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BREXIT

How many Britons in EU acquired post-Brexit residency and how many were refused?

New figures have been released revealing how many Britons living in the EU have acquired post Brexit residency permits, and how many were refused the status.

A scarf shows the British and EU flag.
How many Britons in EU acquired post-Brexit residency and how many were refused? (Photo by JOHN THYS / AFP)

The numbers were laid out in the latest report by the joint EU/UK Specialised Committee on Citizens’ Rights, which was set up to keep a check on whether the Citizen’s Rights aspect of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement was being properly enforced.

In total some 497,100 Britons in the EU out of an estimated 1.093 million have acquired a post-Brexit residence status – although this doesn’t tell the full story because Britons living in many EU countries have not been obliged to apply for a post Brexit residence permit.

EU countries could choose whether to grant post-Brexit residence status under a constitutive system (applicants had to apply directly to government agencies to be awarded residence status), or a declaratory system (applicants’ rights were not dependent on a government decision).

The numbers show the number of British citizens who applied for post-Brexit residency permits in those countries where it was obligatory to do so, how many were successfully granted it and a number for how many were rejected.

Out of 289,900 Britons living in countries that obliged them to obtain a residence permit some 258, 400 successfully acquired it.

In France it was initially estimated that there were 148,000 Britons who were expected to apply for post-Brexit residency status, but in the end French authorities received over 165,000 applications, as shown in the table below.

Out of these 165,400 applications all but 500 have been concluded with 105,600 being awarded permanent residence, (because they had lived in France longer than 5 years prior to Brexit) and 46,700 non-permanent residence (under 5 years of residence pre-Brexit). The figures also show 3,500 applications were refused, 9,100 were withdrawn and several hundred “incomplete.”

When it comes to the refusals that figure also includes an unknown number of duplicate applications so it is unclear just how many Britons were actually refused residency – anecdotal evidence suggested that a significant number of people made two applications – either in confusion when the application system changed or after waiting for months for a reply.

Campaign groups have previously said they believe the number of people actually refused to be very low and mainly due to having a serious criminal record.

Elsewhere the Swedish Migration Agency received 12,700 applications for post-Brexit residence status before the deadline on December 31st 2021. Of these, 9,900 had been concluded by January 24th 2022, when the European Commission’s report was published.

Of the 9,900 concluded applications, 1,100 were rejected (figures are rounded to the nearest 100 except for numbers below 500). This represents a rejection rate of just over 11 percent. This includes 149 applications which were rejected as being incomplete.

In Denmark around 250 applications were rejected out of 18,100 applications. In Austria there was no data available for the number of refused permits but 8,400 UK residents successfully acquired post-Brexit status.

Table shows the number of applications for post-Brexit residence status in constitutive countries. (Joint report on residence rights)

Jane Golding Chair of the British in Europe campaign group, told The Local: “We don’t know anything about whether the figure given includes people who successfully reapplied at a second attempt.  I would presume not, as people who were refused would appeal, not apply again, so I’m not sure why there would be a second application.  We only know what it says in the table.”

The table shows the outcomes for a new residence status in constitutive systems. (Joint report on residence rights)

Numbers lower than estimates

In most EU countries that implemented a constitutive system the number of applications was similar to the estimated number of British nationals who would apply. However in Belgium only half of the estimated 18,000 British nationals living in the country acquired a post-Brexit residence permit whilst France was the only country that received more applications (165,000) compared to the estimated number of applicants.

“It’s not surprising that France is the outlier,” says Jane Golding. “There is no compulsory registration system in France for EU citizens and it was the only country in which British citizens in the EU were not systematically registered.  

“This accounts for why the estimated numbers might have been wrong and so, as in the UK as regards EU citizens in the UK, there turned out to be more UK citizens in France than estimated.”

As the table below shows, the differences are more marked in declarative countries where Britons were not obliged to apply for a post-Brexit permit. In many countries, like Spain and Italy, they have however been encouraged to apply for a post Brexit residence document.

In Spain, out of an estimated 430,000 British residents only 187,000 have acquired the new document. In Italy the figure is 12,900 out of an estimated 33,800 British residents.

Golding says there are various reasons for the shortfall including a lack of information for British residents in some of these countries, the lack of a hard deadline for applications as well as the fact many may be so well integrated that they were not aware they needed to do anything. Many others may also have applied for citizenship of the country and therefor did not need to apply for the Brexit document.

“For example, Germany used to have over 100,000 UK citizens, but given the large number who have taken dual citizenship, the estimated number is now 85,100,” she said.

In Spain many British residents already had pre-Brexit residence cards and have not been obliged to exchange.

As the table below shows very few residence in declarative countries have been refused the Brexit document apart from in Spain where some 3,400 have been rejected. Again it is unclear whether this figure includes duplicate applications that were later successful.

In Italy only 2 applications have been officially rejected.

In the latest joint UK/EU committee meeting on citizen rights, British representatives raised concerns “relating to evidencing status in declaratory Member States and emphasised the need for clear guidance”. It also raised reports that “UK nationals continue to experience difficulties when seeking to access benefits and services”.  

“The UK also expressed concern at the lack of detail around late residency application policies in constitutive member states,” the statement said.

Member comments

  1. It is also not clear as to whether Austrian figures will reflect Art 50 Angehörige applications from third country national partners/spouses. When I asked the BMI about the potential numbers they were unable to say how many cases they might be.

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BREXIT

Anger grows as no solution found yet for in limbo UK drivers in Spain 

British drivers living in Spain are becoming increasingly disgruntled at the lack of solutions two weeks after they were told their UK licences were no longer valid, with the latest update from the UK Embassy suggesting it could still take "weeks" to reach a deal. 

Anger grows as no solution found yet for in limbo UK drivers in Spain 

There is growing discontent among UK licence holders residing in Spain who are currently in limbo, unable to drive in Spain until they either get a Spanish driving licence or a deal is finally reached between Spanish and UK authorities for the mutual exchange of licences post-Brexit.

Since May 1st 2022, drivers who’ve been residents in Spain for more than six months and who weren’t able to exchange their UK licences for Spanish ones cannot drive in Spain.

There are no official stats on how many Britons of the 407,000 UK nationals who are residents in Spain in 2022 are affected; according to the UK Embassy the “majority exchanged” as advised.

But judging by the amount of negative comments the last two updates from the British Embassy in Madrid have received, hundreds if not thousands are stuck without being able to drive in Spain.  

May 12th’s video message by Ambassador Hugh Elliott left many unhappy with the fact that the forecast for a possible licence exchange agreement will be in the “coming weeks”, when two weeks earlier Elliott had spoken of “rapidly accelerating talks”. 

Dozens of angry responses spoke of the “shocking” and “absolutely ridiculous” holdup in negotiations that have been ongoing for more than at least a year and a half, and which the UK Embassy has put down to the fact that Spain is asking the British government to give them access to DVLA driver data such as road offences, something “not requested by other EU Member States”.

Numerous Britons have explained the setbacks not being able to drive in Spain are causing them, from losing their independence to struggling to go to work, the hospital or the supermarket, especially those in rural areas with little public transport.  

“I know personally from all the messages you’ve sent in, just how incredibly disruptive all of this is for many of you,” Elliott said in response. 

“If you are struggling to get around you may find additional advice or support from your local town hall, or charities or community groups in your area and the Support in Spain website is another very useful source of organisations that can provide general support to residents.

“And if your inability to drive is putting you in a very vulnerable situation, you can always contact your nearest consulate for advice.”

There continue to be disparaging opinions in the British community in Spain over whether any pity should be felt for UK licence holders stuck without driving, as many argue they had enough time to register intent to exchange their licences, whilst others clarify that their particular set of circumstances, such as arriving after the December 2020 ‘intent to exchange’ deadline, made this impossible. 

OPINION: Not all Brits in Spain who didn’t exchange UK driving licences are at fault

So is there any light at the end of the tunnel for drivers whose UK licences aren’t valid anymore in Spain or soon won’t be?

“The agreement we’re working towards now will enable UK licence holders, whenever they arrived in Spain or arrive in the future, to exchange their UK licence for a Spanish one without needing to take a practical or a theory test,” Elliott said on Thursday May 12th of the deal they are “fully committed” to achieve.

READ ALSO: How much does it cost to get a Spanish driving licence?

And yet it’s hard for anyone to rest their hopes on this necessarily happening – sooner or later or ever – in part because the embassy advice for those with UK licences for whom it’s imperative to continue driving in Spain is that they should take steps to get their Spanish licence now, while acknowledging that in some places there are “long delays for lessons” and getting your Spanish licence “doesn’t happen overnight”.

READ ALSO: What now for UK licence holders in Spain?

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