All posts by Gwen Jones

Report: Munich Beer Garden Get-Together Friday, 25 May

Beer and Brexit: This was a winning combination for the 40 or so Brits who came along to a beer garden in Munich on Friday, 25 May to talk about the current situation. Rechtsanwalt and Solicitor David Hole delivered a sobering analysis of where we are now and the risks ahead. Then there was a chance to discuss more detailed aspects and ask individual questions in smaller groups.

So, who came along?

A wide cross-section of the local British population: new arrivals and long-standing residents, working and non-working, employed and self-employed, researchers, IT professionals, designers, translators, consultants, with and without family dependents. Age range: 20-ish to 70+. Among them, too, was a growing number of “new Bavarians” – much relieved Brits who have recently obtained German citizenship (while retaining British) to give them greater security for their future in the EU and the UK. With the option of citizenship not on the table for more recent arrivals, interest among that group focused on permanent residence permits. Some are even considering working towards obtaining German citizenship (possible after 8 years of residence) and then giving up their British citizenship (dual citizenship only being permissible while the UK is still in the EU).

What issues were discussed?

Primarily those issues that are still unresolved as per the current version of the draft withdrawal agreement:

  • Freedom of movement (FoM) across the EU27 post Brexit. Without FoM, young British professionals hoping for an international career in the EU will be seriously disadvantaged.
  • Mutual recognition of qualifications. Anyone relying on qualifications to carry out their job needs to get informed in good time.
  • Self-employed + provision of cross-border services.

For the most up-to-date and accurate information on these issues, you can read more at: https://britishineurope.org/where-does-the-march-agreement-leave-me/
And on residency: http://www.remaininfrance.org/citizens-rights.html

 Other concerns

These also reflected the diversity of situations among the Brits present. Specific mention was made of, for example, pensioners and healthcare (S1 forms), fixed-term contracts, the problem of Brits being excluded from future participation in EU-funded projects, European schools and the continued provision of native-English-language teachers, the recognition of the European Baccalaureate and increased fees in UK universities, plus obtaining citizenship for family members with mental health problems, even a petition to the Queen about restoration of voting rights.

Well, is the glass half full or half empty? Everybody has a different answer. It´s the same with Brexit. Some people have reason to be optimistic. Others will have a bleaker outlook. But staying informed – keeping an eye on the glass – is not a bad thing to do.

Prost!

Ingrid Taylor

British in Bavaria

Freedom of Movement survey results

In May 2018, British in Europe carried out a survey on the importance of  Freedom of Movement (FoM) to its supporters. Over 3,000 people responded, and the results have now been published. 

It is clear that a significant proportion of UK citizens in Europe rely on FoM in their daily lives, while others have future plans dependent on FoM.  FoM is also consistently seen as important when considering the opportunities available to children.

You can read the results below, or download the pdf here. You can also subscribe to the British in Europe newsletter here.

 

BiG in The Guardian: Brexit means… more Brits taking up German citizenship

As The Guardian reports:

A record number of Britons took up German citizenship in 2017, according to authorities who cited Brexit as the “obvious” reason for the leap in numbers.

The German press has dubbed them neue Deutschbriten, or ‘new German Britons.’

Ingrid Taylor, founding member of the Bavarian branch of British in Germany, is quoted:

It finally made me feel safe from the shenanigans of the negotiating process. It means, quite simply, I can continue working and living here as a citizen of the EU, enjoying the advantages that come with that and the uncertainty has gone.

People are gradually getting more and more nervous realising that they could be very disadvantaged in their careers and way of life without an EU passport. Even many of those who have said: ‘it’ll be alright’ have stopped putting their faith in the politicians. Our advice is: don’t wait, do it as soon as you can.

You can read the whole article here.

161% increase in Brits gaining German citizenship in 2017

The official, Germany-wide figures on naturalisation (Einbürgerung) in 2017 have been published today. You can find the German-language press release from the Federal Statistical office here.

In 2017, the overall number of applications for German citizenship was up 1.7%. Here’s a summary of the key data:

  • Brits (7,493) were second only to the Turks (14,984) in the overall figures (total: 112,211), which means 161% more Brits than in 2016!
  • Taking just EU countries, the Brits take the lead in naturalisation.
  • This represents 10% of the potential: only 1 in 10 Brits who are officially eligible for German citizenship have acquired it, but of course, we know there are still many applications in the pipeline.

Interestingly, around 9% of all Brits who became German citizens in 2017 applied from outside Germany. Most of them will be older people who lost their German citizenship during the Nazi period, and their descendants.

What’s more, while the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees uses 10 years registration in Germany as a base for calculating those eligible, in fact 8 years’ residence is standard, so the number for those eligible may in fact be even higher.

While Brits who’ve been granted German citizenship before the end of March 2019 can retain their British citizenship, and therefore have dual nationality, those whose German citizenship applications are not granted until after Brexit will face a choice between being British or German, but won’t be able to retain both.

No doubt the number of British Einbürgerung applications this year will be even higher…

When Emma met Eddie…

Meet British in Germany’s new intern Emma Corris.  Eddie Izzard did!

Emma’s only been in Berlin 3 weeks and has has already written a front page article in the local Leipzig Glocal, motivating a turnout of over 60 Brits at the first Leipzig British in Germany meeting on 16  May.

The whole British in Germany team want to welcome Emma to Berlin, and her work is already having a strong impact on the BiG campaigns going all out in the crucial few months ahead.

Brexit & Academia: Challenges for UK scholars in Germany

KNOWLEDGE KNOWS NO BOUNDARIES

British citizens resident in European Union countries will be seriously affected by Brexit. Those working in research – whether at universities, public or private research institutes – are particularly vulnerable given the high degree of professional mobility that is widely viewed as essential for a successful career. Reputations in academia are increasingly dependent on international visibility and collaboration of the individual scholar.

The European Union has, over recent decades, created a huge variety of instruments to promote careers in research and teaching for its citizens that cover all stages, from the early career student to the acclaimed professor. These range from ERASMUS grants for student exchanges to EU research framework programmes (currently Horizon 2020) and the prestigious European Research Council grants. British academics, working in the UK and in other EU countries, have been highly successful in acquiring this European funding in the past. Many, indeed, have built their careers around EU-funded programmes and the collaborative research projects they have enabled. It is essential to them and to future generations of British academics that this principal gateway to an international career is not closed or restricted. As the future relationship between the UK and EU27 is negotiated over the coming months, securing these benefits of research collaboration for the post-Brexit era will be critical for British academics and the UK research community in general.

Beyond specific research and training opportunities, British academics are part of a mobile community who greatly benefit from free movement within the EU. It is essential, therefore, that the UK and EU reach an understanding that maintains the rights that UK citizens in the EU currently enjoy to avoid professional and family disruptions. Although some progress has been made on citizens’ rights, as is documented in the Joint Report of 8 December 2017, there are still several serious concerns that remain unresolved. Moreover, the December 2017 joint understanding will only become valid as part of an overall agreement on Brexit.

British in Europe (BiE) is a coalition of organisations throughout the EU who are campaigning in Brussels and London on behalf of British citizens. In Germany, British in Germany (BiG) is active on behalf of British citizens, both in lobbying at local and national levels and in forming local groups disseminating information on the state of negotiations and on issues such as German citizenship applications. BiG has commented on negotiating rounds relating to citizens’ rights [link] and compiled a detailed response to the Joint Report of December [link]. It has become clear that the implications of Brexit for individuals in terms of freedom of movement and cross-border working depend very much on the time of residence and on employment and family status. A selection of case studies illustrating the complexity of these issues is available here.

British in Germany is interested in reaching as many British citizens as possible to be able to inform you of progress on the issues surrounding citizens’ rights. If you are interested in receiving information on British in Germany activities and on local meetings, please contact with us here. We are interested in hearing your stories, concerns and views so that our approach can evolve appropriately as the negotiations continue. Your information will be passed on to the most relevant British in Germany group representing your interests.

In particular, if you are a British citizen working in a university or other research organisation in Germany, we would very much welcome your opinion on the concerns you have and the assistance you would appreciate relating specifically to the research profession.

We hope to hear from you!

https://BritishinGermany.org

https://BritishinEurope.org

 

 

 

 

 

British in Europe survey – registering your residence

This survey, for British in Europe and its member groups, is designed to help us find out more about our members’ experiences of registering residence as a British citizen when first arriving to live in Germany, and also applying for a permanent residence card after 5 years. We’re carrying out similar surveys amongst our members across the EU.

Why are we asking you these questions? The EU 27 countries will shortly be considering how to ‘register’ UK citizens living in the EU after 31 December 2020: to continue the current declaratory system, or to introduce a new constitutive system where we would be required to apply for a new status, in keeping with the UK’s wish to oblige EU27 citizens to apply for ‘settled status’ rather than simply confirm their existing rights. We’d like to know your views and experiences to help our input into the process.

If members of your household or friends have also registered here in Germany, please pass on this link and ask them to complete the survey too

The survey is open until Wednesday, 9 May. 

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSfx29oyTus42VSKTyFyYVUsMY864IgTG1Hwro8L57lvjTXSVA/viewform

Freedom of Movement survey

British in Europe is carrying out a survey of its coalition members and individual supporters to gauge support for a last big push on free movement.  We know that there is a good deal of support for this in British in Germany, but want to get feedback from all our members. Please take a minute to help by filling out the survey and distributing the link:

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSfJHO9On5eIqmm8dR5kILcWRw4jsu35WTECg7a3BzvlbGz-pg/viewform  

Update: This survey is now closed. Thank-you to those that participated.

Where does the March Agreement leave me?

On Monday 18 March, the European Commission published its third draft legal text for the Withdrawal Agreement and announced that it and the UK had reached “complete agreement” on citizens’ rights.

You’re probably wondering whether that is in fact the case, and where the March agreement leaves you. This is a quick (and non-exhaustive) general summary of the state of play. It’s a mixture of good news, bad news and unfinished business, the balance of which is different for each of us, depending on the particular situation that we are in.

We are still hoping that the unfinished business, such as whether we have free movement across the EU 27, will be discussed in the second phase and we at British in Europe are continuing to campaign hard for that. Our big concern is that it could get lost in the mass of issues now to be discussed such as airline slots. And until the final agreement is signed, none of this is set in stone – although it is unlikely that what has been agreed so far will be changed, if there is no deal then there is no guarantee of our rights.

One big change following the draft agreement is that there will – assuming that the final agreement is ratified – be a transition period which will last until 31 December 2020, and that almost all our rights will remain unchanged until then. This is the ‘effective date’ referred to in the paragraphs that follow. This also means that anyone who arrives during this period will be covered by the protections of the Withdrawal Agreement on the same terms as those present before Brexit day itself.

The good:

  • If you are ‘legally resident’ on transition day you can stay – but in some countries, you may have to make an application to secure this (see below). This includes people who have moved to the EU27 up to the end of transition on 31 December 2020.
  • The current conditions for a right of residence under EU law will apply unless an EU country decides to require an application to secure status (see below) . For the first 3 months there are no conditions. After 3 months you have to be working/self-employed, self-sufficient, a student or a family member of any such person. People who are self-sufficient or students have to have health insurance (for pensioners or others who hold one, the S1 form is sufficient). After 5 years these conditions fall away and you will either be entitled to ‘permanent residence’ or may have to apply to secure it.
  • The 5 years can include years both before and after the effective date.  Anyone with less than 5 years’ residence can build up their years until they reach 5, when they are eligible for permanent residence, under the same conditions as now (see above).
  • If you have acquired permanent residence, you can be away from your host country for 5 years and still retain the right to return and keep your rights of permanent residence.  This includes where you have acquired permanent residence before the effective date but are not actually resident in the country on the effective date e.g. because you are on a work posting or studying.
  • Reciprocal healthcare is agreed, so that those who have an S1 or will be eligible for one when they retire will still have their healthcare funded by the UK. For these people this includes a UK issued EHIC which will cover travel across the EU27 and, we believe, to the UK.  This means that for those who pay into the national system in their country of residence e.g. a British person working in Germany, the rules will also remain the same as they are now.
  • Aggregation of social security contributions is agreed, both before and after the effective date.
  • Lifetime export of uprated pensions is agreed – so your UK state pension will be increased annually just as it would be if you were living in the UK.
  • 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.
  • If you are a ‘frontier worker’ according to EU rules – living in one country and working in one or more other countries at the effective date – you will still have the right to work in each country.
  • Subject to the next bullet point certain close family members (spouse, civil partner, direct ascendants/descendants who are dependant on you) will be able to join you if your rights are protected under the withdrawal agreement. 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 present wording excludes children born after transition to parents one of whom (i) is a third country national (ie not an EU or UK citizen covered by the agreement) or (ii) is an EU or UK national not residing in the host state at the end of transition, but British in Europe has challenged whether this omission was intentional.
  • The rights will have direct effect, which means that they are binding and you can rely on the rights set out in the Withdrawal Agreement directly before the courts even if the country where you are living doesn’t apply the provisions of it correctly in national law.

What hasn’t been included:

  • Continuing freedom of movement – which includes the ability to move, reside and work in EU27 countries other than our country of residence/frontier working, as well as other rights such as visa-free travel. If the final Withdrawal Agreement does not include a right of free movement across the EU 27 for UK citizens in the EU, there is EU legislation dealing with rights of third country nationals (non-EU citizens) to move within the EU. How this might apply to UK citizens in the EU would have to be agreed but it is fair to say that it doesn’t offer free movement rights, which we have now as EU citizens, and is considerably more limited.  And we will also need to see what the future UK-EU agreement says on this point.
  • The right to provide cross-border services as self-employed people.
  • Some professional qualifications e.g. lawyers practising under their home titles and EU-wide licences and certificates are not covered, and recognition of qualifications outside the country of recognition/residence across the EU 27 is unlikely to be discussed further as part of the Withdrawal Agreement.
  • The right to be joined by a future spouse or partner – ie one that you weren’t in a relationship with on the effective date.
  • The right to return to the UK with a non-UK spouse or partner and other family members under the much more favourable EU law regime.
  • Partners who are not married and do not have a civil partnership are not covered as “family members” and have more limited rights under the Withdrawal Agreement unless they have an independent right of residence of their own[1] in the host state.  Although this is the same as the position under existing EU law, given the greater scrutiny and bureaucratic barriers which may apply after transition, people in that situation should consider whether to ensure their position as family members now by marriage or a civil partnership.
  • Those whose right of residence at the end of transition is purely as a family member will never obtain e.g. their own family reunification rights. British in Europe has challenged the negotiators to amend the Agreement to clearly exclude from this group those who have resided in their host state for 5 years at the end of transition:  the understanding reached in December, which this Agreement is supposed to implement, clearly did so.
  • Ring-fencing of the agreement so far.

So should you be happy?

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 are should be covered.

But 

The agreement allows each EU27 state to choose between 2 options for ‘certifying’ our rights after Brexit. 

EITHER: they can adopt what’s called a declaratory system, which mirrors what happens now and simply confirms the rights that we already hold, whether as permanent residents (5 years or more) or temporary residents (less than 5 years). If an EU country adopts this system, the current system won’t change much but we will be able to apply for a residence document to prove our status.

OR: they can adopt a constitutive system. Under this, we would have to APPLY for a new status; the application process would include checks on whether people had been exercising treaty rights, as well as criminality checks. This is the equivalent of the UK proposal for EU citizens of ‘settled status’; the concept of reciprocity has led to this being an option for each EU27 country if they wish to adopt it.

The draft Withdrawal Agreement could give the impression that the constitutive system is the default, devoting many paragraphs of detail to it.  We have no idea yet whether any EU country will choose to impose this system – though it must remain a possibility given that all EU citizens in the UK will be subject to it. It’s not good news, because (i) it means we would have to apply for a new status instead of having our existing rights confirmed (ii) some people would struggle to find the proof that they meet the statutory requirements of ‘legal residence’ and (iii) as we all know, bureaucracies can make mistakes.

This is one of the major objections by British in Europe to this agreement.

Another is, of course, the fact that free movement isn’t included. This is a big deal for many people whose livelihoods depend on being able to work in an EU country other than their country of residence and who don’t fall under the definition of a frontier worker. This particularly affects cross-border workers, especially the self-employed. It also matters to our children, who would find their rights to study elsewhere in the EU27 curtailed without it. And it has a big knock-on effect for the territorial scope of professional qualifications and economic rights (e.g. to run a business), which currently would only apply in our host country.

In a nutshell, we think the draft agreement has more holes than a piece of French Emmental.

We shall be continuing our strong advocacy campaign on all these issues in months to come to ensure that outstanding issues don’t fall off the table.

[1] See “current conditions for a right of residence under EU law” above.