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BREXIT

Brits waiting to return to UK with EU families given boost

There was relief this week for all those British citizens waiting and hoping to return to the UK with their EU partners before new Brexit rules make it far more complicated.

Brits waiting to return to UK with EU families given boost
British nationals wanting to return home with EU partners face long delays. (Photo by ERIC PIERMONT / AFP)

The British government has stepped in to ease the worries of those British nationals facing a tight deadline to return to the UK with their EU partners.

Britons can return to live in the UK anytime but under Brexit rules if they want to return with their EU partners without the hassle of having to get a visa then they had to have applied for the EU settlement scheme in the UK before March 29th.

To do that they first need to have obtained a family permit before returning to the UK however the application process has been hit by long delays leaving many stuck in limbo in the EU facing an anxious wait to know if they will be able to move home.

After coming under pressure from citizen rights groups like British in Europe the UK government has finally relented this week. The Home Office now says those who don’t have the required family permit by March 29th will not be punished by the delay in processing applications and will still be able to move back to the UK as long as they have launched their application by the March deadline.

“This is good news,” Jane Golding co-chair of British in Europe told The Local. “This effectively gives people more time.”

The Home Office move means that as long as people have applied for a family permit by 11pm on March 29th they will then be able to move to the UK and apply for EU settled status once they are in possession of the family permit.

Previously families were told they had to have the permit and to have applied for EU settled status in the UK by March 29th.

“Families will be able to use the delays in processing family permits as reasonable grounds for a delay in applying for EU settled status,” said Golding.

“For those people who applied six months ago and are still waiting for the permit they can still move to the UK after March 29th.”

The reason British nationals would want to move back to the UK under the EU settled Status scheme is that their EU partners would not be subject to strict immigration criteria.

Those who don’t apply for family permits before March 29th will have to apply for a visa for their EU spouse which comes with strict conditions such is fixed income requirements.

The rules and the short grace period for moving home has caused huge stress for Britons in the EU and forced many who planned one day to return to the UK, perhaps to retire or be closer to elderly relatives to make a decision.

The full statement from the Home Office read: “Where an application for an EUSS family permit is made on this basis by 29 March 2022 but is not decided by that date, it will continue to be processed and an EUSS family permit will be issued where the applicant meets the requirements.

“Family members of returning British citizens who are granted an EUSS family permit, which they applied for by 29 March 2022, will be considered to have ‘reasonable grounds’ for applying in the UK to the EUSS after that deadline. They should apply to the EUSS as soon as they reasonably can after their return to the UK.”

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BREXIT

UK driving licences in Spain: When no news is bad news

The UK Ambassador to Spain has given an update on the driving licence debacle, with nothing new to genuinely give hope to the thousands of in-limbo drivers whose increasing frustration has led one group to try and take matters into their own hands.

UK driving licences in Spain: When no news is bad news

It’s been almost five months since UK driving licence holders residing in Spain were told they could no longer drive on Spanish roads. 

Since that fateful May 1st, an unnamed number of the approximately 400,000 UK nationals who are residents in Spain, as well as hundreds if not thousands of Spaniards and foreign nationals who passed their driving test in the UK, have not been able to use their vehicles in Spain or even rent one. 

What adds insult to injury is that British tourists visiting Spain can rent a car without any issue. The fact that Spanish licence holders living in the UK can also continue to exchange their permits in the UK 21 months after Brexit came into force is equally hard to swallow.

READ MORE: ‘An avoidable nightmare’ – How UK licence holders in Spain are affected by driving debacle

The latest update from UK Ambassador to Spain Hugh Elliott on September 27th has done little to quell the anger and sense of helplessness felt by those caught in this bureaucratic rabbit hole.

“I wanted to talk to you personally about the driving licences negotiations, which I know are continuing to have a serious impact on many of you,” Elliott began by saying.

“As the government’s representative in Spain, I hear and understand your frustrations. I too am frustrated by the pace.

“We previously thought, we genuinely thought, that we’d have concluded negotiations by the summer. 

“Many of you have quite rightly mentioned that I expressed the hope to you that we’d have you back on the road by the end of July.

“Now the truth is it has taken much longer, as there have been unforeseen issues that we have been working very hard to resolve. 

“And I’m as disappointed as you are by the length of time that this is actually taking. 

“But, please, be assured that we are resolving those issues, one by one. There are only a couple of issues left, but they are complex.”

It has previously been suggested by the UK Embassy that Spain has asked for data provision to form part of the exchange agreement, and that British authorities were reluctant to share said information on British drivers’ records, including possible infractions. 

Whether this is still one of the causes of the holdups is unknown, given how opaque the Embassy is being in this regard. 

“We’re working on this every day, it remains a priority,” the UK Ambassador continued.

“There is a lot going on behind the scenes, even if it doesn’t feel like it to you. 

“I know too that you want a timescale and you want an update after every meeting.

“But I’m afraid I just can’t give you those things in this negotiation.” 

The ambassador’s words are unlikely to appease those who are still unable to drive. 

A few weeks ago, a Facebook group called “Invasion of the British embassy in Madrid for the DL exchange issue” was set up, which so far has more than 400 members. 

The group’s administrator, Pascal Siegmund, is looking to set up a meeting with the British Embassy and Spanish authorities to shed light on the impact that not being allowed to drive is having on the life of thousands of UK licence holders in Spain. 

Many of those affected are sharing their stories online, explaining how, due to administrative errors on the part of Spain’s DGT traffic authority, they were unable to process their licence exchange before the deadline. 

This contrasts with the little sympathy shown by UK licence holders who were able to exchange and other commentators, who accuse those in limbo of not having bothered to complete the process, arguing that it’s essentially their own fault.

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

“Many of you also continue to ask why you can’t drive while the talks are continuing,” Elliott remarked.

“It is not in the gift of the UK government to reinstate the measures which previously allowed you to continue to drive whilst the negotiations were ongoing earlier in the year. 

“As we said previously, we did request the reinstatement of those measures several times, but this wasn’t granted.”

It’s worth noting that since the news broke on May 1st that UK licence holders residing in Spain for more than six months could no longer drive, no Spanish news outlet has covered the story again. 

Pressure from citizen groups such as the one recently set up and increased awareness about the issue in English-language news sites such as The Local Spain is perhaps the best chance in-limbo drivers have of their voices being heard and the driving licence debacle being finally fixed. 

“I’d say we’re genuinely still making progress,” UK Ambassador Elliott concluded, practically the same message as in previous updates.

“I get how frustrating it is to hear that, but we are making progress. We’re in discussions almost daily about outstanding issues. 

“And I remain very optimistic that we will reach an agreement and hope it will be soon. 

“But as I say, I can’t give you a definitive timetable. 

“And so, the advice that we have been giving all along, which is that you should consider taking the Spanish test if you do need to drive urgently, remains valid. Though we appreciate that’s hard.”

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