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BREXIT

Brexit will throw up endless hurdles for Britons in Europe, but we’ll be there to help

The impact of Brexit will probably be more of a dull pain felt over a long period – endless unexpected hurdles cropping up to test Britons living in Europe. Here at The Local we’ll be there to help, writes founder and CEO James Savage.

Brexit will throw up endless hurdles for Britons in Europe, but we'll be there to help
Photo: Fred Moon on Unsplash
Brexiteers like to see themselves as the enemy of bureaucrats, but in fact they have spawned a paradise for pen-pushers.
 
Four torrid years have passed since Britain voted to leave the EU.
 
And in a twist that would have been unimaginable on 2016, at the moment Britain heads definitively for the exit, Brexit is not even the country’s biggest concern.
 
Instead a horrendously infectious new variant of Covid-19 has sent much of Britain back into lockdown. A second consequence of the virus mutation is that the free movement of people, which was supposed to end for Brits at midnight on 31st December, has in some senses been suspended already.
 
Tales abound of Britons who were planning to use the last few days of 2020 to move to the EU, but who instead of starting a new life in Europe became stuck in Britain, perhaps permanently.
 
For Brits like me already settled in the EU, the past four and a half years have been gruelling. Promises that we would be allowed to stay came quickly; the small print took a lot longer, and many countries only got their residency schemes up and running in late 2020.
 
For all the British whining about the EU lumbering them with bureaucracy, we are now learning that EU membership was in fact a great liberator from pointless paperwork. British citizens and businesses wanting to get on with their lives are now at the mercy of faceless pen-pushing bureaucrats.
 
 
Still, many of us have submitted ourselves to the bureaucrats and secured our right to remain. Thousands of Britons have gone one step further and become citizens of the countries we live in, something that for many has been a positive experience, giving us a greater say and a greater stake in our new homes.
 
As the amateurish, chaotic management of Brexit has made some Europeans look on their British friends with pity, an EU passport has become a handy alibi as well as a useful travel document. But not every issue is solved: the rights of Britons to move back to the UK with partners or family members from the EU has been severely curtailed.
 
Many of us have planned our lives around the fact that we will be free to move backwards and forwards with partners and family members, but after March 2022, any Brit wanting to return with a non-British partner will need to earn £18,600 a year, and will have to earn even more for each non-British child. Around 40 percent of those Brits living in Europe who are likely to want to return are estimated by lobbying group British in Europe not to fulfil this criterion.
 
Many others will fall between the cracks: people who need onward freedom of movement – like those whose jobs involve them working in multiple EU countries – are not covered by the post-Brexit residency rules, which mostly just allow Brits to live and work in one country. Plenty of people who don't yet know they need onward freedom of movement will find out how useful it is when that job offer in another EU country comes up.
 
There are people whose lives have seen them going backwards and forwards between Britain and the EU, but if they happen to be living in Britain when the music stops they could be stuck there. And of course second home owners will in future  only be able to spend a limited time in their much-loved boltholes, unless they can navigate the thicket of rules and paperwork to secure the necessary visa to allow them to stay longer.
 
The exact details of the trade deal will take many weeks to read and interpret, but it is clear that some businesses face difficult times ahead. I was emailed this week by a large, well-known wine merchant in the UK that has for years delivered to the EU, informing me that it was not taking orders until February due to uncertainty over the new rules.
 
 
Countless other businesses, some dependent on EU-UK trade and many of them small family affairs, will be similarly affected.
 
It was apt that New Zealand’s word of the year for 2020 was ‘doomscrolling’, a word that describes our natural tendency to pay more attention to negative news. There has been a lot of it about, and it seems to be reaching a crescendo as the year draws to a close.
 
Everyone will have their own strategy for dealing with the endless stream of worry. I find the best way to cope with the onslaught is to take a step back, get practical and focus on solutions.
 
The pandemic is a massively complex challenge for our societies in the short term, and has caused untold heartache for millions.
 
But with a vaccine and the natural tendency for pandemics to burn themselves out, our societies will find a way to recover.
 
The impact of Brexit will probably be more of a dull pain felt over a longer period – endless unexpected hurdles cropping up to test us.
 
Here at The Local we’ll be there to help Britons find the workaround for every bureaucratic hurdle that governments put in our way.
 
James Savage is the CEO of The Local. You can follow him on Twitter @Savlocal

Member comments

  1. If only there was a definite end to the nightmare of Brexit. But there will be years and years of negotiating. It has had such a negative effect on my life and that if my partner’s. Our worlds are smaller and it has left a nasty taste in our mouths about being British

  2. We have been caught out with covid and unable to move over in time.Put deposit on property in Spain in march then lockdown.Pulled out due to various issues all related to covid.Now out of our control and waiting for clarity on new rules.We are so gutted but not giving up.

  3. There is a whole bunch of Brits who would agree with you. The flip side is that there is another bunch of people who voted to leave the EU who disagree with you. However we all feel or voted in the referendum, and for whatever reason, the vote was in favour of leaving the EU and, at last, a deal has been reached. We will get used to it in time. For those who want to remain living in Europe, I guess there will be forms to fill in for residency permits, for exports and imports, etc, but the world has not become smaller for Brits wanting to travel (once the coronavirus has retreated and we can all do so); it will take a little longer to get through customs.

  4. You’re only British if you actually care that you are. Who chose where they were born? Flag-waving and blind nationalism are for the weak-minded (see Brexit….).

    UK has good things about it, as do all countries. The bureaucracy and paperwork are just another thing in life to deal with, so do it. You want to live in a better country? Make it happen. Don’t give up.

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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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