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BREXIT

Key victory for family rights of Britons returning to the UK from EU

Citizens rights group were celebrating on Monday after the House of Lords - the upper house of the UK parliament - voted in favour of maintaining the family reunification rights of Britons who move back to the UK from the EU.

Key victory for family rights of Britons returning to the UK from EU
Tyler Nix on Unsplash

Members of the House of Lords voted in favour of an amendment to the immigration bill that would allow Britons established in the EU before the end of the Brexit transition period to maintain the right to return to the UK with their European family members without them being subject to strict immigration rules and means tests.

Currently the law for Britons living in the EU is that they will be to bring non-British family members, including children, partners, parents and grandparents if they return to the UK before the end of March 2022.

Standard immigration rules will then apply to relatives brought in after the cut-off date meaning they would be subject to strict immigration rules, visa obligations and financial means tests.

The vote in the Lords was delayed from last week and came after hundreds of UK citizens living in the European Economic Area and Switzerland wrote to peers over recent weeks to explain what it would mean to them and their families if they were unable to return to live in the UK with our non-UK partners after March 2022.

The campaign group British in Europe reacted to the vote saying: “Peers heard our voices, took notice of our concerns, and voted to keep families together, and we are immensely thankful to them for doing so.”

However the ball is now in the hands of PM Boris Johnson's government who must decide whether to accept the amendment as part of the new law when the bill returns to the lower House of Commons.

British in Europe have long complained that the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement in fact locks many Britons out of the UK because they would not be able to return home with their non-British partners in the future.

Those who return to care for family members for example won't be able to reach the minimum income requirements currently in place.

“Elderly parents will not have carers, siblings will not have support and non-British parents will be separated from their British children,” British in Europe said.

“Nobody voted for British citizens to lose this right to return with our families. During the Referendum, Vote Leave and the current Prime Minister promised us that our rights would not be adversely affected by Brexit.

“But this Government’s planned changes to the immigration rules remove this most fundamental of rights. Thanks to this afternoon’s vote, the Government has another opportunity to make good on part of its pre-Brexit promises to 1.2 million UK citizens living in the EEA and Switzerland.

“We are a finite group of people asking only that our rights should not be taken away from us.

“Our amendment covers only those UK citizens in the EEA/Switzerland who fall within scope of the withdrawal agreements and who have existing non-British close family members at the end of 2020.

“Most of us will probably not leave the countries where we have made a home, but what we are asking for is the right to do so with our families if necessary. Is that too much for British citizens to ask of a British Government?”
 

 

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IMMIGRATION

How Europe’s population is changing and what the EU is doing about it

The populations of countries across Europe are changing, with some increasing whilst others are falling. Populations are also ageing meaning the EU is having to react to changing demographics.

How Europe's population is changing and what the EU is doing about it

After decades of growth, the population of the European Union decreased over the past two years mostly due to the hundreds of thousands of deaths caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The latest data from the EU statistical office Eurostat show that the EU population was 446.8 million on 1 January 2022, 172,000 fewer than the previous year. On 1 January 2020, the EU had a population of 447.3 million.

This trend is because, in 2020 and 2021 the two years marked by the crippling pandemic, there have been more deaths than births and the negative natural change has been more significant than the positive net migration.

But there are major differences across countries. For example, in numerical terms, Italy is the country where the population has decreased the most, while France has recorded the largest increase.

What is happening and how is the EU reacting?

In which countries is the population growing?

In 2021, there were almost 4.1 million births and 5.3 million deaths in the EU, so the natural change was negative by 1.2 million (more broadly, there were 113,000 more deaths in 2021 than in 2020 and 531,000 more deaths in 2020 than in 2019, while the number of births remained almost the same).

Net migration, the number of people arriving in the EU minus those leaving, was 1.1 million, not enough to compensate.

A population growth, however, was recorded in 17 countries. Nine (Belgium, Denmark, Ireland, France, Cyprus, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands and Sweden) had both a natural increase and positive net migration.

READ ALSO: IN NUMBERS: Five things to know about Germany’s foreign population

In eight EU countries (the Czech Republic, Germany, Estonia, Spain, Lithuania, Austria, Portugal and Finland), the population increased because of positive net migration, while the natural change was negative.

The largest increase in absolute terms was in France (+185,900). The highest natural increase was in Ireland (5.0 per 1,000 persons), while the biggest growth rate relative to the existing population was recorded in Luxembourg, Ireland, Cyprus and Malta (all above 8.0 per 1,000 persons).

In total, 22 EU Member States had positive net migration, with Luxembourg (13.2 per 1 000 persons), Lithuania (12.4) and Portugal (9.6) topping the list.

Births and deaths in the EU from 1961 to 2021 (Eurostat)

Where is the population declining?

On the other hand, 18 EU countries had negative rates of natural change, with deaths outnumbering births in 2021.

Ten of these recorded a population decline. In Bulgaria, Italy, Hungary, Poland, and Slovenia population declined due to a negative natural change, while net migration was slightly positive.

In Croatia, Greece, Latvia, Romania and Slovakia, the decrease was both by negative natural change and negative net migration.

READ ALSO: Italian class sizes set to shrink as population falls further

The largest fall in population was reported in Italy, which lost over a quarter of a million (-253,100).

The most significant negative natural change was in Bulgaria (-13.1 per 1,000 persons), Latvia (-9.1), Lithuania (-8.7) and Romania (-8.2). On a proportional basis, Croatia and Bulgaria recorded the biggest population decline (-33.1 per 1,000 persons).

How is the EU responding to demographic change?

From 354.5 million in 1960, the EU population grew to 446.8 million on 1 January 2022, an increase of 92.3 million. If the growth was about 3 million persons per year in the 1960s, it slowed to about 0.7 million per year on average between 2005 and 2022, according to Eurostat.

The natural change was positive until 2011 and turned negative in 2012 when net migration became the key factor for population growth. However, in 2020 and 2021, this no longer compensated for natural change and led to a decline.

READ ALSO: IN NUMBERS: One in four Austrian residents now of foreign origin

Over time, says Eurostat, the negative natural change is expected to continue given the ageing of the population if the fertility rate (total number of children born to each woman) remains low.

This poses questions for the future of the labour market and social security services, such as pensions and healthcare.

The European Commission estimates that by 2070, 30.3 per cent of the EU population will be 65 or over compared to 20.3 per cent in 2019, and 13.2 per cent is projected to be 80 or older compared to 5.8 per cent in 2019.

The number of people needing long-term care is expected to increase from 19.5 million in 2016 to 23.6 million in 2030 and 30.5 million in 2050.

READ ALSO: How foreigners are changing Switzerland

However, demographic change impacts different countries and often regions within the same country differently.

When she took on the Presidency of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen appointed Dubravka Šuica, a Croatian politician, as Commissioner for Democracy and Demography to deal with these changes.

Among measures in the discussion, in January 2021, the Commission launched a debate on Europe’s ageing society, suggesting steps for higher labour market participation, including more equality between women and men and longer working lives.

In April, the Commission proposed measures to make Europe more attractive for foreign workers, including simplifying rules for non-EU nationals who live on a long-term basis in the EU. These will have to be approved by the European Parliament and the EU Council.

In the fourth quarter of this year, the Commission also plans to present a communication on dealing with ‘brain drain’ and mitigate the challenges associated with population decline in regions with low birth rates and high net emigration.

This article is published in cooperation with Europe Street News, a news outlet about citizens’ rights in the EU and the UK.

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