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BREXIT

‘Doors will close for Brits in EU’: Why the UK’s post-Brexit immigration plan has sparked alarm

It's fair to say the UK government's planned new post-Brexit immigration system - with its language requirements and minimum salary levels for EU migrants - has sparked worry among British groups in Europe.

'Doors will close for Brits in EU': Why the UK's post-Brexit immigration plan has sparked alarm
Photo: AFP

The UK government announced its planned new immigration system this week and it immediately sparked concern for the future of those Britons who want to move to the EU in future.

The new points-based system to replace the freedom of movement which allowed EU nationals to move to freely to the UK will be implemented once the Brexit transition period comes to an end. That date is currently set for December 31st 2020, but it may be pushed back.

While Britons currently living in the EU and those who move before the end of the transition period are covered by the Withdrawal Agreement, it is unclear what the rules will be for future generations, although they will become third-country nationals.

But how easy it will be for Brits to move to France, Italy or Spain in future could depend on what kind of system the UK puts in place after Brexit, which is why many are concerned. Brits living in Europe now could face tough choices in the future and those hoping to move to the EU could find doors are closed.

The UK government said this week it wanted to take “full control” of its borders by installing an Australian-style points-based system, that would effectively close the doors to unskilled EU workers as well as those who can't speak English to the required standard.

In a statement the government said: “These new arrangements will take effect from January 1st 2021, once freedom of movement with the European Union (EU) has ended. It will treat EU and non-EU citizens equally and aims to attract people who can contribute to the UK’s economy.

“The points-based system will include a route for skilled workers who have a job offer from an approved employer sponsor. 

“From January 2021, the job you’re offered will need to be at a required skill level of RQF3 or above (equivalent to A level). You’ll also need to be able to speak English. The minimum general salary threshold will be reduced to £25,600.

And the government adds that there'll be no “immigration route specifically for low-skilled workers” or indeed for the self-employed.

There will also be language restrictions for students.

“Student visa routes will be opened up to EU, EEA and Swiss citizens.

“You’ll be able to apply for a visa to study in the UK if you: have been offered a place on a course, can speak, read, write and understand English and have enough money to support yourself and pay for your course.”

While the plans are for migrants heading to the UK, the strict rules are understandably a cause for concern for those British nationals who may want to move the other way in future or indeed move back to Britain with their EU partners.

Kalba Meadows from British in Europe told The Local that Brits living in Europe may be forced into a tough choice in future.

“For British nationals living in the EU with non British spouses or partners, it will effectively close off the possibility in future of returning to the UK to live unless they choose to leave their partner behind.

“What if they have elderly parents in the UK who need their care … do they really have to choose between partner and parents?”

While nothing has been announced by EU member states there are fears countries will follow the principle of reciprocity and it will therefore become much harder to move to the EU.

“It's inevitable that there will be knock on-effects of reciprocity,” said Meadows.

“We can expect British people wanting to move to France or other EU countries in future to have a much harder time of things.

“So many of us have moved to France, for example, over the last few years to start small businesses … with the UK now closing its doors to anyone wanting to be self-employed we might expect that door to be – if not closed completely to us – become decidedly sticky and difficult to open.”

Michael Harris from Eurocitizens in Spain said: “If Britain does decide to stop any freedom of movement from the EU after 01/01/21, this will obviously be reciprocal for Britons in the UK wanting to move to the EU – and there is very little we can do to stop it.”

Harris also points that the UK's stance will make it far less likely for the EU to agree to granting Brits already in the EU onward freedom of movement, which effectively landlocks Brits in the country they are in. 

British in Europe's Fiona Godfrey added: “This will have repercussions for UK nationals already living in the EU. We are still waiting for some countries to decide how they will register  us under the Withdrawal Agreement and this probably won’t help persuade them to choose the declaratory option rather than the re-registration option. 

“And, of course, it’s not going to help Brits who want or need to leave their host country to find work elsewhere in the EU if the member states reciprocate, which we expect them to do. 
 
“All in all, it’s more British exceptionalism, insularity and delusion. It would be embarrassing were it not for the fact that so many UK  lives and livelihoods in the EU, and EU lives and livelihoods in the UK are dependent on the UK government acting in good faith and treating EU nationals living there as assets to the country rather than units of “cheap labour.” The hostile environment has to stop.”
 
Paul Hearn from the organisation Brexpats Hear Our Voice told The Local: “I'd say that it is too early to suggest that any states would apply any different criteria to migrating UK citizens than they do to migrants from any other country.  Although the UK Government are proposing a different migration policy to that which currently exist in the UK, it is not specifically directed at the EU, but will apply to migrants from anywhere.  
 
“What is possible is that many states could review their policies to determine if there is any merit to be taken from tightening their systems along lines similar to the policy proposed for adoption in the UK from January 2021.
 
There were also concerns expressed by people on Twitter.
Much of the focus was on languages and how Brits hoping to move to the EU would struggle to meet any requirements if they were imposed by EU member states.
 
Fiona Harrison said: “Unfortunately this will also probably mean the Brits can’t work in the EU if arrangements are reciprocal. How many of us really speak languages? We rely on English being fairly universal.”
 
And Bruce Banner asked what the reaction would be if France and Spain forced all British people to speak French and Spanish before they moved. While most Britons do learn the local language it is more often than not only after they have made the move.

Over the coming months EU governments are due to announce their own criteria for post-Brexit immigration. 

Given the UK's planned system, it is no wonder so many Britons are reportedly rushing to move to the EU before the end of the transition period.

 

 

 

Member comments

  1. Funny enough most Europeans I know have a level of English good enough to meet the expected level required for post Brexit imigration into the UK, while most British people I know – back in the UK – have no second language skills and would find it difficult to meet the local language requirements (B1/B2) for imigration. Last year our daughter finished her “Bi-lingual Abi”, the entire class has English B2/C1 and French B2, on top of German naturally.

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BREXIT

Driving licences: Are the UK and Italy any closer to reaching an agreement?

With ongoing uncertainty over whether UK driving licences will continue to be recognised in Italy beyond the end of this year, British residents are asking where they stand.

Driving licences: Are the UK and Italy any closer to reaching an agreement?

Many of The Local’s British readers have been in touch recently to ask whether any progress has been made in negotiations between the UK and Italy on a reciprocal agreement on the use of driving licences.

If you’re reading this article, there’s a good chance that you’re familiar with the background of this Brexit consequence.

READ ALSO: Frustration grows as UK driving licence holders in Italy wait in limbo

When Britain left the EU there was no reciprocal agreement in place, but UK licence holders living in Italy were granted a grace period in which they could continue to drive on their British licences. This period was later extended to the current deadline of December 31st, 2022.

The situation beyond that date however remains unclear, and concern is growing among the sizeable number of British nationals living in Italy who say no longer being allowed to drive would be a serious problem.

There was the option of exchanging licences before the end of 2021, but many didn’t make the deadline. As has been proven before, this was often not due to slackness but rather all manner of circumstances, from having moved to Italy after or shortly before the cut-off date to bureaucratic delays.

Driving licences: How does the situation for Brits in Italy compare to rest of Europe?

So is an agreement any closer? Or do those driving in Italy on a UK licence really need to go to the considerable trouble and expense of sitting an Italian driving test (in Italian)?

With five months left to go, there’s still no indication as to whether a decision will be made either way.

The British government continues to advise licence holders to sit their Italian driving test – while also stressing that they’re working hard on reaching a deal, which would make taking the test unnecessary.

This message has not changed.

On Wednesday, July 27th, British Ambassador to Italy Ed Llewellyn tweeted after a meeting with Italian Infrastructure and Transport Minister Enrico Giovannini: “The British and Italian governments continue to work towards an agreement on exchange of driving licences.”

But the ambassador earlier this month advised UK nationals “not to wait” and to “take action now by applying for an Italian licence”.

In an official newsletter published in mid-July, Llewellyn acknowledged the concerns of British residents and confirmed that negotiations are still going on.

“I know that many of you are understandably concerned about whether your UK driving licence will continue to be recognised in Italy, especially when the extension granted by Italy until 31 December 2022 for such recognition expires.

“Let me set out where things stand. The British Government is working to reach an agreement with Italy on the right to exchange a licence without the need for a test. 

READ ALSO:  Do you have to take Italy’s driving test in Italian?

“The discussions with our Italian colleagues are continuing and our objective is to try to reach an agreement in good time before the end of the year.

“We hope it will be possible to reach an agreement – that is our objective and we are working hard to try to deliver it. 

Nevertheless, he said, “our advice is not to wait to exchange your licence.”

“If you need to drive in Italy, you can take action now by applying for an Italian licence. This will, however, involve taking a practical and theory test.” 

He acknowledged that “the process is not a straightforward one and that there are delays in some areas to book an appointment for a test”.

READ ALSO: ‘Anyone can do it’: Why passing your Italian driving test isn’t as difficult as it sounds

“We will continue to work towards an agreement,” he wrote. “That is our objective and it is an objective we share with our Italian colleagues.“

The British Embassy in Rome had not responded to The Local’s requests for further comment on Friday.

The Local will continue to publish any news on the recognition of British driving licences in Italy. See the latest updates in our Brexit-related news section here.

Find more information on the UK government website’s Living in Italy section.

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