Around 200 of the over 18,000 British citizens living in Denmark turned up to hear about what Brexit would mean for them at a packed event hosted by the British Embassy in Copenhagen at the Danish Architecture Center on Thursday.
They heard from, and were able to question, a panel including British Ambassador Dominic Schroeder, Chris Jones from the Department for Exiting the EU, and Permanent Secretary for the Danish Ministry of Immigration and Integration Uffe Toudal.
Jones said there had been “significant progress” in the Brexit negotiations.
There “isn’t a cliff edge on March next year” when Brexit starts, the Brexit official insisted.
Amongst other things, a withdrawal agreement would ensure that British citizens who have lived in Denmark for five years would be granted a residence document and retain the right to reside in Denmark, people attending the meeting were informed.
UK nationals living in Denmark would receive health care and be treated equally with regard to higher education. Furthermore, their families would be able to stay together on the basis of current EU laws, Jones said.
“The UK government does not want or expect a no-deal outcome,” Jones argued, although he conceded that “if there is no deal then the legal text of the withdrawal deal falls away.”
One person sitting within earshot of The Local’s reporter was less optimistic, telling her friend that this was “a meeting about that we’re fucking up your life forever.”
This quiet outburst appeared to reflect the mood of several of those who asked the panel questions on topics ranging from movement within the EU to issues regarding Danish citizenship.
Others were more confused than hostile. A young man who had asked a question about Brexit and education told the ambassador that he was “quite confused. I get a bit of hopefulness from the British representatives and more realism from the Danes.”
Ambassador Schroeder, who became British ambassador to Denmark in August 2016, two months after the Brexit vote, told the audience that he understood that there is a high sense of uncertainty.
“But we can’t answer all your questions today because we haven’t finished negotiating yet," Schroeder said.
‘Brexit wasn’t invented in Denmark’
Permanent Secretary for the Danish Ministry of Immigration and Integration, Uffe Toudal, tried to be reassuring from a Danish perspective, saying that his government was working hard to ensure that the situation of British citizens living in Denmark would not change dramatically after Brexit.
Toudal got the biggest applause of the evening when he told the audience that “Brexit was certainly not invented in Denmark. We would have preferred that this meeting was not necessary.”
The Danish immigration official was not able to reassure member of the public who found the process of applying for Danish citizenship slow and cumbersome, however.
On average it takes 19 months to process a citizenship application, and “I doubt that it is realistic to foresee a fast-track procedure,” he told the woman in response to her question.
More information from the UK government on Brexit can be found here.