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BREXIT

Spain launches dedicated Brexit hotline

The Spanish government has announced the launch of a dedicated hotline to answer all queries from Brits living in Spain about the implications of Brexit.

Spain launches dedicated Brexit hotline
The new phone line has been announced. Lamoncloa.gob.es

Callers can ring 060 when in Spain or +34 902 887060 if calling from abroad and an automated system will offer the choice of either Spanish or English and ask if you are Spanish citizen wanting to live in the UK or a Brit in Spain.

You will then be offered a choice of information on the different issues most pressing for Brits in Spain during the transition period: residency, healthcare, retirement pensions, social security and driving licences.

Each option comes with an automated message about the current status relating to those matters and how it will remain unchanged during the transition period.

The service also offers the option of speaking to an operator for those requiring further information or with a specific query not dealt with by the automated options.

A large number of queries already received from Brits living in Spain have been about the issue of residency.

The Spanish government has updated its Brexit information page to inform British citizens already living in Spain, or planning to do so before the end of the transition period about the need to be properly registered.

It states that for the time being the process remains the same as it was before Brexit and the green credit card sized (or older A4) certificates will remain valid throughout the transition period until December 312020.

“During this transition period UK nationals and their family members resident in Spain who are nationals of non-EU countries will maintain their rights derived from the application of EU law (except for the right to vote and stand in elections to the European Parliament and the right to use the EU Citizens Initiative),” states an update in the Brexit section on the Moncloa website.

“Once the transition period ends, the Withdrawal Agreement stipulates that your rights of residence, work, study and social security will be maintained.

“You have to bear in mind that the registration certificates (the green certificate) and ID cards of family members of the EU citizen obtained before the end of the transition period will subsequently serve to accredit their legal residence in Spain and benefit from the provisions of the Withdrawal Agreement.”

But the website does state that plans are afoot for new paperwork specifically for Brits resident in Spain post-Brexit.  

“The Spanish government is working together with the European Commission to have a Foreign Identity Card that explicitly mentions your condition as beneficiary of the Withdrawal Agreement. The procedure for processing this card in the coming months will be completed soon.”

It adds: “The rights of British citizens and their family members who begin their legal residence in Spain after the transition period will be those established by the agreement regulating future relations; if there is none, the general arrangements governing foreign residents in Spain will be applicable.”

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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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