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BREXIT

Brexit: An open letter from UK ambassador to British nationals in Spain

British ambassador to Spain Simon Manley sheds lights on the situation for Britons living in the country after the approval of the United Kingdom’s Withdrawal Agreement with the European Union.

Brexit: An open letter from UK ambassador to British nationals in Spain
Simon Manley. Photo: British Embassy to Spain

I wanted to update you on the recent developments on our exit from the EU.

As many of you are no doubt aware, on Sunday 25th November, there was a special European Council on Brexit.

EU leaders agreed the Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration on the future relationship between the UK and EU.

Citizens’ rights is a key part of the agreement, so this represents a big step forward in providing certainty for UK nationals living in Spain. As the PM said following the European Council “If you are one of the over 3 million EU citizens who has come and built your life in the UK – come to be our colleagues, our neighbours and our friends – you need a deal that guarantees your rights.

If you are one of the almost 1 million UK nationals living elsewhere in the EU, you need the same. This deal delivers for you all.”

The next stage is for the UK Parliament to vote on the deal the Government has negotiated, which is expected on the 11th of December. The European Parliament will also vote on the agreement.

If approved, the Withdrawal Agreement will secure the rights of 1 million UK nationals living in the EU. It means that the 300,000 British people who have chosen to make Spain their home have a legal guarantee that they will be allowed to stay here after the UK leaves the EU on 29 March 2019.

The Agreement also defines the Implementation Period as running from 30 March 2019 and until 31 December 2020.  All UK nationals lawfully residing in Spain on 31 December 2020 will be covered by the Withdrawal Agreement. Under the current rules, UK nationals living in Spain must register with the Spanish authorities (at the Oficina de Extranjeros or at a designated local police station) to be legally resident here.

Photo: AFP

Therefore, I and the team strongly recommend you ensure you are correctly registered as a resident, as is your current obligation.

For detailed advice on registering, please see gov.uk/living-in-spain. We will, of course, update our advice if the Spanish authorities announce any changes to the registration requirements linked to Brexit.

During the Implementation Period, you will be able to visit, live and work in the EU broadly as you do now. If you want to move to a different Member State, you will be able to do so during the Implementation Period.

UK nationals and their families covered by the Agreement will continue to have broadly the same access to healthcare, pensions and other benefits as they currently do. 

And you will be able to leave Spain for up to five years without losing your right to return if you have acquired the relevant residency status.

If you have any questions about who is covered by the Withdrawal Agreement, please see the UK nationals living in the EU pages on gov.uk.

Next steps

Make sure you are correctly registered with Extranjeria here in Spain (please see gov.uk/living-in-spain)

Sign up for email alerts to stay up to date and find out about our outreach events, by visiting the Living in Spain guide on gov.uk.

Follow our “Brits in Spain” social media channels, including on facebook

Both the Embassy and our network of consulates will continue with outreach events across Spain to answer your questions about your rights and Brexit, with three events planned before Christmas and more planned for the new year. 

And we will continue to update you with key information in the months ahead.

In the meantime, I would like to wish all British nationals living in Spain, a very merry Christmas.

BREXIT

Brexit: Brits in EU feel European and don’t want to return home

The majority of Britons who live in the EU, Norway, Iceland or Switzerland and are protected under the Brexit agreement feel European and intend to remain in Europe permanently, but many have concerns about travel problems, a new survey reveals.

Brexit: Brits in EU feel European and don't want to return home

The research also shows that problems exist and “travel is where most issues relating to the new status currently occur”. For instance, border officials are still stamping passports of UK citizens with residence rights under the EU UK withdrawal agreement, even though they shouldn’t.

“There is constant confusion around passport stamping. I was ‘stamped in’ to France on a short trip… but could not find anyway to be ‘stamped out’ again. I think I can only spend 90 days in other EU countries, but have no idea how anyone can check or enforce that – until someone decides to try. It’s a mess,” was one of the answers left in an open question.

“Every time I go through a Schengen border control, I need to provide both my passport and Aufenthaltstitel card [resident permit in Germany] and watch to check that they don’t stamp my passport. As I am currently travelling a lot that’s been 20-odd times this year…” another respondent said.

The survey was carried out by Professor Tanja Bueltmann, historian of migration and diaspora at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, between October and November 2022. About 1,139 UK citizens replied.

Of these, 80 per cent found acquiring their new status easy or very easy, 60.7 per cent feel their rights are secure, while 39.3 per cent have concerns about their status going forward.

Staying permanently

More than three quarters (76.6 per cent) of respondents said they plan to live permanently in the EU or the other countries of the European Economic Area and Switzerland. In fact, 65.7 per cent said that Brexit has increased the likelihood of this choice.

For some, the decision is linked to the difficulty to bring non-British family members to the UK under new, stricter immigration rules.

“My German wife and I decided we no longer wanted to live in UK post Brexit referendum. In particular, we were affected by the impact of immigration law […] We cannot now return to UK on retirement as I cannot sponsor her on my pension. We knew it was a one-way journey. Fortunately, I could revive an application for German citizenship,” was a testimony.

“My husband is a US citizen and getting him a visa for the UK was near impossible due to my low income as a freelance journalist. We realized under EU law, moving to an EU country was easier. We settled on Austria as we had both lived there before… we could speak some German, and we like the mountains,” said another respondent.

Professor Bueltmann noted that the loss of free movement rights in the EU could be a factor too in the decision of many to stay where they are.

Citizenship and representation

Among those who decided to stay, 38.2 per cent are either applying or planning to apply for a citizenship and 28.6 per cent are thinking about it.

A key finding of the research, Bueltmann said, is that the vast majority of British citizens do not feel politically represented. Some 60 per cent of respondents said they feel unrepresented and another 30 per cent not well represented.

Another issue is that less than half (47.5 per cent) trust the government of their country of residence, while a larger proportion (62 per cent) trust the European Union. Almost all (95.6 per cent) said they do not trust the UK government.

Feeling European

The survey highlights the Brexit impacts on people’s identity too. 82.6 per cent of respondents said they see themselves as European, a higher proportion than those identifying as British (68.9 per cent).

“Brexit has really left me unsure of what my identity is. I don’t feel British, and I certainly don’t identify with the mindset of a lot of British people who live there. Yet, I am not Danish either. So, I don’t really know anymore!” said one of the participants in the survey.

Professor Bueltmann said the survey “demonstrates that Brexit impacts continue to evolve: this didn’t just stop because the transition period was over or a deadline for an application had been reached. Consequently, Brexit continues to shape the lives and experiences of British citizens in the EU/EEA and Switzerland in substantial, sometimes life-altering, ways.”

Considering the results of the study, Professor Bueltmann recommends policy makers in the EU and the UK to address the issue of lack of representation, for instance creating a joint UK-EU citizens’ stakeholder forum.

The report also recommends the UK government to rebuild trust with British citizens in the EU introducing voting rights for life and changing immigration rules to allow British-European families to return more easily. 

This article was prepared in cooperation with Europe Street News.

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