase in applications for e-Residency from the UK, with twice as much demand as before the referendum,” Arnaud Castaignet, head of Estonia's E-Residency Programme, told The Local. “We currently have 1,307 e-residents from the UK,” adds Castaignet. “We surpassed 1,000 in the week that Article 50 was triggered.”

The British e-residents have so far established 103 companies in Estonia without having to relocate from the UK. Estonia's e-residency programme offers global citizens the opportunity to set up a company online for €100 and benefit from being able to trade as an EU company.

Online residency will help your goods reach Europe, but you yourself will only be there virtually as the program does not entail the right to actually live in Estonia.

Malta will however actually let you move to its warm Mediterranean shores, albeit for an annual fee of €15,000, or just over €41 per day.

Anybody wanting to move to the archipelago will need to either rent a place for a minimal annual value of €8,750 or buy an outright property at no less than €220,000, according to Zentura Ltd, a consultancy firm that facilitates applications for Maltese residency and citizenship.

If you have the money and are willing to spend it, most countries will offer residency, or even citizenship, as part of an investor program. Cyprus has allegedly been selling passports to pretty much anyone who can afford one, reported The Guardian, while Greece, Bulgaria, Croatia and Romania will all be happy to play host if you buy a house worth at least €250,000.

Or you could make a hefty investment; buy a second division football club or fund an innovative chain of hairdressers in your country of choice.

Don't fancy the hefty price tag or the bad hair days? Germany will give you a passport for a mere €255. But only once you've lived in the country for eight years.

Can Brexit help Sweden discover the next PayPal or TransferWise?

Sweden hopes to cash in on the fintech exodus from London.

One country's loss is another's gain. Stockholm has set its sights on picking up some of the fintech business that experts predict London is set to lose.

Cobcoe's report outlines several ‘services' sectors threatened by Brexit. Financial services, as well as back office data, call centres and data storage are key areas where the UK will have to realign fast or risk seeing key companies relocate to Europe from hubs such as London and Cambridge.

Fintech, or technology and software used to enable banking and financial services, is another. The UK is still the leader in the sector in 2017, according to a report by CBS Insights. But the same report warns that “fintech insurgents” could cash in on the UK's loss, with Sweden and France most poised to inherit sections of the financial technology market.

The Stockholm Fintech Hub is one such nascent player looking to wrestle business away from the UK in the highly-profitable start up sector. The 226 organizations in the Swedish fintech sector have attracted more than €750 million in funding already and employ more than 3,000 people, according to a recent post by Matthew Argent, founder of the Stockholm Fintech Hub.

“I have witnessed a seismic shift in activity within fintech in Sweden since we launched in February 2017,” writes Argent. “The country's tech unicorns are putting the country on the map as a viable destination for investment and this is influencing the fintech sector.”

Sum Up ready to pack up and leave London

Britain's fintech sector is nervous and some of the leading figures have already decided to relocate.

The founder of Sum Up, Daniel Klein, told Munich's Süddeutsche Zeitung he would be relocating the financial services provider from London to “elsewhere” because of fears about Brexit.

Sum Up, which employs more than 500 people, creates technology to authenticate chip card transactions (Visa, Mastercard etc). The company is UK-based and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).

It operates in 31 countries and fears that with the UK out of the single market, it could lose its automatic access to many European markets and become a victim of regulatory divergence.

While London remains the fintech capital of Europe, with more than 1 billion invested into the sector alone in 2017, some of the 1600 or so companies that employ 60,000 people – according to the report – are beginning to fret about Brexit.

David Thomas of Cobcoe says talent must be protected in the Brexit negotiations because “if Europe loses this incredible pool of talent the damage to the economy is going to be immense.”

German trade guru: “I doubt Brexit will ever happen”

If a German business expert is to be believed, then there'll be no need to learn Maltese or file tax returns in Estonian to live on the Costa Brava.

“Agh, Brexit, it is all verbal so far; I doubt it will ever actually happen,” said Anton Börner, president of BGA, The Federation of German Wholesale, Foreign Trade and Services, calling a hard Brexit's bluff in an interview with German daily Die Welt.

Börner based his doubts on the endurance of the UK economy and the resistance of stock markets to Brexit speculation.

“Market leaders assume that Brexit takes place in politicians' speeches, but not in reality,” added Börner. “Whatever comes will be strongly cushioned in order not to overwhelm the economy.”

British Ambassador slammed by Brits in France over Brexit

The British Ambassador to France has been on the sharp end of criticism from UK citizens in the country, who aren't buying his reassurances over Brexit.

British envoy Edward Llewelyn posted a video on the embassy's Facebook page in an attempt to update Brits in France on the ongoing Brexit negotiations and to stress there was good news to report back on the progress being made.

But the reaction was overwhelmingly hostile:

“The intransigence of the UK government is making people ill, we are being treated like bargaining chips,” one angry Brit commented, The Local France writes.

If you want to give your local British Ambassador a grilling, see the listings below for Embassy Brexit events (but before you get too angry, remember that diplomats are only doing the government's bidding!).

Brexit news on The Local this week:

France is cutting taxes on bankers to woo companies leaving the UK: France cuts taxes on bankers to woo Britain's Brexit leavers.

US bank Citi has applied for a licence in France for activities it plans to move out of the UK post-Brexit, according to an executive.

Anglo-Swedish drug maker AstraZeneca has started making preliminary preparations for moving some operations out of the UK in the event of a hard Brexit, chairman Leif Johansson said this week.

Frankfurt could be one of the big winners of Brexit. We've put together some interesting facts about Germany's financial capital: 10 facts you probably didn't know about Frankfurt (even if you live there)

Brexit events to watch

Belgium

Brussels
Wednesday October 25th at 18:00-21:30
Practical Brexit II. A meeting to enable individuals to obtain some guidance on aspects of Brexit. Speakers include UK Ambassador Alison Rose
Language: English
Location: ING Auditorium, Avenue Marnixlaan 24, 1000 Brussels.
Organizers: Brussels British Community Association & British Chamber of Commerce in Belgium

Germany

Badan Badan
Thursday October 19th at 18:30-22:00Brexit – Ignorieren oder Reagieren (Brexit – Ignore or React?)
Language: German
Location: Hotel am Froschbächel, Henri-Dunant-Platz 2, 77815 Bühl.
Organizer: Small businesses association of the CDU / CSU (political organisation – centre right).
More info

Cologne
Friday November 17th, 18:00
Europäische Außen- und Sicherheitspolitik – nach dem Brexit (European Foreign and Security Policy, after Brexit)
Language: German
Location. Europäisches Dokumentationszentrum USB, Universitätsstr. 33, 50931 Köln
Organizer: Europe Direct, Köln.
More info

Königswinter
October 12th at 19:00–20:30
Brexit means Brexit, a lecture in cooperation with the association for the partnership between Königswinter and North-East Lincolnshire.
Language: German
Location: VHS Siebengebirge (College), Königswinter
Organizer: VHS Siebengebirge
More info

Sweden

Örebro
October 25th, 15:00
How you're affected by Brexit, a seminar on how companies with relations with the UK will be affected by Britain leaving the EU.
Location: PwC, Fabriksgatan 47, Örebro
Language: English
Organizer: PwC Örebro
More info

Netherlands

Various Locations
Open Forums for British nationals in the Netherlands, hosted by the British Embassy:
Language: English
Organizer: British Embassy, The Hague.

Rotterdam – October 5th
More info

Maastricht – October 10th
More info

Eindhoven – October 10th
More info

Arnhem/Oosterbeek – October 19th
More info

Amsterdam – October 24th
More info

Norway

Stavanger
November 15th, 8:30am
Global morgen: Brexit. A talk by Espen Aas, NRK's London correspondent.
Location: Sølvberget, Stavanger kulturhus, Sølvberggata 2, Stavanger.
Language: Norwegian.
Organizer: Internasjonalt Kulturnettverk, Sølvberget
More info

Denmark

Copenhagen
November 23rd, 17:00
EU, Europa, Alternativet, UK Og Brexit (The EU, Europe, Alternativet, the UK and Brexit)
Language: Danish
Organizer: Alternativet (The Alternative, a green political party)
More info

Hobro
December 5th, 19:00
Brexit v Casper Pedersen
Language: Danish
Organizer: VU (Venstres Ungdom) Mariagerfjord (local youth section of the Danish Liberal Party)
More info

Do you know of a Brexit related event in the EU 27 that The Local should know about? E-mail [email protected].

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For members

BREXIT

Is new court ruling the end for Britons fighting to remain EU citizens?

The Court of Justice of the European Union confirmed on Thursday that Brexit really does mean that Britons are no longer EU citizens. Claudia Delpero looks at whether there's any other way they can keep their rights.

Is new court ruling the end for Britons fighting to remain EU citizens?

The Court of Justice of the European Union confirmed on Thursday that Britons lost EU citizenship when the UK left the EU, on 1st February 2020. 

It is the first time the EU’s top court has rules on the matter, after a number of legal cases challenged this specific Brexit outcome. The decision also sets a precedent should other countries decide to leave the bloc in the future. 

What has the EU Court decided?

The Court of Justice decided on a case brought by a British woman living in France.

Before Brexit, she could vote and stand as a candidate in her town of residence, Thoux. But after the UK withdrawal from the EU, she was removed from the electoral roll and excluded from the municipal elections that took place in March 2020, during the transition period.  

As the mayor refused her appeal to restore the registration, she took the case to the regional court in Auch, which agreed to request an interpretation of the rules to the EU top court. 

Julien Fouchet, the barrister supporting her and several other cases on the EU citizenship of British nationals, argued that the loss of EU citizenship and voting rights was disproportionate. It would also be contrary to the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, given that the woman also lost her voting rights in the UK, having lived abroad for more than 15 years.

Alice Bouillez, who has lived in France since 1984 and is married to a French national, could have applied for French citizenship, but did not do so because she said “this was not necessary” before Brexit and, as a former UK official, she had taken an oath of allegiance to the Queen.

On Thursday the Court of Justice announced the decision about her case. The court ruled that the “possession of the nationality of a member state is an essential condition for a person to be able to acquire and retain the status of citizen of the Union and to benefit fully from the rights attaching to that status.”

The court therefore confirmed that British nationals automatically lost their EU citizenship as a result of Brexit and, as a consequence, Britons also lost their voting and electoral rights in municipal elections in the EU (unless the country where they live set different rules). 

What is EU citizenship?

EU citizenship was introduced by the Treaty of Maastricht of 1992, when borders were opening and the bloc was integrating economically after the end of the Cold War. 

Under the treaty, every person holding the nationality of an EU member state is a citizen of the Union. EU citizenship is additional and does not replace nationality, the treaty specifies. But this creates the first form of a transnational citizenship that grants rights across borders.

EU citizens have the right to access each other’s territory, job market and services under the principle of non-discrimination. If they are economically active, they have the right to reside in other EU states and be joined by family members, access healthcare at the same conditions of nationals (for emergency treatment also when travelling temporarily), obtain social security benefits and see their professional qualifications recognised.

Beyond free movement, at the core of EU citizenship there are also political rights, such as participating in the European Parliament election, voting and standing as candidates in municipal elections when living in other EU countries, receiving consular protection from other EU states outside the EU, and taking part in European Citizens’ Initiatives asking to the EU to legislate on certain matters. 

Which EU citizenship rights have Britons lost with Brexit? 

For British citizens who were living in the EU before Brexit, the Withdrawal Agreement protects some of these rights. Britons covered by deal have their residence, access to work and education, healthcare, social security and qualifications secured, but only in the country where they were living before Brexit.

But the right to free movement in other EU states, consular protection in third countries, and the political rights attached to EU citizenship were lost, the Court confirmed. 

For British citizens in the UK, the trade and cooperation agreement has preserved some social security rights and, in theory, the possibility to have professional qualifications recognized when moving to an EU country. These provisions however lack details and may take a long time before they work in practice. 

As the “European Union” no longer features on British passports, the possibility to access EU lanes at airports to skip passport control queues has also vanished. 

“The loss of those treasured rights has been clear to those of us living in the EU from the early days of Brexit. But for Brits in the UK, the realities of life outside the EU, and the consequences of Brexit, are only just dawning. Long queues at the borders, roaming charges, obstacles to working abroad, etc. are the new reality,” said Sue Wilson, Chair of the group Remain in Spain. 

While she said the court’s decision was “no real surprise,” she argued that “this is not the Brexit the public were promised, or that the majority voted for.”

Can British citizens get some of these rights back?

Julien Fouchet was disappointed at the Court decision and promised to continue the legal fight, bringing the case at the European Court of Human Rights (which is not an EU institution). 

Other two cases on the matter of EU citizenship for British nationals are still pending at the Court of Justice of the EU. One of them aims to determine whether EU citizenship is a “fundamental status” that cannot be removed but Thursday’s decision could have already provided the answer.

Another option to reconsider some of the rights is the renegotiation of EU-UK trade agreement, when it will be reviewed in 2025. 

Meanwhile, the EU is revising the rules for non-EU citizens living in EU countries on a long-term basis, making it easier to move across borders. 

Applying for citizenship is so far the only option to regain voting rights, although not all EU countries allow dual nationality. 

Sue Wilson, who has long campaigned for the UK to stay in the EU, said: “There is only one way to restore the loss of our rights, and that’s to rejoin the single market, rejoin the customs union, and eventually, rejoin the European Union… Until that day, we will continue to be second class citizens whose rights have been diminished for the sake of an ideology.”

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