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BREXIT

Brits with EU partners warned over future problems returning to live in UK

Of the roughly one million British nationals living in the EU, many of them have a non-British spouse or partner. These people are now being warned of problems ahead should they ever decide to return to the UK to live.

Brits with EU partners warned over future problems returning to live in UK
Photo: Ben Fathers/AFP

For some it’s the reason they moved abroad in the first place, while others simply met a handsome local in their new home and fell in love.

Either way, of the estimated 1.2 million Brits who live in EU countries, a significant number have met and settled down with partners from the country where they live or another non-British nationality.

While most Brits living abroad have managed to secure their residency rights since Brexit, they could face a whole different set of problems if they ever want to return to the UK and take their spouse or partner with them.

Under rules agreed as part of the Brexit negotiations, Brits can move back to the UK without their European partners needing costly visas as long as they do so before March 29th next year. 

But despite assurances given by the British government, the citizens’ rights campaign group British in Europe is warning that it is already seeing problems with the system, despite the deadline still being six months away.

The system

Since the end of the Brexit transition period, EU nationals who want to move to the UK face a tough immigration process which has strict requirements including a minimum level of English and financial requirements.

Simply being married or in a civil partnership with a UK national does not remove these obligations.

What is in place, however, is an extended grace period in which UK nationals who moved abroad before Brexit can return to their home country and bring their EU spouse with them, as long as they do it before March 2022. 

The problems

This system was not ideal and has left people facing tough choices. Even returning for a relatively short period, for example to care for an elderly parent back in the UK, can leave people facing a choice between their partner and their family.

Others may have no immediate plans to return to the UK, but may have considered it as a long-term option – now they have to either move back before March 2022 or face the prospect that moving back in future might not be impossible.

However now British in Europe is warning that even the system set up to process applications during the post-Brexit grace period is not working as it should.

EU nationals moving to the UK as the spouse of a British person have until March 29th 2022 to apply for Settled Status.

However, before they can apply they need to obtain a new EU family permit from the Home Office in the UK.

And British in Europe is warning that the Home Office is turning down some of these applications, often on seemingly flimsy or technical grounds.

Appealing against this can be a lengthy process, leaving some people who have already applied worried about missing the March deadline.

British in Europe’s Co-Chair Jane Golding said: “We are worried that there are many families across the EU who do not understand the implications of stringent immigration rules now applying to UK citizens in the EU.

“Many of us have older relatives in the UK who may need our care, or we had always planned to retire to the UK to be near family.

“The grace period given until the end of March 2022 is simply not long enough for families to make decisions to uproot and then arrange to return to the UK. We continue to lobby for a longer grace period.

“Families considering a move now need to be aware that the process is time-consuming and complex and that non-UK family members will first need to apply for a EU Settled Status family permit from outside the UK before the end of March 2022, and only when they have that and move to the UK will they be able to apply for EU pre-settled status.”

Member comments

    1. These rules always applied to spouses from third countries when UK was in the EU. Now the EU is just 27 third countries as far as UK immigration is concerned. They are a lot more lenient when it comes to ham sandwiches though.

  1. I assume this eternal Brexit cruelty also extends to future relationships between single UK citizens living in Europe that don’t even exist yet? So, I now have to be careful about the nationality of any new partner I might wish to meet, fall in love with and marry?

  2. This is appalling, given the unfettered illegal immigration happing in the UK at the moment.
    The UK is happy to accept future terrorists in rubber dinghies, but reject perfectly decent and respectable people just because they happen to be born outside the UK. Yet another example, if one were needed, of the irrational, clueless policy making by Johnson’s so called government.

    1. Migrants fleeing war and persecution and then legally gaining asylum are not “future terrorists in rubber dinghies”. I would rather have 100 of them in my neighbourhood than 1 racist, ignorant troll such as yourself.

      1. Thank for your comment. I find those with no rational argument always resort to abuse, as you have so eloquently proved.
        However, if you are so passionate about the legitimacy of the channel migrants, genuinely fleeing war and persecution, can you please explain to me:
        1. Why they do not settle in the first country that they reach?
        2. Why, according to Home Office figures, 98% of all channel migrants are male aged between 14 and 40. Where are the woman and children? For some reason they are obviously less eager to flee than their male compatriots. Please explain why that might be.

        1. 1. Bless you Tony, if you think that was abuse

          2. You literally said refugees were future terrorists – that is both racist and ignorant (as well as a good few other ‘abusive’ terms that spring to mind)

          3. There are so many painfully obvious reasons which are a quick Google away that I am not going to waste my time going into them here. But something tells me you aren’t interested in knowing or understanding, but rather looking to spew hate on a completely unrelated and innocent article, so I don’t see any point in continuing this conversation.

          1. Agree, equating refugees with terrorists is disingenuous at best and at worst feeds into the leftist narrative that all right wingers (now a slur) are white supremacists.

  3. Great article, thanks! But think this should read ‘now’ rather than ‘not’: now they have to either move back before March 2022 or face the prospect that moving back in future might not be impossible.

  4. Agreed with the above comment. We can not classify all migrants as potential terrorists. But, my main concern is that uncontrolled immigration can and will likely lead to the rise of right wing fascist groups in those countries that allow this. One only has to look at the USA and Donald Trump to see where this can go in a country once considered to be the beacon of democracy and I think many of us can agree that it’s not pretty.

  5. I have a friend in this very situation, the family has moved back to the UK while his Dutch wife is staying with friends. He was told 8-12 weeks (I think) but it’s looking closer to 8-12 months assuming she isn’t rejected.

  6. As I understand it, the deadline set for end of March 2022 only applies to those partners who were already in a relationship on Brexit day. So tough luck to those who find new partners.

  7. Gentlemen, let’s please have a civilized discussion here. I have never imagined that this is a place to verbally abuse anyone or call to task anyone’s personal opinions. We are all very opinionated people, that is clear. But one thing that is increasingly happening in the world is that we are expressing these opinions without regard to anything other than our own personal needs. Social media has allowed this abnormal process to live and thrive. There are other venues to use to express oneself in a critical way. This, however, is not a place for malice towards anyone. Thank you.

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BREXIT

‘Ashamed, embarrassed, disappointed’ – How Brits in the EU feel about the UK

A new in-depth survey on British nationals living in the EU has revealed the impact that Brexit has had upon their lives, and their attitudes to their country of origin.

'Ashamed, embarrassed, disappointed' - How Brits in the EU feel about the UK

The study, conducted by academics at Lancaster and Birmingham universities, provides a snapshot of how Brits in the EU live – their age, family, work and education – and how they feel about the UK in the six years since the Brexit vote.

Unsurprisingly, it revealed that Brexit has had a major practical impact on the lives of Brits living in the EU – who are now subject to third-country rules and require residency cards or visas and face restrictions on voting and onward movement within the EU.

But the survey’s 1,328 respondents were also asked about their emotions towards the country of their birth.

Eighty percent of respondents said it had changed their feelings towards the UK.

A British woman living in Norway said she felt: “Deep, deep shame. Embarrassed to be British, ashamed that I didn’t try hard enough, or appreciate my EU citizenship.”

“Since Brexit I am disappointed in the UK. I am worried, and no longer feel like I have the same affinity for the country. It’s a shame because I love ‘home’ but the country feels so polarised,” added a British woman in her 30s living in Denmark.

An Austrian resident with dual British-Irish nationality said: “I feel disconnected, like it’s a completely different country from how I left it.

“So much so I feel more connected with my second nationality (Irish) despite the fact I never grew up in Ireland. It’s embarrassing what’s happened in the UK and what continues to happen. It’s like watching a house on fire from afar.”

The experience of living abroad during the pandemic also affected people’s feelings towards the UK, with 43 percent of people saying the UK’s handling of the Covid crisis affected their feelings towards the county.

A British woman in her 50s living in Spain said: “It was shambolic. Too late, too little, mixed messaging, lack of seriousness. So many deaths after what should have been a head start.”

A British man living in Greece described it simply as “a shit show”.

In addition to the Brexit effect, the survey also provided interesting and detailed data on the lives and profiles of Brits who live in the EU;

  • 69 percent had degree-level education
  • 77 percent worked in a professional or managerial role
  • 53 percent are of working age
  • 59 percent have been living in their country of residence for more than five years
  • 78 percent said it was very unlikely that they would move countries in the next five years 
  • The most common reasons for moving country were retirement (40 percent), family reasons (35 percent) and work (30 percent)

Almost all respondents said that Brexit had impacted their lives, with the loss of freedom of movement being the most common effect mentioned.

One man said: “My original plan (pre-2016) was to move to France on retirement, due in 2026. Brexit caused me to move sooner, in order to retain my European citizenship rights. The pandemic helped (indirectly) in that I got locked down in France in 2020, which enabled me to earn residence under the pre-Brexit rules. I had been talking to my employer about doing something similar before the pandemic broke.”

“I moved to France in 2020 in order to protect my right to live and work in France post-Brexit. My migration is 100 percent a result of Brexit,” said one American-British dual national.

Other respondents talked about the post-Brexit admin necessary to gain residency status in their country, financial losses due to the weakening of the pound against the euro and the loss on onward freedom of movement – meaning that Brits resident in one EU country no longer have the right to move to another.

The report also highlighted that only 60 percent of respondents had changed their legal status by security residency since Brexit.

For some Brits in the EU this is not necessary if they already have citizenship of their country of residence (or another EU country such as Ireland) but the report’s author highlighted that: “It may also offer an early indicator that within this population there are some who may find themselves without legal residence status, with consequences in the future for their right to residence, and access to healthcare, welfare and work (among other services).”

READ ALSO What to do if you have missed the Brexit deadline in France 

In total 42 percent of respondents were completely disenfranchised – the 15-year rule means they can no longer vote in the UK, while the loss of EU citizenship means that they cannot vote in European or local elections in their country of residence.

The British government has recently announced the ending of the 15-year rule, giving voting rights to all UK nationals, no matter how long they live outside the UK. 

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