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BREXIT

‘Plans ruined and job opportunities lost’: Freedom of movement ends as Brexit reality dawns for Britons across Europe

From January 1st 2021, Britons can no longer take advantage of the EU's right to freedom of movement, which means lost job opportunities, complications, visas, house sales and health issues as these Britons living in Europe testify.

'Plans ruined and job opportunities lost': Freedom of movement ends as Brexit reality dawns for Britons across Europe
AFP

EU membership and freedom of movement has allowed tens of thousands of Britons to move abroad to live, work, fall in love and retire without the need for visas.

But British PM Boris Johnson and his government have decided to end freedom of movement, much to the regret of EU leaders.

Until now, mastering the local language was a bigger hurdle for settling in an EU country than the paperwork, but from 2021 things change.

No visa will be needed to stay in EU or the wider Schengen zone for under 90 days in every 180 day period, but anyone who plans longer stays or to work or retire will have to apply for one.

With the UK government deciding to end freedom of movement Brits won't be able to move freely to EU countries and importantly those Britons who did take advantage of freedom of movement to move abroad find themselves “landlocked”.

So for example someone now resident in France would not be able to move to Germany without going through the process for visas.

That means the freedom they used to leave the UK in the first place does not continue, much to the dismay and anger of many.

“UK citizens living in EU made a commitment to the EU and should retain Freedom of Movement. The UK government should be negotiating this on our behalf,” said one reader of The Local.

Unfortunately the British government chose to end freedom of movement for EU citizens wanting to move to the UK, and as a result its own citizens lost their right to live in the EU's 27 member states.

When The Local asked its British readers in Europe to explain how their future plans would be affected by the loss of freedom of movement the responses were clear.

“Plans are ruined”, “impossible”, “not going to happen”, “we'll need visas”, “everything will become more complicated and more expensive” were just a few of the responses from people who had plans to either move to another EU country or to continue residing between two of them as many have done up to now.

Many spoke of the difficulties for partners, children and parents all now facing obstacles to reunite with their family who had moved to another country.

But undoubtedly the main impact will be felt by those whose career opportunities are now hampered.

Freedom of movement has enabled Britons and Europeans to pursue career opportunities abroad without the need for visas and bureaucratic hurdles.

Those opportunities are vow vastly reduced.

Kirstie, 38, a classical musician based in Germany who works across Europe intended to move to other countries in Europe depending on professional opportunities. But they not arrive after January.

“With the end of freedom of movement and the lack of onward movement rights for those already living in the EU, it's very likely that many professional opportunities will become unavailable to me,” she said.

“Or at least, I'm much less likely to be offered them, as that will require the organisations involved to get permission and a visa for me, when many other performers do not require any formal paperwork beyond a contract and maybe an A1 form.”

Matthew, 40, a reader in France  who would like to move to Germany explained the future complications of moving to another country in Europe.

“This means that I'll be more likely to stay in France, and not pursue other career options – even moving back to the UK would mean losing what residency rights I have here,” said the reader.

“And even if my company sponsored a visa in another country such as Germany, the situation with pensions means that it would make less sense for me to accept. It's a real narrowing of future options.”

Matt, 29 a pilot based in Spain has had to put on hold a future job opportunity in Portugal.

“I applied for a transfer to Portugal where my company offers a full time contract. Now I will not have the automatic right to live and work in Portugal.

“I have had to postpone the transfer indefinitely and remain on a part time contract which is not where I wish to be. I must consider myself lucky though to still have a job under these circumstances but it is hard to adjust to losing a freedom many of us took for granted. “

A Spain-based English teacher added: “I'm a freelance teacher with my own company in Spain. I can theoretically still work in other EU states but it's much more complicated now.”

Another France-based reader who would like to move to Germany or Finland explained how the need to obtain post-Brexit residency in France to secure their future meant a narrowing of career opportunities.

“I have had to decline significant career progression job opportunities across the EU to remain in France, in order to establish my 5-year residency in order to apply for French (and thus EU) citizenship.”

Ben Robson, a 36-year-old mechanic said: “I will need to stay in France now and be less flexible to explore employment opportunities in Switzerland. I'll also not be able to consider moving to Italy where land prices are more realistic. I've lost my choice.”

Many of those affected by the loss of freedom of movement and the subsequent 90 day rule are second home owners, who bought properties in other EU countries and spend lengthy periods of time there each year.

That will now be impossible.

One second home owner named Daniella, a 57-year-old midwife said: “The 90-days rules will stop me from going to my French property which I will own from January 12th, 2021 and I will need to renovate significantly – that will take longer than 90 days. Once completed it will stop me from accessing my home in France even though I own it.”

Kevin McGovern, 62-year-old Business consultant, who owns a summer house in Sweden said: “We have had the house in Sweden for 18 years. We have 'come and gone' as we pleased over that time. 

“The result is that we spend most of the summer in Sweden and have occasional visits in winter. We have more than 90 days in Sweden over summer. We have checked with immigration authorities and we will have to apply for a Visitors Extended Stay Visa each year.

“Since the summer house has always been the 'house' we will never sell – we will have to jump through all the necessary hoops just to keep doing what we have done for 18 years!”

But it's not just about homes, the end of freedom of movement makes health matters all the more complicated.

Kevin adds: “Our biggest issue is healthcare. My wife has Secondary Breast Cancer. Getting travel insurance with healthcare is proving tricky. In the end it will possible but expensive.”

Other home owners spoke of the reality that they will have to sell their properties.

“We own an apartment in Mallorca for our own use and are very worried that it's going to be financially difficult to keep it,” said one reader.

What's clear is that even though it's over four years since the shock referendum result, the anger felt by many at the loss of EU citizenship and the rights and freedoms that went with it is still raw.

“I am still furious we are throwing away this extraordinary privilege,” said one reader.

 

 

 

 

Member comments

  1. Hello,
    As a family we are resident in western France. I work in many EU countries for a Spanish company. My children have been educated in France, Italy and the UK.
    What an appalling loss to the future for our children. The ‘ little Englanders ‘ who voted for #stupidBrexit will not be held accountable for this. The Conservative party and Farage should be.
    I would like European status to be a right. I don’t really want to take French nationality just to keep free movement for me and our children.
    Thank you

  2. I fully agree, as UK and an EU citizen I have given money, work and support to my local Italian community, I have committed myself and my wife to be citizens of the EU and under these circumstances we should af least have the right to freedom of movement among EU member states.

  3. This is a shity titl,frankly. EU is a co cept as any other, it also is a habit, like smoking for instance. One smokes today, one quits tommorow. Once one gets rid of the habit, one is free. It takes a bit of time, but, yes, one is free. There are lots of opportunities out there. It’s a big world.

  4. A Frenchman resident in the UK will retain onward movement rights. A Brit resident in France won’t. It was always within the gift of the EU to equalise those rights but they chose not to. Nothing to do with Brexit.

  5. I don’t think someone’s read the article.
    “Unfortunately the British government chose to end freedom of movement for EU citizens wanting to move to the UK, and as a result its own citizens lost their right to live in the EU’s 27 member states.”
    The ‘gift of the EU to equalise those rights’ was always there prior to the UK taking away the same from the former EU citizens not born in Britain. It has everything to do with Brexit.

  6. Yes, this retrenchment into nationalism and bureaucracy is a pitiful step backwards by Britain. But the fact is that those who will suffer most, those upset at losing their EU citizenship, mutter a lot and express their entirely understandable resentment. However, they must to some extent take the blame along with all remainers because at the end of the day they didn’t do enough to stop Brexit.
    The fact is that only 38% of the British electorate voted leave at the referendum in 2016, ie 62% did NOT vote for Brexit, and even at the Dec 2019 when Johnson got his landslide victory on the basis of “let’s get Brexit done”, only 13m out of a population of 67m voted Tory. So why are we where we are? Because the minority Brexiteers not only lied but spoke with real passion about their beliefs. Meanwhile remainers almost never made their case loudly. They were too polite and too reserved. Indeed they seemed almost embarrassed to make the obvious clear… . that citizens of the 27 countries value their sovereignty every bit as preciously as British leavers, that 93% of EU law was voted for by British leaders at the European Council, that only by being together can Europe stand up to bullying by Russia, China, the USA and by big tech.
    Remain supporters should have been proclaiming the advantages of Europe from the rooftops. They didn’t. Now, it’s too late to whinge. Indeed leavers in Britain are STILL hoodwinking us with their lies whilst remainers just take it on the chin. If ever there were a Greek tragedy, it is this situation we have allowed to happen. ‘The route to evil is for good men to say nothing’.

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BREXIT

Is new court ruling the end for Britons fighting to remain EU citizens?

The Court of Justice of the European Union confirmed on Thursday that Brexit really does mean that Britons are no longer EU citizens. Claudia Delpero looks at whether there's any other way they can keep their rights.

Is new court ruling the end for Britons fighting to remain EU citizens?

The Court of Justice of the European Union confirmed on Thursday that Britons lost EU citizenship when the UK left the EU, on 1st February 2020. 

It is the first time the EU’s top court has rules on the matter, after a number of legal cases challenged this specific Brexit outcome. The decision also sets a precedent should other countries decide to leave the bloc in the future. 

What has the EU Court decided?

The Court of Justice decided on a case brought by a British woman living in France.

Before Brexit, she could vote and stand as a candidate in her town of residence, Thoux. But after the UK withdrawal from the EU, she was removed from the electoral roll and excluded from the municipal elections that took place in March 2020, during the transition period.  

As the mayor refused her appeal to restore the registration, she took the case to the regional court in Auch, which agreed to request an interpretation of the rules to the EU top court. 

Julien Fouchet, the barrister supporting her and several other cases on the EU citizenship of British nationals, argued that the loss of EU citizenship and voting rights was disproportionate. It would also be contrary to the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, given that the woman also lost her voting rights in the UK, having lived abroad for more than 15 years.

Alice Bouillez, who has lived in France since 1984 and is married to a French national, could have applied for French citizenship, but did not do so because she said “this was not necessary” before Brexit and, as a former UK official, she had taken an oath of allegiance to the Queen.

On Thursday the Court of Justice announced the decision about her case. The court ruled that the “possession of the nationality of a member state is an essential condition for a person to be able to acquire and retain the status of citizen of the Union and to benefit fully from the rights attaching to that status.”

The court therefore confirmed that British nationals automatically lost their EU citizenship as a result of Brexit and, as a consequence, Britons also lost their voting and electoral rights in municipal elections in the EU (unless the country where they live set different rules). 

What is EU citizenship?

EU citizenship was introduced by the Treaty of Maastricht of 1992, when borders were opening and the bloc was integrating economically after the end of the Cold War. 

Under the treaty, every person holding the nationality of an EU member state is a citizen of the Union. EU citizenship is additional and does not replace nationality, the treaty specifies. But this creates the first form of a transnational citizenship that grants rights across borders.

EU citizens have the right to access each other’s territory, job market and services under the principle of non-discrimination. If they are economically active, they have the right to reside in other EU states and be joined by family members, access healthcare at the same conditions of nationals (for emergency treatment also when travelling temporarily), obtain social security benefits and see their professional qualifications recognised.

Beyond free movement, at the core of EU citizenship there are also political rights, such as participating in the European Parliament election, voting and standing as candidates in municipal elections when living in other EU countries, receiving consular protection from other EU states outside the EU, and taking part in European Citizens’ Initiatives asking to the EU to legislate on certain matters. 

Which EU citizenship rights have Britons lost with Brexit? 

For British citizens who were living in the EU before Brexit, the Withdrawal Agreement protects some of these rights. Britons covered by deal have their residence, access to work and education, healthcare, social security and qualifications secured, but only in the country where they were living before Brexit.

But the right to free movement in other EU states, consular protection in third countries, and the political rights attached to EU citizenship were lost, the Court confirmed. 

For British citizens in the UK, the trade and cooperation agreement has preserved some social security rights and, in theory, the possibility to have professional qualifications recognized when moving to an EU country. These provisions however lack details and may take a long time before they work in practice. 

As the “European Union” no longer features on British passports, the possibility to access EU lanes at airports to skip passport control queues has also vanished. 

“The loss of those treasured rights has been clear to those of us living in the EU from the early days of Brexit. But for Brits in the UK, the realities of life outside the EU, and the consequences of Brexit, are only just dawning. Long queues at the borders, roaming charges, obstacles to working abroad, etc. are the new reality,” said Sue Wilson, Chair of the group Remain in Spain. 

While she said the court’s decision was “no real surprise,” she argued that “this is not the Brexit the public were promised, or that the majority voted for.”

Can British citizens get some of these rights back?

Julien Fouchet was disappointed at the Court decision and promised to continue the legal fight, bringing the case at the European Court of Human Rights (which is not an EU institution). 

Other two cases on the matter of EU citizenship for British nationals are still pending at the Court of Justice of the EU. One of them aims to determine whether EU citizenship is a “fundamental status” that cannot be removed but Thursday’s decision could have already provided the answer.

Another option to reconsider some of the rights is the renegotiation of EU-UK trade agreement, when it will be reviewed in 2025. 

Meanwhile, the EU is revising the rules for non-EU citizens living in EU countries on a long-term basis, making it easier to move across borders. 

Applying for citizenship is so far the only option to regain voting rights, although not all EU countries allow dual nationality. 

Sue Wilson, who has long campaigned for the UK to stay in the EU, said: “There is only one way to restore the loss of our rights, and that’s to rejoin the single market, rejoin the customs union, and eventually, rejoin the European Union… Until that day, we will continue to be second class citizens whose rights have been diminished for the sake of an ideology.”

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