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BREXIT

Brits with EU partners warned over future problems returning to live in UK

Of the roughly one million British nationals living in the EU, many of them have a non-British spouse or partner. These people are now being warned of problems ahead should they ever decide to return to the UK to live.

Brits with EU partners warned over future problems returning to live in UK
Photo: Ben Fathers/AFP

For some it’s the reason they moved abroad in the first place, while others simply met a handsome local in their new home and fell in love.

Either way, of the estimated 1.2 million Brits who live in EU countries, a significant number have met and settled down with partners from the country where they live or another non-British nationality.

While most Brits living abroad have managed to secure their residency rights since Brexit, they could face a whole different set of problems if they ever want to return to the UK and take their spouse or partner with them.

Under rules agreed as part of the Brexit negotiations, Brits can move back to the UK without their European partners needing costly visas as long as they do so before March 29th next year. 

But despite assurances given by the British government, the citizens’ rights campaign group British in Europe is warning that it is already seeing problems with the system, despite the deadline still being six months away.

The system

Since the end of the Brexit transition period, EU nationals who want to move to the UK face a tough immigration process which has strict requirements including a minimum level of English and financial requirements.

Simply being married or in a civil partnership with a UK national does not remove these obligations.

What is in place, however, is an extended grace period in which UK nationals who moved abroad before Brexit can return to their home country and bring their EU spouse with them, as long as they do it before March 2022. 

The problems

This system was not ideal and has left people facing tough choices. Even returning for a relatively short period, for example to care for an elderly parent back in the UK, can leave people facing a choice between their partner and their family.

Others may have no immediate plans to return to the UK, but may have considered it as a long-term option – now they have to either move back before March 2022 or face the prospect that moving back in future might not be impossible.

However now British in Europe is warning that even the system set up to process applications during the post-Brexit grace period is not working as it should.

EU nationals moving to the UK as the spouse of a British person have until March 29th 2022 to apply for Settled Status.

However, before they can apply they need to obtain a new EU family permit from the Home Office in the UK.

And British in Europe is warning that the Home Office is turning down some of these applications, often on seemingly flimsy or technical grounds.

Appealing against this can be a lengthy process, leaving some people who have already applied worried about missing the March deadline.

British in Europe’s Co-Chair Jane Golding said: “We are worried that there are many families across the EU who do not understand the implications of stringent immigration rules now applying to UK citizens in the EU.

“Many of us have older relatives in the UK who may need our care, or we had always planned to retire to the UK to be near family.

“The grace period given until the end of March 2022 is simply not long enough for families to make decisions to uproot and then arrange to return to the UK. We continue to lobby for a longer grace period.

“Families considering a move now need to be aware that the process is time-consuming and complex and that non-UK family members will first need to apply for a EU Settled Status family permit from outside the UK before the end of March 2022, and only when they have that and move to the UK will they be able to apply for EU pre-settled status.”

Member comments

    1. These rules always applied to spouses from third countries when UK was in the EU. Now the EU is just 27 third countries as far as UK immigration is concerned. They are a lot more lenient when it comes to ham sandwiches though.

  1. I assume this eternal Brexit cruelty also extends to future relationships between single UK citizens living in Europe that don’t even exist yet? So, I now have to be careful about the nationality of any new partner I might wish to meet, fall in love with and marry?

  2. This is appalling, given the unfettered illegal immigration happing in the UK at the moment.
    The UK is happy to accept future terrorists in rubber dinghies, but reject perfectly decent and respectable people just because they happen to be born outside the UK. Yet another example, if one were needed, of the irrational, clueless policy making by Johnson’s so called government.

    1. Migrants fleeing war and persecution and then legally gaining asylum are not “future terrorists in rubber dinghies”. I would rather have 100 of them in my neighbourhood than 1 racist, ignorant troll such as yourself.

      1. Thank for your comment. I find those with no rational argument always resort to abuse, as you have so eloquently proved.
        However, if you are so passionate about the legitimacy of the channel migrants, genuinely fleeing war and persecution, can you please explain to me:
        1. Why they do not settle in the first country that they reach?
        2. Why, according to Home Office figures, 98% of all channel migrants are male aged between 14 and 40. Where are the woman and children? For some reason they are obviously less eager to flee than their male compatriots. Please explain why that might be.

        1. 1. Bless you Tony, if you think that was abuse

          2. You literally said refugees were future terrorists – that is both racist and ignorant (as well as a good few other ‘abusive’ terms that spring to mind)

          3. There are so many painfully obvious reasons which are a quick Google away that I am not going to waste my time going into them here. But something tells me you aren’t interested in knowing or understanding, but rather looking to spew hate on a completely unrelated and innocent article, so I don’t see any point in continuing this conversation.

          1. Agree, equating refugees with terrorists is disingenuous at best and at worst feeds into the leftist narrative that all right wingers (now a slur) are white supremacists.

  3. Great article, thanks! But think this should read ‘now’ rather than ‘not’: now they have to either move back before March 2022 or face the prospect that moving back in future might not be impossible.

  4. Agreed with the above comment. We can not classify all migrants as potential terrorists. But, my main concern is that uncontrolled immigration can and will likely lead to the rise of right wing fascist groups in those countries that allow this. One only has to look at the USA and Donald Trump to see where this can go in a country once considered to be the beacon of democracy and I think many of us can agree that it’s not pretty.

  5. I have a friend in this very situation, the family has moved back to the UK while his Dutch wife is staying with friends. He was told 8-12 weeks (I think) but it’s looking closer to 8-12 months assuming she isn’t rejected.

  6. As I understand it, the deadline set for end of March 2022 only applies to those partners who were already in a relationship on Brexit day. So tough luck to those who find new partners.

  7. Gentlemen, let’s please have a civilized discussion here. I have never imagined that this is a place to verbally abuse anyone or call to task anyone’s personal opinions. We are all very opinionated people, that is clear. But one thing that is increasingly happening in the world is that we are expressing these opinions without regard to anything other than our own personal needs. Social media has allowed this abnormal process to live and thrive. There are other venues to use to express oneself in a critical way. This, however, is not a place for malice towards anyone. Thank you.

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BREXIT

What is the latest on Gibraltar’s Brexit status?

With 2023 approaching and negotiations between Gibraltar, the UK, EU and Spain dragging on for yet another year, what is the latest on Gibraltar and Brexit? Will they reach a deal before New Year and how could it affect life in Gibraltar and Spain?

What is the latest on Gibraltar's Brexit status?

As British politics tries to move on from Brexit, the tiny British territory at the southern tip of Spain, Gibraltar, has been stuck in political limbo since the referendum all the way back in 2016.

Gibraltar, which voted in favour of Remain during the referendum by a whopping 96 percent, was not included in the Brexit deal and has instead relied on a framework agreement made between the UK and Spain on New Year’s Eve in 2020.

After that framework was laid out, it was hoped that the various parties – that is, the Gibraltarian government, Spain, the EU, and the UK – would build on it and quickly find a wider treaty agreement establishing Gibraltar’s place on the European mainland in the post-Brexit world.

It was thought that Gibraltar could enter into a common travel area with the Schengen zone, limiting border controls and essentially creating a custom-made customs arrangement with the EU.

But since then, the negotiation process has stopped and started, with no deal being made and uncertainty dragging on through 2021.

Despite all parties still being relatively optimistic in the spring of 2022, no resolution has been found and 2023 is approaching.

Relying on the framework agreement alone, uncertainty about what exactly the rules are and how they should be implemented have caused confusion and long delays on the border.

The roadblocks

Progress in the multi-faceted negotiations to bash out a treaty and determine Gibraltar’s place in the post-Brexit world have repeatedly stumbled over the same roadblocks.

The main one is the issue of the border. Known in Spain and Gibraltar as La Línea – meaning ‘the line’ in reference to the Spanish town directly across the border, La Línea de la Concepción – the subject of the border and who exactly will patrol it (and on which side) has been a constant sticking point in negotiations.

Madrid and Brussels have approached the British government with a proposal for removing the border fence between Spain and Gibraltar in order to ease freedom of movement, Spain’s Foreign Minister José Manuel Albares said in late November 2022. There has been no immediate response from London.

The Gibraltarians refuse to accept Spanish boots on the ground and would prefer the European-wide Frontex border force. The British government feel this would be an impingement on British sovereignty. There’s also been the persistent issues of VAT and corporation tax considerations, as well as the British Navy base and how to police the waters around it.

Though there had been reports that the ongoing British driving license in Spain fiasco had been one of the reasons negotiations had stalled, the British ambassador to Spain Hugh Elliot categorically denied any connection between the issue of Gibraltar’s Brexit deal and British driving licence recognition earlier in November.

READ ALSO: CONFIRMED: Deal on UK licences in Spain agreed but still no exchange date

On different pages?

Not only do the long-standing sticking points remain, but it also seems that the various negotiating parties are on slightly different pages with regards to how exactly each seems to think the negotiations are going.

Judging by reports in the Spanish press in recent weeks, it appears that many in Spain may believe the negotiations are wrapping up and a conclusion could be found by New Year. This perception comes largely from comments made by Pascual Navarro, Spain’s State Secretary to the EU. Speaking to reporters in Brussels, Navarro claimed that negotiations have advanced so well that they were now only working ‘on the commas’ of the text – that is to say, tidying it up.

According to Gibraltar’s Chief Minister Fabian Picardo, though negotiations are ongoing, “we’re not there yet”. (Photo: JORGE GUERRERO/AFP)

“No issue that is blocked,” he said. “All of the text is on the table.” A full treaty, he suggested, could be signed “before the end of the year.”

Yet it seems the Gibraltarians don’t quite see the progress as positively as their neighbours. Last week the Gibraltar government, known as No.6, acknowledged Navarro’s optimism.

According to Gibraltar’s Chief Minister Fabian Picardo however, though negotiations are ongoing, “we’re not there yet”.

No.6 remains positive and hopes for a deal, but in recent weeks has also published technical contingency plans for businesses to prepare for what they are calling a ‘Non-Negotiated Outcome’ – effectively a ‘no-deal’ in normal Brexit jargon.

The UK, however, seem to be somewhere in the middle. Like Navarro, the British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly recently suggested at a House of Commons select committee that only “a relatively small number” of issues remain to be resolved.

However, he also acknowledged the possibility of a non-negotiated outcome. “I think it’s legitimate to look at that [planning for a non-negotiated outcome] as part of our thinking,” Mr Cleverly said. “But obviously we are trying to avoid an NNO.”

Election year

If no deal is found by New Year, that would mean that negotiations drag into 2023 – election years for both Picardo and Pedro Sánchez, Spain’s Prime Minister.

Gibraltar is expected to have elections sometime in the second-half of the year, and Sánchez has to call an election by the end of 2023.

In many ways, Spanish domestic politics has the potential to play a far greater role in Gibraltar’s fate than British politics. In fact, the shadow of Spanish politics looms over these negotiations and the future relationship between Spain and Gibraltar, the UK and Spain, and the UK and EU.

If Sánchez’s PSOE were to lose the election, which according to the latest polling data is the most probable outcome, then it would be likely that Spain’s centre-right party PP would seek to renegotiate, if not outright reject, any deal made.

READ ALSO: Who will win Spain’s 2023 election – Sánchez or Feijóo?

If PP are unable to secure a ruling majority, however, they may well be forced to rely on the far-right party Vox, who have often used nationalist anti-Gibraltar rhetoric as a political weapon. If Vox were to enter into government, which is unlikely but a possibility, it’s safe to say any agreement – if one is even reached before then – would be torn up and the Spanish government would take a much harder line in negotiations.

As the consequences of Brexit churn on in Britain, in Gibraltar uncertainty looms.

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