Category Archives: EU Level

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

Where has Dec agreement left us?

This is a quick (and non-exhaustive) general summary of the state of play from British in Europe after the phase 1 agreement on citizens’ rights. 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.

The unfinished business, such as whether we have free movement across the EU 27, will be discussed in the second phase. Our concern is that this could get lost in the mass of issues now to be discussed such as airline slots. And until the final agreement is signed, none is this is set in stone although it is unlikely that what has been agreed so far will be changed.

Added to the mix, the European Council agreed today that it was prepared to negotiate a transition period of two years with the UK. If negotiated, it would delay implementation of the agreement, including on citizens’ rights. Depending on what is negotiated, it would probably mean that our rights to live and work in the EU won’t change substantially from what they are now during that period.

The good:

If you are ‘legally resident’ at Brexit you can stay – but in some countries you may have to make an application to secure this (see OPTION 2 below and our concerns about this).

The current conditions under EU law will apply. 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 Brexit.

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.

If you are a ‘frontier worker’ – living in one country and working in one or more other countries at Brexit – you will still have the right to work in each country.

Reciprocal healthcare is agreed; if you have an S1 from the UK or will get one when you retire you’ll still have your healthcare funded by the UK.

UK pensions will be uprated in accordance with inflation and aggregation of social security contributions including pensions is agreed, both before and after Brexit day.

There is some agreement on recognition of professional qualifications – if you have an individual recognition decision re. your qualification including through automatic recognition eg. doctors, architects, your qualification will continue to be recognised but only in the country where the decision was issued.

Certain close family members (spouse, 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 Brexit day 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 .

What hasn’t been included:

Continuing freedom of movement – i.e. the ability to move, reside and work in EU27 countries other than our country of residence/frontier working –and this is still be discussed in the second phase. 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 various EU legislation dealing with rights of 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 the same free movement rights as we have now as EU citizens.

Some professional qualifications e.g. lawyers practising under their own titles and EU-wide licences and certificates are not covered, and recognition outside the country of recognition/residence across the EU 27 is still to be discussed.

Territorial scope of economic rights, e.g. secondary establishment and cross-border provision of services has not been agreed yet nor have rights of posted workers.

The right to be joined by a future spouse or partner – i.e. one that you weren’t in a relationship with on Brexit day.

Ring-fencing of the agreement so far.

So should you be happy?

If you’re happily settled in your host country, work solely there or are 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 and don’t rely on professional qualifications, then your rights should be covered. But …

How your rights will be confirmed:

EU27 countries will have two options:

OPTION 1: They can adopt what’s called a declaratory system, in line with current EU law, 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).

OPTION 2: 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.

Why British in Europe thinks there is still a long way to go

One of British in Europe’s major objections to the agreement concerns OPTION 2 because (i) this means we will have to apply for a new status instead of having our existing rights confirmed (ii) some people will struggle to find the proof that they meet the statutory requirements of ‘legal residence’ and (iii) bureaucracies can make mistakes.

Another is the fact that continuing freedom of movement isn’t included. This is a big deal for many people whose livelihood depends 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 effects 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 your host country.
We will be pursuing a strong advocacy campaign on all these issues in months to come to ensure that outstanding issues don’t fall off the table and are included in the withdrawal agreement. ​

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.