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BREXIT

British ambassador tells Brits in Spain: ‘Make sure you are registered!’

The British Ambassador to Madrid has an important message for Brits in Spain ahead of Brexit.

British ambassador tells Brits in Spain: 'Make sure you are registered!'
HMA Hugh Elliott says make it a new year's resolution to get your paperwork in order.. Photo: British Embassy/FCO

As you know, the UK will be leaving the EU on January 31st and we are on course to leave with a Deal, so I wanted to explain some of the jargon around the parliamentary process and, crucially, what all of this means for British nationals living in Spain.

Citizens’ rights have always been an important part of the negotiations on our exit from the EU. Indeed the citizens’ rights parts of the Withdrawal Agreement (the agreement about how we leave the EU) were one of the first areas to be agreed between the UK and the EU back in autumn 2018. 

The final text of the Withdrawal Agreement was agreed between the UK and the EU in October 2019 and there were no substantive changes to the citizens’ rights elements. In the UK, the process for approving the Withdrawal Agreement – or what many of us call ‘the Deal’ – is already well underway in parliament.

The House of Commons approved the Withdrawal Agreement Bill – which is the domestic legislation that needs to be passed by parliament – by a majority of 99 on Thursday 9th January. It is now being discussed in the House of Lords. If there are any amendments as a result of this, these will be considered by the House of Commons. The Bill will then be given “Royal Assent” which means that it becomes law in the UK (to follow this in depth, see the UK Parliament website).

In parallel, the European Parliament will also vote on the Withdrawal Agreement on January 29th; approval by a simple majority would mean that the EP has also ratified “the Deal”.  These processes are a bit intricate, but the key point for you is that we are firmly on track to leave with a Deal on 31 January. It is also important to note that your rights under the Withdrawal Agreement are completely independent of the negotiations about our future trade and security relationship with the EU.

For British Nationals in Spain, the Withdrawal Agreement contains really important guarantees for you on citizens’ rights, such as the right to continue to live and work in Spain, continuation of healthcare and uprating of pensions. Those rights will be protected for as long as you remain resident in Spain, provided that you are registered as a resident by December 31st 2020. 

That’s why it is so important to ensure that you, your family, your friends and indeed your neighbours are all correctly registered as resident here. If you are not sure whether you are or don’t know what to do next, have a look at this video from our consular advisor which takes you through the process, and explains the differences between the padron, NIE and residencia: 

You have time and there are plenty of appointments in most provinces, but do make it a New Year’s Resolution to get it done as soon as you can! I should also clarify that UK Nationals cannot apply for a TIE (Tarjeta de Identidad de Extranjero or foreigner’s identity card) until after Brexit – something I know some people have been asking about.

If there is any change to the residency system after Brexit we will update our Living in Guide at gov.uk/livinginspain, so do sign up for alerts and follow us on Facebook at facebook.com/britsinspain. We are also holding outreach events in a number of locations in January, including Benidorm, Lanzarote and Murcia, and further details of all our outreach events are on the Living in Guide and on Facebook, so do come along if you have any questions or doubts, and encourage others to join us too. If you can’t attend a face-to-face event, we will be doing another Facebook live session on January 31st where we can also answer your questions directly.

My very best wishes for 2020.

HMA Hugh Elliott

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BREXIT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Staying permanently

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

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

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

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

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

Citizenship and representation

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

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

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

Feeling European

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

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

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

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

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

This article was prepared in cooperation with Europe Street News.

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