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BREXIT

‘Doors will close for Brits in EU’: Why the UK’s post-Brexit immigration plan has sparked alarm

It's fair to say the UK government's planned new post-Brexit immigration system - with its language requirements and minimum salary levels for EU migrants - has sparked worry among British groups in Europe.

'Doors will close for Brits in EU': Why the UK's post-Brexit immigration plan has sparked alarm
Photo: AFP

The UK government announced its planned new immigration system this week and it immediately sparked concern for the future of those Britons who want to move to the EU in future.

The new points-based system to replace the freedom of movement which allowed EU nationals to move to freely to the UK will be implemented once the Brexit transition period comes to an end. That date is currently set for December 31st 2020, but it may be pushed back.

While Britons currently living in the EU and those who move before the end of the transition period are covered by the Withdrawal Agreement, it is unclear what the rules will be for future generations, although they will become third-country nationals.

But how easy it will be for Brits to move to France, Italy or Spain in future could depend on what kind of system the UK puts in place after Brexit, which is why many are concerned. Brits living in Europe now could face tough choices in the future and those hoping to move to the EU could find doors are closed.

The UK government said this week it wanted to take “full control” of its borders by installing an Australian-style points-based system, that would effectively close the doors to unskilled EU workers as well as those who can't speak English to the required standard.

In a statement the government said: “These new arrangements will take effect from January 1st 2021, once freedom of movement with the European Union (EU) has ended. It will treat EU and non-EU citizens equally and aims to attract people who can contribute to the UK’s economy.

“The points-based system will include a route for skilled workers who have a job offer from an approved employer sponsor. 

“From January 2021, the job you’re offered will need to be at a required skill level of RQF3 or above (equivalent to A level). You’ll also need to be able to speak English. The minimum general salary threshold will be reduced to £25,600.

And the government adds that there'll be no “immigration route specifically for low-skilled workers” or indeed for the self-employed.

There will also be language restrictions for students.

“Student visa routes will be opened up to EU, EEA and Swiss citizens.

“You’ll be able to apply for a visa to study in the UK if you: have been offered a place on a course, can speak, read, write and understand English and have enough money to support yourself and pay for your course.”

While the plans are for migrants heading to the UK, the strict rules are understandably a cause for concern for those British nationals who may want to move the other way in future or indeed move back to Britain with their EU partners.

Kalba Meadows from British in Europe told The Local that Brits living in Europe may be forced into a tough choice in future.

“For British nationals living in the EU with non British spouses or partners, it will effectively close off the possibility in future of returning to the UK to live unless they choose to leave their partner behind.

“What if they have elderly parents in the UK who need their care … do they really have to choose between partner and parents?”

While nothing has been announced by EU member states there are fears countries will follow the principle of reciprocity and it will therefore become much harder to move to the EU.

“It's inevitable that there will be knock on-effects of reciprocity,” said Meadows.

“We can expect British people wanting to move to France or other EU countries in future to have a much harder time of things.

“So many of us have moved to France, for example, over the last few years to start small businesses … with the UK now closing its doors to anyone wanting to be self-employed we might expect that door to be – if not closed completely to us – become decidedly sticky and difficult to open.”

Michael Harris from Eurocitizens in Spain said: “If Britain does decide to stop any freedom of movement from the EU after 01/01/21, this will obviously be reciprocal for Britons in the UK wanting to move to the EU – and there is very little we can do to stop it.”

Harris also points that the UK's stance will make it far less likely for the EU to agree to granting Brits already in the EU onward freedom of movement, which effectively landlocks Brits in the country they are in. 

British in Europe's Fiona Godfrey added: “This will have repercussions for UK nationals already living in the EU. We are still waiting for some countries to decide how they will register  us under the Withdrawal Agreement and this probably won’t help persuade them to choose the declaratory option rather than the re-registration option. 

“And, of course, it’s not going to help Brits who want or need to leave their host country to find work elsewhere in the EU if the member states reciprocate, which we expect them to do. 
 
“All in all, it’s more British exceptionalism, insularity and delusion. It would be embarrassing were it not for the fact that so many UK  lives and livelihoods in the EU, and EU lives and livelihoods in the UK are dependent on the UK government acting in good faith and treating EU nationals living there as assets to the country rather than units of “cheap labour.” The hostile environment has to stop.”
 
Paul Hearn from the organisation Brexpats Hear Our Voice told The Local: “I'd say that it is too early to suggest that any states would apply any different criteria to migrating UK citizens than they do to migrants from any other country.  Although the UK Government are proposing a different migration policy to that which currently exist in the UK, it is not specifically directed at the EU, but will apply to migrants from anywhere.  
 
“What is possible is that many states could review their policies to determine if there is any merit to be taken from tightening their systems along lines similar to the policy proposed for adoption in the UK from January 2021.
 
There were also concerns expressed by people on Twitter.
Much of the focus was on languages and how Brits hoping to move to the EU would struggle to meet any requirements if they were imposed by EU member states.
 
Fiona Harrison said: “Unfortunately this will also probably mean the Brits can’t work in the EU if arrangements are reciprocal. How many of us really speak languages? We rely on English being fairly universal.”
 
And Bruce Banner asked what the reaction would be if France and Spain forced all British people to speak French and Spanish before they moved. While most Britons do learn the local language it is more often than not only after they have made the move.

Over the coming months EU governments are due to announce their own criteria for post-Brexit immigration. 

Given the UK's planned system, it is no wonder so many Britons are reportedly rushing to move to the EU before the end of the transition period.

 

 

 

Member comments

  1. Funny enough most Europeans I know have a level of English good enough to meet the expected level required for post Brexit imigration into the UK, while most British people I know – back in the UK – have no second language skills and would find it difficult to meet the local language requirements (B1/B2) for imigration. Last year our daughter finished her “Bi-lingual Abi”, the entire class has English B2/C1 and French B2, on top of German naturally.

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TRAVEL NEWS

Passports: What are the post-Brexit rules for dual-nationals travelling in Europe?

People who have more than one citizenship often hold multiple passports, so what does this mean for crossing borders? Here's what you should know.

Passports: What are the post-Brexit rules for dual-nationals travelling in Europe?

For many readers of The Local, gaining citizenship of the country where they live helps them to feel more settled – but there are also travel benefits, including avoiding the long ‘non EU’ queue when coming back into the Schengen zone.

But this week the problems associated with travelling while holding dual citizenship came to light, leaving many people wondering what they should know when they are entering different countries.

Put simply – which passport should you use? And do you have to carry both with you?

Financial Times journalist Chris Giles tweeted that the UK Border Force “detained” his dual-national daughter while she was travelling from France into the UK with her German passport – and not her British one. 

He went on to say that UK border guards released his daughter. According to Giles, the border staff said she should have had both passports with her “and asked why she was travelling on her German one”.

The rules on dual-nationality have not changed, but now that the UK is not in the EU, there are strict rules on non-Brits who enter the country (and vice-versa) which has made it trickier for travel.

For instance, UK nationals receive a stamp in their passport when entering Schengen member states because they are only allowed to stay up to 90 days within an 180 period (unless they have a visa or residency card).

READ ALSO: Brexit: EU asks border police not to stamp passports of British residents 

People coming from the EU to the UK can generally visit as a tourist for up to six months without a visa – but are not allowed to carry out any work while there.

So which passport should you show?

The first thing to be aware of is there are no specific rules on travelling with more than one passport. 

Travellers can choose to use whichever passport they prefer when going to a country. 

But one thing to note is that it’s worth using the passport that is best suited to your destination when travelling there. Each country has its own set of immigration and visa rules that you’ll need to research closely.

It could be that one passport is better suited for your trip – and you may be able to avoid visa requirements.  

READ ALSO: How powerful is the German passport?

In the case of the UK, many people are still getting to grips with the different rules that apply because it’s not in the EU anymore.

A question submitted to the Secretary of State for the Home Department in September 2021 provided some insight into this issue. 

The question from Labour’s Paul Blomfield asked what steps the UK government “is taking to enable dual UK and EU citizens to travel to the UK on an EU member state passport without having to further prove their UK citizenship?”

The Conservatives Kevin Foster said: “Border Force Officers examine all arriving passengers to establish whether they are British citizens, whether they require leave to enter or if they are exempt from immigration control.

“Where the passenger claims to be British, but does not hold any evidence of British citizenship, the officer will conduct all relevant checks to satisfy themselves the passenger is British.

Border control at Hamburg airport.

Border control at Hamburg airport. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Christian Charisius

“When dual nationals who are eligible to use e-gates travel to the UK, they will enter via the e-gates without being examined by an immigration officer.

“We recommend all dual nationals, including EU citizens, travel on their British passport or with evidence or their British citizenship to minimise any potential delay at the border or when commencing their journey.”

The Local contacted the UK Home Office to ask if there was any official advice. 

A spokesman said: “An individual can present whichever passport they desire to enter the UK, however they will be subject to the entry requirements associated with the nationality of the passport they present.”

They said anyone who is looking for more information should check out guidance on entering the UK and on dual nationality.

In short, if you present a German passport on entry to the UK you will be treated the same as any other German citizen – which can include being quizzed about your reasons for visiting the UK – as border guards have no way of knowing that you are a dual-national. 

Do I have to carry both passports?

There’s no rule requiring you to have both passports, but you won’t get the benefits of a British passport (entry into the UK without questions) if you don’t show it.

Likewise if you are a French-British dual national and you enter France on your UK passport, you will need to use the non-EU queue and may have your passport stamped.

Should I think about anything else?

An important thing to remember is that if you apply for a visa and register your passport details, the same passport has to be used to enter the country. 

It could also make sense to travel with both passports, just in case. 

However, note that some countries – like the US – require that US nationals use a US passport to enter and leave the States even if they are dual nationals. 

In general, it’s best to use the same passport you entered a country with to depart.

The rules and systems are different depending on the country. But many countries require people to show their passport when leaving – and they will either stamp or scan the passport – this is how authorities know that a foreign visitor hasn’t overstayed their time in the country. 

So if your passport is checked as you leave the UK, you should show the one you arrived with, just to ensure there is a record of you arriving and leaving.

However as you enter France/Germany/other EU destination, you can show your EU passport in order to maximise the travel benefits of freedom of movement.

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