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Brexit: What are the main differences between a deal and a no deal for Brits in the EU?

Do you know how a no-deal Brexit would affect your lives in the EU differently to a divorce based on an amicable agreement? Here the British in Europe campaign group spells out the main distinction.

Brexit: What are the main differences between a deal and a no deal for Brits in the EU?
Photo: Depositphotos


The Withdrawal Agreement (“WA”) sets out our rights fairly fully, though there remains considerable uncertainty as to the implementation of those rights if the agreement is ever ratified. 

There is, for example, still no final list of which countries are opting for a constitutive system of re-registration (Britons would have to re-register for a new residence status after Brexit) under Art. 18.1 of the WA as opposed to the declaratory option under Art. 18.4 (re-registration would not be obligatory).


No Deal

Grace period: Most EU27 countries have opted for a “grace period” immediately following Brexit, during which most of our EU rights within each host country (i.e. excluding free movement) are said to continue.  The length of the period and the clarity over what these rights will be varies enormously.   

Not all countries have provided details, let alone legislation, on our status and rights following the grace period for example Germany has not. (The German government did announce this week it was adopting a new law on a no-deal Brexit that still needs to pass the parliament).

Those resident in their present host country for less than 5 years:  Here the Commission has not recommended any particular approach, so each country has to formulate its own approach, usually based on its national immigration law for those resident less than 5 years.  There are great variations as between the countries, and a considerable degree of uncertainty even where legislation has been promulgated.

READ ALSO: The ultimate Brexit no-deal checklist for Brits in Spain

Those resident in their host country for 5 or more years:  Here, in addition to national immigration law, the situation is covered by the EU Long Term Residence Directive (“LTR Directive”), which the Commission has encouraged Member States to apply to UKinEU on the basis that their past residence whilst EU citizens should count towards the necessary 5 years.  The main differences between this EU Directive and the WA are:

  • Pre-Brexit absences permitted when applying for long-term residence: before Brexit anyone who has resided in their host state for 5 years is entitled to ‘permanent residence’, a status with enhanced rights: they can be absent for up to 2 yearswithout losing it.  Under the LTR Directive the same person will be denied the enhanced LTR status if they have been absent for a total of 10 months in the previous 5 years.  So permanent residents who have exercised their legal right to be away for up to 2 years pre-Brexit will, by a retrospective rule change, be denied the equivalent long-term status post-Brexit.
  • Absences once you have acquired LTR status: an absence of 1 year from the EU (which of course will include any period in the UK) will be enough to deprive you of any right to remain under the EU’s No Deal contingency plans.  This contrasts with 5 years absence for those with permanent residence under the WA.
  • Conditions for acquiring the new status: the LTR Directive requires States to impose conditions as to available resources and sickness insurance, and they can also require tests of language and knowledge of the country.  The latter tests cannot be required under the WA and the other conditions are more onerous under the LTR  than their equivalents under the WA.
  • Employment: Under the WA UKinEU have equal treatment rights with nationals of the host state.  Under the LTR Directive States may exclude UKinEU from jobs which are reserved to nationals of the State or EU/EEA citizens.  Such jobs include many presently held by British citizens in the public sector, such as teaching.
  • Recognition of qualifications: post-Brexit, UKinEU LTRs will only have the right to equal treatment with nationals under any national scheme for the recognition of qualifications, not under the EU scheme (though pre-Brexit recognitions will continue to be valid in most sectors).  Under the WA the EU scheme would continue to apply to those whose qualifications were recognised, or in the process of being so, by the end of the transition period.
  • Education and training: in contrast to the WA, access to education and training for LTRs may be made subject to language tests, and study grants will only be available in accordance with national law, not EU law.
  • Social security and health care: under the WA the existing systems for reciprocal health care and for social security coordination (including aggregation of pension contributions made in different States) continues.  In a No Deal scenario these come to an end, though some minimal bridging arrangements are proposed.  For UK pensioners this means that their pensions will be frozen at their present value (the WA would prevent this), and vital S1 healthcare (also protected by the WA) comes to an end for all those who are not receiving “or have applied for” treatment at Brexit.
  • Family reunification: the range of people with whom reunification is possible is more limited under the LTR Directive than under the WA (close family).

In addition, and most worryingly, the implementation of the EU LTR Directive in many countries was criticised as “deplorable” in 2011 by the Commission itself, and reform is still under consideration.

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What could the Swedish language test for permanent residency look like?

Sweden plans to introduce language and civics tests for permanent residency from 2027. What could the language test entail and how good would your Swedish need to be to pass?

What could the Swedish language test for permanent residency look like?

These language and civics tests haven’t yet been drawn up, but here’s what they could look like based on the suggestions in a new proposal.

How good do I need to be at Swedish?

The proposal states that applicants would be expected to have a level of Swedish equivalent to A2 on the CEFR, the EU’s Common European Framework of Reference for Languages.

This is equivalent to SFI level C, and is classified as a “basic” level of Swedish.

The language test would only measure your listening skills, so you would not be tested on your speech or writing skills. However, you would need to read some questions in Swedish, and the civics test would be held in Swedish, so you’ll need to be able to read at a high enough level to answer the tests.

You would not however be tested on your reading comprehension.

Here are the CEFR guidelines for an A2 level:

“Can understand sentences and frequently used expressions related to areas of most immediate relevance (e.g. very basic personal and family information, shopping, local geography, employment). Can communicate in simple and routine tasks requiring a simple and direct exchange of information on familiar and routine matters. Can describe in simple terms aspects of his/her background, immediate environment and matters in areas of immediate need.”

What would the questions be like?

A2 level listening comprehension tests would examine your ability to understand simple sentences in spoken Swedish. 

The proposal states that the questions asked would be “closed questions”, so you would not be expected to write answers longer than a couple of words, as you’re being tested on your listening comprehension rather than your writing skills. 

Questions would most likely consist of an audio clip which you would then have to answer simple questions on, such as writing down a phone number someone has read out, listening to an answerphone message and answering questions on its content, or answering questions on a short radio report or conversation.

These are likely to be fairly simple, factual questions and would not require you to explain your answer.

Essentially, questions like “what time does the train leave?” “what colour car does she want?” or “how many children does he have?” rather than questions asking you to give your opinion or provide an argument for a specific viewpoint.

You can take a look at mock A2 level Swedish tests like this one from Folkuniversitetet (under “listening comprehension”) if you want to get a gauge of whether your Swedish is up to scratch.

What would the test itself be like?

According to the proposal, the test would be held digitally and would consist of two parts each lasting 50 minutes, with a ten minute break in between.

This is quite long for a listening test (the mock test linked above is only 30 minutes long) so it would likely cover a wide range of topics, although at A2 level these topics should all cover relatively basic vocabulary on topics like talking about yourself and your family, activities such as work or visiting the supermarket, or other basic tasks that you’re likely to come across in your daily life in Sweden, like making a phone call or ordering in a restaurant.

If any vocabulary above A2 level is included, the proposal states that a glossary of terminology should be included for vocabulary above A2 level.

How long does it take to learn Swedish to A2 level?

Most estimates state that it takes anywhere from 120 to 300 hours of work to get up to A2 level, although that includes hours spent practicing the language, so listening to Swedish radio, podcasts, music or TV would all count into that total.

Depending on your prior education, your ability to learn a language and the amount of time and resources you are able to dedicate to study, it could take anywhere from a few weeks on an intensive full-time course to a couple of years or more if you’re studying a couple of hours a week by yourself.

This might sound like a long time, but bear in mind that applications for permanent residency usually require you to have lived in Sweden for four years.

You also won’t lose your right to live in Sweden if you don’t pass the language test as long as you still fulfil the requirements for temporary residency, you just won’t be able to apply for permanent residency until you’ve passed it.

Find out more about both tests for permanent residency in our explainer below.