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DEALING WITH BREXIT

EXPLAINED: What Brits with EU partners need to know about returning to live in UK

While many of the 1.2 million Brits living in the EU have no immediate plans to return to the UK, circumstances can change. For those who have non-British partners heading home on a long-term basis could be more difficult than they imagined. We explain why.

EXPLAINED: What Brits with EU partners need to know about returning to live in UK
Photo: Martin Bureau/AFP

Since Brexit, the UK has a strict immigration policy in place for EU nationals moving to the country and contrary to popular belief, even if they are married to a British national it does not exempt them from those requirements.

So whether you’re planning a move back to the UK with your non-British partner in the near future or whether you just want to keep your options open, here’s what you need to know.

Moving before March 29th 2022

If your moving plans are imminent, you should be able to meet the deadline of March 29th 2022, which is an important cut-off point.

Thanks to campaigning groups like British in Europe, the UK government agreed to a grace period for Brits living in the EU to move back and bring their non-British spouses with them.

The March 29th date relates to the UK’s original exit date from the EU, and British in Europe is campaigning for an extension to reflect the several delays before the UK actually left.

This means the process is easier – but it’s still not simple.

First you must apply to the Home Office in the UK for an EU Settled Status Family Permit. This must be done before the move and the EU partner should not enter the UK until they have the permit.

Processing time for these permits vary, some people have reported it has taken several months, while others have had their application rejected and had to begin the lengthy appeals process.

Once you have the permit you can then make the move, and once in the UK the EU partner needs to apply for EU pre-settled status.

This application must be made before March 29th 2022 in order to benefit from the Settled Status system, which is now closed to all other new arrivals from the EU.

The advantage of this system is that the EU partner does not have to satisfy immigration criteria such as financial thresholds.

Moving after March 2022

If you move back to the UK with a non-British partner after March 2022, or you don’t get the application submitted in time, you fall under the new immigration regime.

This means that the EU partner will need a visa to enter the country, and in most cases this needs to be applied for before the move.

Some people think that being married to a Brit means more or less unlimited entry to the UK, but in fact this is not the case and the couple must comply with strict rules including minimum income levels. For people in low-earning professions, or those who are not able to work in the UK, this could effectively bar the non-EU partner from entering the country.

There are essentially two routes – the non-EU partner can apply for a visa in their own right, or the British partner can sponsor their partner for a visa

Own visa

The points-based system that now applies to EU citizens is the same as the system in place for non-EU nationals and essentially requires applications to gain a required level of points by things like earning enough money, having sufficient language skills or having certain skills or qualifications that the UK has a shortage of.

Find our more here.

Sponsored visa

There is also an option for the British partner to sponsor their EU spouse’s visa, but this too has a minimum income requirement.

The Citizens Advice Bureau in the UK lays out the following income thresholds British partners must earn in order to sponsor their EU national spouse.

  • Partner only – minimum of £18,600 a year
  • Partner and children – minimum of £18,600 a year plus £3,800 for the first child and an extra £2,400 for each child after that. The extra income for children only applies if the children do not hold British citizenship or have residence rights in the UK.

Income can come from savings, pensions, rental income or earnings – but only earnings in the UK are taken into account, so if you have a salary from the EU country where you have been living, this would not be taken into account.

This could also rule out – for example – someone returning to the UK in order to take care of elderly or ill family members, who may not be able to work while taking on caring responsibilities.

If you do not meet the income requirements you can make up the amount through savings, if you have a sufficient amount. This needs to be £16,000 plus an extra £2.50 for every £1 below the income threshold you fall. The savings must have been in your name for six months or more.

If you’re British and don’t have a foreign partner (or you’re willing to dump your partner for the pleasure of living in a country of drizzle and chunky chips) then you can move back at any time without the need for a visa.

Visits

Short visits back to the UK to visit friends or family are allowed, although the non-British partner will need to be aware of new travel rules since the end of the Brexit transition period, including the end of using national ID cards for immigration purposes – only passports are now permitted. The same applies to children.

But longer visits should be approached with caution to ensure that the non-Brit does not exceed their maximum allowed number of days in the country. The 90-day rule applies to EU nationals visiting the UK, but the UK rules allow 180 days together, they don’t need to be divided into two sets of 90 like in the EU.

There are also reports of EU arrivals being grilled by immigration officials on arrival and some people who said they intended to, for example, help with childcare for their family were treated as unauthorised job-seekers and detained, so be sure you are very clear that you do not intend to work while in the UK. 

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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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