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No-deal Brexit: Which EU member state is being the most generous to Britons?

Most EU member states have passed legislation or intend to, aimed at safeguarding the rights of Britons living there. However certain countries are more generous and more accommodating than others. Here's a look at how they square up.

No-deal Brexit: Which EU member state is being the most generous to Britons?
Photo: Depositphotos

From a 10-year work and residence permit to stringent income criteria, the packages of rights on offer from EU27 member states to mitigate a no-deal Brexit for resident UK nationals vary immensely from country to country.

Duration of no-deal residence permits

By far the most generous is Malta's. “The Maltese authorities will give a 10 year status to UK nationals who are resident in Malta on 29th March 2019. For a UK citizen to become a beneficiary of such status, they will have to be resident in Malta on 29th March 2019,” Sarah-Louise Galea, head of international media at the Maltese Prime Minister’s Secretariat, confirmed to The Local by email. 

Students will be able to continue studying in Malta; workers “will automatically have open access to the labour market, hence eliminating the requirement for an employment licence.” Self-sufficient individuals will have to prove they have income equivalent to the Maltese minimum wage, as well as valid health insurance.  

Malta's offer contrasts sharply with that of other nations. It does not matter how long UK nationals have been in Malta, as long as they are resident by March 29th or the UK's withdrawal date. There will be no fee for applications.

France, on the other hand, has various offers depending on how long UK nationals have resided there. UK nationals who have been in France for five years will be able to apply for a carte de séjour permanent. Those who have been there less than five years may have to meet income criteria, as of yet not published. 

And there is talk of the fees for a carte de sejour reaching €269 albeit the British Embassy says it expects the cost to be around €150

READ ALSO: 24 days to: The new Brexit advice for Britons in France

Germany also intends to process UK nationals under third country national migration law and will offer a likely brief three month transition period to allow more time. UK nationals in the EU's largest economy have been urged to apply for new residence permits. 

READ ALSO: Brexit: Brits across Germany urged to apply for residence permit

Poland will offer two options: a temporary residence permit of three years and permanent residency for UK nationals who have resided continuously in Poland for five years at the time of the withdrawal date, according to the EU Commission.

Sources at rights group British in Europe say Italy is considering the right to remain for life for those UK nationals who have residency at the time of withdrawal. Italy has not yet published details of the 'decree' it has said it will pass to protect UK nationals' rights in the event of a no-deal. 

READ ALSO: The ultimate no-deal Brexit checklist for Brits in Italy

Transition periods

When it comes to rights, “the funniest thing about Europe is the little differences,” to borrow from Pulp Fiction's Vincent Vegas. These are particularly evident on the no-deal rights question when it comes to how quickly Brits will have to apply for new documents after March 29th.

Sweden has said UK nationals will have a year to apply for a new residency status in the event of a no-deal; Austria on the other hand says all Brits will have to apply within six months for new documents.

READ ALSO: How the Swedish Migration Agency is preparing for a no-deal Brexit

Spain is considering a 24-month transition period – “Spanish authorities need an enough period of time to cope with the process (sic),” states an outline by the EU Commission of the rights of UK nationals in each member state in the event of a no-deal exit. 

READ ALSO: Spain to pass new law to protect rights of Britons in case of no-deal Brexit

Overview on no deal #Brexit actions for UK citizens by EU27 countries below. MS committed to use national law generously; also, many long-term UK residents will have rights under EU law. But the WA & its orderly exit is obviously a much better way forward https://t.co/DjubF6G9e4

— Stefaan De Rynck (@StefaanDeRynck) March 6, 2019

UK nationals in the German capital Berlin will likely have only three months to apply for a new residency permit. British nationals have already been asked to re-register their presence. Although Germany's transition period could be “possibly longer,” according to info from the EU Commission. 

READ ALSO: What you need to know about Berlin's Brexit registering process

The Netherlands' so-called “national transition scheme” for UK nationals in the event of a no-deal proposes a 15-month transition period up until 1 July 2020. Italy's transition period is set to last between six to nine months, although details have not yet been officially confirmed. Belgium has said it will guarantee the rights of UK nationals until the end of 2020, regardless of the outcome. Portugal also envisages a transition period until the end of 2020, during which the rights of UK nationals resident before March 29th will not be altered. 

Bulgaria will also give UK nationals until the end of 2020 to apply for new residence permits. Latvia has proposed a similar transition period. Lithuania is one of the only countries that will accept applications for new 'no-deal residency permits' before March 29th 2019. Luxembourg's transition period will run until the end of 2019. 

Red tape v automatic documents

Some countries require Brits to actively register for new documents – France, Germany and Spain for example. Others will simply issue temporary documents by default. UK nationals resident in the Netherlands will automatically receive a temporary residence via the post in the event of a no-deal and be invited to apply for permanent residency by April 1st 2020.

Croatia, Slovenia, Cyprus and Bulgaria have said they will also offer a package of rights although all remain mirky on the details of what that will entail and how it will work.

Cost of documents

Malta has said applications will be free of charge. Other countries have said they will charge a fee. France, for example, has announced there will be a fee to get a new residence permit, although the government has not said how much it will be. And there is talk of the fees for a carte de séjour reaching €269 albeit the British Embassy says it expects the cost to be around €150

As far as we can see, Malta is the only country that is offering residence permits free of charge. 

Criteria

Spain and France have said they will introduce income assessment criteria for some UK nationals to obtain a permit, which is likely to affect low-income families and pensioners most. Malta only requires “self-sufficient” UK nationals to prove they have an income equivalent to the Maltese national minimum wage – €175.84 per week for those aged over 18. This means UK nationals with an income of at least €9,000 per year will be able to meet the criteria.

“Possessing the right of residence or permanent residence under free movement rules in Poland on the withdrawal date will be the only positive condition for granting these permits,” states an EU Commission outline. 

Countries like Germany and Czech Republic have said that UK nationals will have to apply as third country nationals for residence permits after the transition period, meaning Britons in those countries will be subject to more stringent income criteria and checks. Third country nationals applying for residency in Germany must prove relevant qualifications for employment, or have a job offer. 

Denmark is encouraging UK nationals there to apply for a permanent residency card before March 29th, although it has said it will pass a 'no-deal' bill for UK nationals. 

READ ALSO: Denmark’s no-deal Brexit bill: What British residents need to know

A no-deal Brexit would become a reality if the UK parliament does not approve the Withdrawal Agreement agreed by UK and EU negotiators in the next three weeks and if the UK and the EU cannot agree on an extension period to Article 50, which expires on March 29th. 

READ MORE: No-deal Brexit: Country by country guide to how the rights of Britons will be affected

 

 

 

 

 

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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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