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DENMARK

British Öresund commuters protected from no-deal Brexit: UK embassy

British citizens who already live in Sweden and commute across to the Öresund Bridge to work in Copenhagen will be able to continue working under the same tax and employment conditions as today, even if there is a 'no-deal' Brexit.

British Öresund commuters protected from no-deal Brexit: UK embassy
About 150 British people came to the meeting at Malmö's Town Hall. Photo: Richard Orange/The Local
“In the case of no deal, provided that you were working in Copenhagen at the time of whatever exit date, then you are fine to keep on in that existing employment,” Dr Jonas Bruun, from the British embassy in Copenhagen, told UK citizens at a town hall meeting in Malmö on Monday evening, attended by The Local.
 
But those who are now looking for a job in Copenhagen, or those who have a job but then lose it, face a more uncertain situation. 
 
“It becomes a little bit more complicated if you lose that job in a no-deal situation,” Bruun said. “The Danish legislation does not cover what will happen in that situation.” 
 
Bruun later told The Local that the Danish Ministry of Employment had confirmed to him that anyone with the status of 'frontier worker' at the time of the UK's exit from the European Union would still be able to receive unemployment benefit if they lost their jobs. 
 
They would also be able to change jobs between Danish employees without altering their situation. 
 
They would not, however, be able to move to take a new job in Sweden and then return to working in Denmark with the same rights. 
 
“You can go from Lego to Carlsberg. But you can't work in Sweden and then come back,” he said.  
 
Those who lose their 'frontier worker' status will no longer be able to take advantage of the deal between Sweden and Denmark over 'frontier workers', and will instead be treated in the same way as “third country citizens”, unless or until a new deal is reached to cover this.
 
Jonas Bruun (left), a policy officer at the British Embassy in Copenhagen and Peter Ruskin (right) Deputy Head of Mission at the British Embassy in Stockholm. Photo: Richard Orange
 
Under a 2003 deal between Denmark and Sweden, workers commuting across the Öresund Bridge pay income tax in Denmark at the same time as receiving healthcare, education and other welfare in Sweden. 
 
The problem for Öresund commuters stems from the fact that while Sweden last week announced a one-year 'grace period' for UK citizens, Denmark is not offering a similar arrangement.  
 
 
Meggan Collins, who lives in Malmö but who has been studying architecture in Copenhagen, said she was disappointed that British cross-border workers would only be able to take advantage of the Öresund deal if they already had jobs. 
 
“This puts me in a pretty sticky situation,” she told The Local. “A lot of the architecture jobs are in Denmark, not in Malmö, so I do feel a bit threatened now.” 
 
She said she was worried that the starting salary for a newly qualified architect in Denmark would be too low to qualify her for a work permit under Denmark's points system for third country nationals, and that the six-month contracts normally offered would be too short. 
 
“I'm graduating in Denmark with a Danish degree that I've been doing for seven years now, and I'm going to come out not being able to get the highest job that I can in Denmark.” 
 
Meggan Collins and her British boyfriend Jacob Coles. Photo: Richard Orange 
 
Lawmakers in London are set to vote on Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit deal on Tuesday, a day after May said she had secured a new and improved deal to leave the EU.

The British PM said on Monday she had secured “legally binding” guarantees from the EU designed to get the Brexit deal through the British parliament and avert a chaotic withdrawal.

She announced the move after a late evening dash to Strasbourg to hammer out the changes with top European officials, as the clock ticked down to Britain's scheduled divorce from the bloc on March 29th.

Read more about May's proposed deal here.

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BREXIT

Is new court ruling the end for Britons fighting to remain EU citizens?

The Court of Justice of the European Union confirmed on Thursday that Brexit really does mean that Britons are no longer EU citizens. Claudia Delpero looks at whether there's any other way they can keep their rights.

Is new court ruling the end for Britons fighting to remain EU citizens?

The Court of Justice of the European Union confirmed on Thursday that Britons lost EU citizenship when the UK left the EU, on 1st February 2020. 

It is the first time the EU’s top court has rules on the matter, after a number of legal cases challenged this specific Brexit outcome. The decision also sets a precedent should other countries decide to leave the bloc in the future. 

What has the EU Court decided?

The Court of Justice decided on a case brought by a British woman living in France.

Before Brexit, she could vote and stand as a candidate in her town of residence, Thoux. But after the UK withdrawal from the EU, she was removed from the electoral roll and excluded from the municipal elections that took place in March 2020, during the transition period.  

As the mayor refused her appeal to restore the registration, she took the case to the regional court in Auch, which agreed to request an interpretation of the rules to the EU top court. 

Julien Fouchet, the barrister supporting her and several other cases on the EU citizenship of British nationals, argued that the loss of EU citizenship and voting rights was disproportionate. It would also be contrary to the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, given that the woman also lost her voting rights in the UK, having lived abroad for more than 15 years.

Alice Bouillez, who has lived in France since 1984 and is married to a French national, could have applied for French citizenship, but did not do so because she said “this was not necessary” before Brexit and, as a former UK official, she had taken an oath of allegiance to the Queen.

On Thursday the Court of Justice announced the decision about her case. The court ruled that the “possession of the nationality of a member state is an essential condition for a person to be able to acquire and retain the status of citizen of the Union and to benefit fully from the rights attaching to that status.”

The court therefore confirmed that British nationals automatically lost their EU citizenship as a result of Brexit and, as a consequence, Britons also lost their voting and electoral rights in municipal elections in the EU (unless the country where they live set different rules). 

What is EU citizenship?

EU citizenship was introduced by the Treaty of Maastricht of 1992, when borders were opening and the bloc was integrating economically after the end of the Cold War. 

Under the treaty, every person holding the nationality of an EU member state is a citizen of the Union. EU citizenship is additional and does not replace nationality, the treaty specifies. But this creates the first form of a transnational citizenship that grants rights across borders.

EU citizens have the right to access each other’s territory, job market and services under the principle of non-discrimination. If they are economically active, they have the right to reside in other EU states and be joined by family members, access healthcare at the same conditions of nationals (for emergency treatment also when travelling temporarily), obtain social security benefits and see their professional qualifications recognised.

Beyond free movement, at the core of EU citizenship there are also political rights, such as participating in the European Parliament election, voting and standing as candidates in municipal elections when living in other EU countries, receiving consular protection from other EU states outside the EU, and taking part in European Citizens’ Initiatives asking to the EU to legislate on certain matters. 

Which EU citizenship rights have Britons lost with Brexit? 

For British citizens who were living in the EU before Brexit, the Withdrawal Agreement protects some of these rights. Britons covered by deal have their residence, access to work and education, healthcare, social security and qualifications secured, but only in the country where they were living before Brexit.

But the right to free movement in other EU states, consular protection in third countries, and the political rights attached to EU citizenship were lost, the Court confirmed. 

For British citizens in the UK, the trade and cooperation agreement has preserved some social security rights and, in theory, the possibility to have professional qualifications recognized when moving to an EU country. These provisions however lack details and may take a long time before they work in practice. 

As the “European Union” no longer features on British passports, the possibility to access EU lanes at airports to skip passport control queues has also vanished. 

“The loss of those treasured rights has been clear to those of us living in the EU from the early days of Brexit. But for Brits in the UK, the realities of life outside the EU, and the consequences of Brexit, are only just dawning. Long queues at the borders, roaming charges, obstacles to working abroad, etc. are the new reality,” said Sue Wilson, Chair of the group Remain in Spain. 

While she said the court’s decision was “no real surprise,” she argued that “this is not the Brexit the public were promised, or that the majority voted for.”

Can British citizens get some of these rights back?

Julien Fouchet was disappointed at the Court decision and promised to continue the legal fight, bringing the case at the European Court of Human Rights (which is not an EU institution). 

Other two cases on the matter of EU citizenship for British nationals are still pending at the Court of Justice of the EU. One of them aims to determine whether EU citizenship is a “fundamental status” that cannot be removed but Thursday’s decision could have already provided the answer.

Another option to reconsider some of the rights is the renegotiation of EU-UK trade agreement, when it will be reviewed in 2025. 

Meanwhile, the EU is revising the rules for non-EU citizens living in EU countries on a long-term basis, making it easier to move across borders. 

Applying for citizenship is so far the only option to regain voting rights, although not all EU countries allow dual nationality. 

Sue Wilson, who has long campaigned for the UK to stay in the EU, said: “There is only one way to restore the loss of our rights, and that’s to rejoin the single market, rejoin the customs union, and eventually, rejoin the European Union… Until that day, we will continue to be second class citizens whose rights have been diminished for the sake of an ideology.”

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