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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

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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