Category Archives: British in Europe

Posts relating to British in Europe

British in Europe on flagship BBC radio programme

Fiona Godfrey, one of the deputy chairs of British in Europe and chair of British Immigrants Living in Luxembourg, spoke today with Reality Check Correspondent Chris Morris on the BBC Radio 4’s flagship morning news programme “Today”.

Fiona explains how the current situation for working Brits in the EU remains extremely unclear. While it is expected that those currently living in an EU Member State will retain their right to work in the Member State of their residence, those who work cross-border, either physically or virtually, will lose that right unless something new is negotiated.

While Fiona is a Luxembourg resident and in such a small country almost inevitably has to work cross-border, Helen lives in the much larger country of France, and yet still needs to seek cross-border work, in this case during the off-season at her ski chalet.

Both are currently seeking dual nationality in their respective countries, an option which is open to Brits in Germany who have the necessary years of residency here, but is only guaranteed until the Brexit date–29 March 2019–after which they may fall foul of Germany’s Single Nationality rule.

Their interview can be best heard on the BBC’s Full Facts website.

Or here on the Today Programme at 44:38 minutes in.

For those who choose to give up their UK citizenship in order to gain a German one post Brexit, the UK government has once more shown how it is wants to help, by hiking the fees.

However, not only Brits already in Europe are going to face difficulties. There are also Brits in the UK who also need to travel to Europe to work, if not necessary live. The BBC Today programme yesterday featured an orchestra in the UK who are now concerned about their ability to easily travel to the EU to perform. The report can be found at 1:43:00 in on this broadcast.

And finally in what was a busy week for UK Citizens in the EU on Radio 4, this final report discusses the position of UK citizens in Spain (and by extension in Germany) with regard to their Registration (Anmeldung in Germany) and continuing Freedom of Movement, etc. The report can be found at 42:00 in on this broadcast.

To show how difficult Citizen’s Rights are, Europe Street News has helpfully produced the following summary chart.

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.

 

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.

Who are the Brits in Germany?

In 2016  the German Statistical Office recorded around  107,000 registered Brits living in Germany. Since June 2016, that figure has risen sharply.

North Rhein-Westphalia had the greatest number of registered Brits (26,205), followed by Bavaria (18,400) then Berlin with 12,355. 

Highly-qualified 

A 2016 micro-census  by the German Statistical Office revealed that 74% of British migrants in Germany have a professional qualification. This makes them some of the most sought-after workers in Germany: only Austrian migrants had higher levels of qualifications (77%). Only 59% of other migrants from Europe, and 63% of the general population, were similarly qualified.

This is reflected in British workers’ high average earnings (and, by extension,  tax contributions): according to 2016 Statistical  Office figures, the average British worker in Germany had a take-home salary of €2820 per month. This compared to a national average of €1958. In fact, British workers had, by a  significant margin, the highest average income for workers all national backgrounds in Germany. Households with at least one British member also had an above-average monthly net household income of 3899 euros, or 1962 euros per capita. 

Brits in Germany are playing an important role in plugging Germany’s shortage of skilled workers: a 2017 report by the Cologne Institute for Economic Research found employers were struggling to fill two in three job openings for qualified positions. Just over half of businesses reported that this negatively affected their productivity, innovation and capacity for growth. Attracting and retaining suitably qualified migrants, the report concluded, will be increasingly crucial to ensuring Germany’s ongoing international competitiveness into the future.

Germany could, in fact, be set to benefit even further from British workers in the post-Brexit climate: an international survey by online employment website StepStone found Germany was the stand-out favourite prospective destination for 600,000  highly-skilled British workers and experts who are actively planning to emigrate to another EU country. 44% saw it as their first choice, meaning that 264,000 specialists are considering a move to Germany. “Brexit thus has the potential to alleviate Germany’s skilled worker shortage,” commented Dr. Sebastian Dettmers, managing director of StepStone.de.

Of working age

The overwhelming majority of Brits in Germany are of working age. Data from foreign registrations reveals that only 16% of Brits were aged over 65. This is in line with British in Europe estimates for British across the EU. Contrary to common misconceptions, only a minority of Brits living abroad are pensioners. 

The average age for British citizens in Germany was  46.6,  according to the same data source. 

Well-integrated

Registration office records also show that the average British citizen has been living in Germany for 20.3 years. Around 15% are married to a German, with many more undocumented partnerships. 

Micro-census data records Brits as working across a wide range of economic sectors. British in Germany members  have the most diverse careers imaginable, from documentary film makers and journalists to lawyers to kindergarten educators. See here for more case studies of Brits in Germany and across the EU.

Important trade partners 

The British presence in Germany is not only felt through migration: recent figures from the Statistical Office show that Britain is one of Germany’s most important trade partners. In 2016, 121.6 billion euros of goods were traded between the two countries. Only China, France, the USA and the Netherlands were of greater significance. Germany exported much more to the UK (€86.1bn) than it imported (€35.6bn).

Further statistics 

Click here for further statistics on British citizens in the EU from our coalition umbrella body, British in Europe.

BiE response to agreed legal text 14 March

Brexit withdrawal agreement:  English Cheddar will have more free movement rights than Brits in Europe

 

The European Commission has published the agreed legal text for the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.

In response, Jane Golding, Chair of British in Europe said:

‘Contrary to what David Davis and Michel Barnier are saying, this document provides no more certainty for the 1.2mn British people living in the EU 27, EEA and Switzerland than they had this morning.
Not only does the text look as though it has been rushed out under pressure but in his statement, Mr Barnier once again said that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed, meaning there will not be legal certainty for the 4.6mn people most directly affected by Brexit until the agreement is finally signed off.

Furthermore, it seems that Article 32 – which covered restrictions to our future cross border working rights and free movement – has now vanished.   And yet, it is still referred to in other parts of the text.

So, while we are pleased that this restrictive provision has been removed, we are confused and nervous about what might replace it.   And we should not read too much into the article’s removal, as neither does it change the substance of the agreement nor mean that we have suddenly been allowed to keep free movement.  In fact, the agreement is as clear as mud when it comes to our future rights to move and work across the EU, either as people falling under the Withdrawal Agreement or as third country nationals.

With 80% of British people living on the continent working age or younger, free movement and its associated cross border economic rights are a necessity not a nice to have for many.   Small business owners including IT consultants, caterers and musicians all rely on it in order to provide for themselves and their families now, and after Brexit.

As things stand, after Brexit English cheddar will have more free movement rights than we will.

As such, any withdrawal agreement will not provide certainty or security for UK nationals living in Europe until we know for sure that it includes guarantees on free movement and cross border working.’

[ENDS]


Key facts on Brexit and citizens’ rights

https://britishineurope.org/where-does-the-december-agreement-leave-me/
https://britishineurope.org/joint-report-ahead-of-phase-2/

Contacts
For more information or to arrange an interview with a spokesperson please contact

British in Germany:     info@britishingermany.org

British in Europe: Laura Shields
laura.shields@britishineurope.org
+ 32 (0) 497 409 884

Written Evidence to HoL. Committee

Following Jane Golding’s oral evidence to the House of Lords EU  committee, follow-up evidence on the effect of No Deal has been submitted to the inquiry.

Read in full the  House of Lords Written Evidence

CONCLUSIONS

25. Given all the above, in our view, there is no clear and comprehensive legal solution to the issues faced by British citizens residing in the EU or EU citizens in the UK without a deal between the EU and the UK, agreeing the principles on which the exiting rights of these citizens should be safeguarded, and setting out the detail in the Withdrawal Agreement.

26. Any default position under a mixture of EU, national, European (European Convention on Human Rights) and international law would be an imperfect and patchwork solution and lead to years of
practical problems for more than 4.2 million British citizens in the EU and EU citizens in the UK who moved pre-Brexit to other EU countries in good faith and with the legitimate expectation that their EU citizenship rights were irrevocable.

27. Moreover, such a solution would also be impractical and create difficulties for both the UK and other EU countries as regards its implementation, entailing an unsatisfactory piecemeal approach to the position of former EU citizens already resident, sometimes far longer than five years, in their countries.

28. It is the current intention of the EU and the UK at this stage in the negotiations to set out in detail any deal that they reach as regards safeguarding citizens’ rights in the Withdrawal Agreement, thus giving these provisions treaty status and force of international law. However, the negotiators need to go further and definitively agree that the provisions of the Withdrawal Agreement would have direct effect in national law, and also agree which international dispute resolution body will have jurisdiction as regards these rights. This could of course be the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU), given that the rights in question derive from EU law, and to ensure consistency of interpretation of the rights of both groups of citizens in the UK and EU 27 going forward. In the event that it is not the CJEU, a body fulfilling the same conditions should be chosen.

29. “No Deal” is an ambiguous term in connection with citizens’ rights. It could mean that the UK and the EU are unable to agree on anything, or it could mean that, whilst they are agreed on citizens’ rights, they have failed to reach agreement on other matters and conclude that there is “no deal”. It is essential to ensure that, provided there is an agreement at least on citizens’ rights, we are not in a no deal situation. The UK and EU can do this by ensuring that any agreement on citizens’ rights is ring-fenced from the rest of the negotiations. Currently, in order to reach sufficient progress in the negotiations, the three priority areas in the negotiations are
being linked. This means that matters and compromises that have direct repercussions for the
lives of real people are being mixed up with the discussions as regards the financial settlement and the Irish border. There is no way of avoiding the conclusion that citizens and their rights are
being used as bargaining chips in these negotiations. Unless and until citizens’ rights are ringfenced from the rest of the negotiations, this position will not change.

30. There is also the concern that citizens’ rights may be the only area in which it may be possible to reach sufficient progress by December, the date of the next European Council meeting. In that
case, it may be that the negotiators will seek to make compromises that will limit the extent to which existing rights are guaranteed. Conversely, it may simply mean that the bar is lowered and that, even if fundamental issues concerning citizens’ rights still remain to be agreed, the UK and EU will conclude that “sufficient progress” on citizens’ rights has nonetheless been reached. It would be fundamentally unjust for the 4-5 million people who have relied in good faith on their rights with the legitimate expectation that they were irrevocable if any such compromises were to be made.

31. In conclusion and given what is set out above, on citizens’ rights, the repercussions of a no deal are serious – and exclusively negative for the lives of between 4-5 million people who have moved across the Channel in reliance of their existing rights as EU citizens.

 

BiE Publications

The February 2018 BiE Newsletter is here
BiE on Facebook and Twitter.

Over the last year, British in Europe has produced a number of papers and publications that have been widely circulated to members of the House of Commons and the House of Lords, as well as to the European Commission and members of the European Parliament.

Here are a few latest examples:

Where does the December agreement leave me?

Review of Brexit Negotiations to date

Brexit Negotiations Review. Nov 2017 view the pdf here which has been sent to both sides of the negotiations.

Response of British in Europe to the 5th Round of Negotiations Released 12.10.17

Response of British in Europe to Theresa May’s Florence speech of 22nd September 2017.   Released 22.09.17

Response of British in Europe and the3million to the third round of negotiations. Published on 6 September 2017. https://tinyurl.com/Response3rdRound

Annex to Addendum on free movement and cross border working: case studies. While the Addendum represents our legal arguments, the Annex presents the human aspect of free movement and cross-border working, and examines how the EU proposals could impact real lives. The Annex comprises a series of case studies, which illustrate the rich and varied cross-border working lives of British citizens in the EU. https://tinyurl.com/AnnexCaseStudies

Addendum to our response to the second round of negotiations. On 22 August 2017 we published an Addendum to our main response to round to, focusing particularly in our serious concerns on the EU position on freedom of movement for UK citizens in the EU, including the potential impact of this on cross-border working. https://tinyurl.com/Addendum2ndRound

Response of British in Europe and the3million to the second round of negotiations. Published on 2 August 2017. https://tinyurl.com/Response2ndRound

Safeguarding the Position of EU Citizens Living in the UK and UK Nationals Living in the EU: a Joint Response to the UK’s Proposal. On 1 July 2017 we published our response to the UK proposals on citizens’ rights. https://tinyurl.com/ResponseUKProposals

Comments by BiE and the3million on EU Negotiating Guidelines plus Commission Recommendation and directives. On 8 May 2017, British in Europe and the3million published our comments on the Negotiating Guidelines plus the Commission Recommendation and directives that were adopted by the European Council on 29th April. It is worth noting that our most serious reservation was the lack of any proposal to ring-fence the agreement on citizens’ rights – an omission which still has not been addressed.  https://tinyurl.com/CommentsNegotGuidelines

‘UK Citizens in Europe – Towards an Alternative White Paper’.  Published on 1 February 2017 to coincide with the government’s White Paper on Brexit, our first publication set out clear concerns about being able to live, work, run a business or study in the European countries where many have made lives for themselves and their families. https://tinyurl.com/AltWhitePaper

 

Latest Brexit Negotiation Review

There is a serious risk of a political stitch-up in December, where progress falling well short of protecting our rights is certified by the EU to be “sufficient”, just so that the sides can move on to discussing trade.  If that happens and Citizens Rights are discussed in parallel with trade and other matters, we will be bargaining chips in the full sense of that term.  So it is vital to avoid that, and for the same reasons any agreement which is made now must be ring-fenced to prevent it being revisited as part of the trade negotiations.

Why is there no deal yet?

Each side has said that Brexit should not alter people’s daily lives but the negotiations are far from achieving that.

The EU made the first offer – a principled proposal on its face protecting our existing rights. If the UK had simply accepted this offer, the negotiations would have gone on to clarify the detail and we believe that a deal would have been done by now.

But the UK did not accept:  they made their own offer some weeks later which did not even refer to the EU’s. By making a low offer knowing they would have to raise it, they showed that they saw Citizens Rights as a matter for standard commercial negotiation. They have since made a number of concessions, but they still have a long way to go.  Unfortunately, the EU’s reaction to this approach appears to us to have been to harden its line, as we show below.

 Stumbling blocks for the EU27

They drew a flawed distinction between the rights of citizens who have already moved and the future relationship between the UK and the EU.   This led them to refuse to discuss the position of present posted workers, to cut off at Brexit the freedom of movement rights of UK citizens now in the EU, including to work, and to limit dramatically the recognition of professional qualifications upon which people already depend to earn their living, as well as the scope of economic rights.  This was a surprise to us all as the EU Negotiating Directives, amended after discussions between BiE/t3m and the EU, promised to preserve our rights of free movement.

They have been inflexible about modifying the application of their laws to those affected by the unprecedented circumstance of a Member State leaving the Union.   They will not relax the 2-year rule under which a person with permanent residence in a State loses that right if s/he is absent for two years. It seems the UK offered to grant an unlimited right to return to EU citizens in the UK in exchange for freedom of movement for UK citizens within the WA,  – if this is confirmed, it should be accepted immediately.

Stumbling blocks for the UK

First, the UK refuses to accept the simple continuation of the existing system of EU residence rights and insists on requiring EU nationals to be brought under UK immigration law where ‘leave to remain’ is granted to ‘applicants’. This is fundamentally different to the concept of citizens’ rights in the EU and would confer on EuinUK much less protection.

They insist that this is because “the UK will no longer be subject to EU law”, but they are happy for this to happen where convenient, having said from the outset “the UK will seek to protect the healthcare arrangements currently set out in EU Regulations and domestic law.”  Moreover, it is the approach of the Government’s EU (Withdrawal) Bill to continue to apply existing EU law save where it is specifically disapplied.

Second is the argument, used to justify a restriction on the right to bring an ageing relative to live with one and the right to bring a future spouse, that the rights of EU citizens in the UK should be no better than those of UK citizens.  The flaw in this argument is that the ageing relatives of most UK citizens in the UK live in the same country and the majority marry fellow-nationals.  So there are no restrictions on them.

 British in Europe and the3million’s road map to ensuring Citizens Rights by December:

  • Agree a workable alternative to ‘settled status’ in UK by accepting the3million’s proposals in their paper entitled “The alternative to current proposals for EU citizens living in the UK before Brexit.”
  • Confirm a solution on free movement and the 2-year rule providing reciprocity in practice: an agreement should be made conceding continuing free movement rights to reside and work across the EU 27 for UKinEU in exchange for a lifelong right to return to the UK for EuinUK. The UK also needs to relax the rules restricting the family members UKinEU can bring with them if they decide to return to the UK.
  • Professional qualifications: mutual recognition of qualifications should be confined to those who have been residing or frontier-working away from their country of origin at Brexit but otherwise should not be restricted to the country of residence, work or individual recognition-decision; recognition of professional qualifications, whether generic or individual-specific, should apply across the EU28 and a professional who has practised under his/her home title should continue to be allowed to do so. Degrees obtained post-Brexit by EU27 students in the UK and vice-versa (including GB passport holders who have lived in the EU27 and vice versa) should be recognised.
  • Economic rights: Again, economic rights such as the right of establishment as a self-employed person or to run a business should continue to apply across the EU for those who are exercising freedom of movement pre-Brexit.
  • Voting rights: a right to vote in local and European Parliamentary elections is an essential aspect of the right to live in a democratic country and the EU should concede it.
  • Export of benefits: the UK should not limit the right to export benefits to those currently being exported (pensions and health benefits of course excepted as agreement has been reached on these).
  • Children born to citizens after Brexit should have life-long rights; however, these cannot be passed on to future generations.

 Have the talks been a total failure?  No.   A number of important points have been agreed so far, including confirmed rights of residence in the country where they are living for all those living legally (ie in accordance with EU Treaty rights) at Brexit; confirmed rights to work or be self-employed in the country where one is working at Brexit (except for posted workers); some recognition of professional qualifications; the S1 reciprocal healthcare arrangements for pensioners and others on certain benefits to continue; UK pensioners in the EU to continue to receive inflation increases; and past and future pension contributions by those who have worked in various EU countries to continue to be aggregated..  However, unfortunately those for whom these are the most important issues cannot relax yet because they are all conditional on an overall agreement being reached.  If that does not happen, we are back to square one.

Read our full, detailed reasoning view the pdf here which has been sent to both sides of the negotiations.