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BREXIT

REMINDER: What the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement means for British citizens in Denmark

With increasing talk that London and Brussels might reach a new deal that would see Britain leave the EU at the end of October or after another extension, it's time for a reminder of what exactly the Withdrawal Agreement means for British residents in Denmark.

REMINDER: What the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement means for British citizens in Denmark
Photo: DepositPhotos

It's been so long since the third rejection of the EU Withdrawal Bill by British MPs that most people have probably forgotten what it actually entails for British people living in Denmark.

But on Wednesday there is increasing confidence on both sides that the UK and the EU can reach a deal that will either see Britain leave the UK on October 31st or perhaps after a short extension to finalise negotiations.

While nothing has been agreed, signed or indeed even given the green light by the British parliament it's important to remember that the Citizens Rights part of the deal – the 50-odd page section that formed PART TWO of the Withdrawal Agreement – remains unchanged from when it was thrashed out a year ago.

So while we wait to see what Boris and Barnier will agree around the Northern Ireland backstop we know what's in store for Britons in Denmark.

And the good news is that the transition period, which basically keeps relations between the EU and the UK as they are now will immediately kick in when the UK leaves and run until December 2020, unless it is extended.

So people who want to move to an EU country but have not made the move yet can come here on the same terms as before until the end of December 2020. And Brits who want to move from one EU country to another can also do so as they would have done if they were EU citizens until the end of 2020.

This contrasts with a no-deal scenario when all such rights would end on Brexit day. 

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

Here's a quick recap of what the Brexit deal will mean for British residents in Denmark. It’s worth noting that at the time of its agreement, campaigners from British in Europe described the Withdrawal Agreement as having “more holes than a piece of French Emmental” cheese.

  • If you are legally resident in an EU country then you will have the right to stay, albeit you will have to apply to authorities in order to secure this status.
  • The right to stay is not only guaranteed for those already living in the EU on Brexit day, but also those who come to the EU before the end of the transition period, which currently is 31st December 2020. Although there is a chance that the transition period could be extended even further. It was initially intended as a 21-month window in which the UK could organise bilateral deals or with the EU as a whole, but repeated Brexit delays mean it is now just over a year.
  • Under the Withdrawal Agreement Brits will only lose those rights if they spend five continuous years away from the EU country they are living in.
  • The current EU laws on the right of residence will apply, meaning Britons in the EU are not obliged to meet any conditions for the first three months of their stay, but after that they must be working or self-employed, self-sufficient or a student. Alternatively, they can be a family member of someone who meets these conditions.
  • Aggregation of social security contributions is agreed.
  • After five years of meeting these conditions then you will earn the right to stay permanently. Anyone with less than five years residence under their belts by the end of the transition period will be allowed to stay on under the same conditions until they can claim permanent residency. 
  • Britons in the EU will enjoy the continued right to reciprocal healthcare.
  • EHIC health cards will also continue to cover travel across the EU during the transition period. What happens with them afterwards would be part of any future deals between Britain and EU countries.
  • Pensions will be uprated – meaning your UK state pension will be increased annually as it has been for those living in the UK or in the EU up to now and this continues for your lifetime.
  • Disability benefits will also be “exported” as they are now.
  • Frontier workers who live in one country and work in another will have the right to continue to work in each country.
  • Close family members including spouses, civil partners and dependent children will be able to join you living in an EU country if you are legally resident. British in Europe points out that: “This will apply for the whole of your lifetime. If you have children after the effective date they also are protected under the withdrawal agreement if you and the other parent are also protected or a national of the country you live in.”
  • The issue of qualifications being recognised in a country under a Brexit deal is one of the more confusing aspects of the Citizens Rights part of the WA. British in Europe sum it up by saying: “There is some agreement on recognition of professional qualifications – if you have an individual recognition decision re your qualification including through automatic recognition e.g. doctors, architects, your qualification will continue to be recognised but only in the country where the decision was issued.”

Citizens rights group British in Europe said of the deal when Theresa May first agreed it: “It's reasonable to say that for those who are happily settled in their country of residence, work solely in that country, have retired there or are pre-retired, have no wish or need to move to or work or study in another EU country, fulfil all the requirements for exercising treaty rights (see here) and don't rely on professional qualifications, then your rights should be covered.”

But it's not all plain sailing.

  • Residency permits will still have to be applied for if EU countries, as they are expected to do, introduce a “constitutive system”. That means criminal checks will be carried out on applicants as well as checks to make sure they meet the requirements legal residence. That might be a problem if residents don't have the resources to prove they are self-sufficient. Application must be submitted within six months of the end of the transition period (which based on the current end date for the transition period of December 31st 2020 would be June 30th, 2021). And it's only an application, there is no guarantee that all applications will be accepted. After Brexit countries could also adopt a “declaratory system”, meaning Brits won't have to apply for residency permits, but will have a choice whether to do so.
     
  • Freedom of movement ends once the UK leaves the EU, so as well as affecting people who arrive after the end of the transition period it also means people cannot move between countries. So if you have residency in Denmark, you cannot then move to Germany for work – for example – without going through the German immigration process.
  • The right to provide cross-border services as self-employed people.
  • As British in Europe states, “Some professional qualifications e.g. lawyers practising under their home titles and EU-wide licences and certificates are not covered, nor is recognition of qualifications outside the country of recognition/residence across the EU 27.”
  • If you hook up with a local while you're living in an EU country don't assume that they will be able to live with you in the UK after the end of the transition period, even if you are married.

And of course all this depends on the UK managing to settle the thorny issue of the Irish border, then Boris Johnson convincing MPs to back the deal he has negotiated.

For more information on the citizens’ rights part of the withdrawal agreement you can visit the British in Europe website.

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BREXIT

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.

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