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Brexit road-tripper: ‘It has made me appreciate what Europe has to offer and what we have to lose’

Brit Andy Pardy quit his job to undertake an epic odyssey across Europe in order to write ‘Stop Brexit’ with the resulting GPS route. Having recently concluded his more than 35,000-kilometre journey across 27 European nations, The Local caught up again with ‘The rogue consultant’ and his ode to freedom of movement.

Brexit road-tripper: 'It has made me appreciate what Europe has to offer and what we have to lose'
Andy Pardy arrives at Trebarwith Strand in Cornwall after the first 1,522 kilometres of his epic journey. Photo: Andy Pardy

When we last spoke to Andy Pardy, he was in Greece and about to continue driving north, a route that would eventually spell the word ‘Brexit’ when displayed on a map with GPS coordinates. 

“For the letter ‘X’ I drove from Mt Olympus to Berlin, then onto the outskirts of Warsaw and back down into the Croatian mountains,” Pardy, now back in the UK, told The Local. The ‘X’ alone required a 3,036-kilometre drive. 

Pardy had already driven the route that would spell the word ‘Stop’ through the UK, Ireland, France, the Netherlands, Scandinavia and the Baltic states. 

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Editor's note: Obviously the EU's freedom of movement is about a lot more than cross-border travel, which for Britons might soon mean more paperwork. Make sure to sign up for our Europe & You newsletter for a weekly digest of what's at stake as Britain gets closer to the exit. 

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The curious story of why this British management consultant decided to throw in his job in the UK and undertake a last European tour, armed with nothing but a Volkswagen van, a GPS tracker and a passion for Europe, has captivated the minds of media worldwide. 

“After the Brexit vote I felt powerless. I haven't been able to participate or assist and I just wanted to do something,” Pardy told The Local in September this year.

So Pardy decided to traverse the continent he has known since he was a child (he grew up in Germany) for what he labelled a ‘last European tour’ to highlight the privilege that is freedom of movement. 

The man with a van, who was joined by his girlfriend Katy for the latter part of the journey, saw mountain ranges in Scandinavia, Slovakia, Slovenia, France, Spain and Croatia, “so it was nice to see Mt. Blanc, Europe’s highest peak,” says Pardy. Katy was subjected to equivalent beauty. Her three-day birthday trip took in Lake Bled in Slovenia, Lake Iseo in Italy and Chamonix at the feet of Mt Blanc.

Yet the highlights were so many, says Pardy. Romania was “a hidden gem”; mountain ranges in Slovenia and Croatia revealed landscapes Pardy “had never imagined”; Scandinavia was full of charm too. He even managed to stop in Munich for Oktoberfest.

Pardy is the captain of the story although his van may well be the unsung hero. “It never broke down and never didn’t start,” says Pardy, even though the vehicle covered more than 900 kilometres on rough roads on tough days. 

Pardy’s journey took him through most of Europe’s mountain ranges. “I feel like I know Europe better,” says Pardy, who has criss-crossed 26-EU nations in the last three months, with some understatement. “I thought I knew Europe. Seeing some of the farthest-flung corners has shown me what Europe has to offer. Even though we don’t know to what extent freedom of movement will be curtailed, it is very clear what we stand to lose,” adds Pardy, whose journey has filled more than nine pages of Google with media clips, including this Arte documentary.

His journey may appear inherently political but Pardy says more than anything it was personal. “It wasn’t to stir division,” says Pardy, who has received hundreds, if not thousands of messages of support along his route. Despite sleeping in a tin van and living on a diet of tin cans, Pardy says every corner of Europe was worth it. 

Would he be willing to do it again if he’d made a typo? “I would do it all again tomorrow,” says Pardy, adding the caveat that he’d like to top up on fresh fruit and a few good nights of sleep before ever trying such an odyssey again. 

And the main lesson learnt? “The adventure has highlighted what is at stake,” says Pardy. 

You can learn more about Andy’s journey on his Instagram account

 

After 27 countries, 35,000 km and 45 stress-free EU border crossings, my Last European Tour is finally complete ???? • I have created a piece of #GPSart that covers 18,231.7km and spells two words; STOP BREXIT. The full route and gps records can be found attached (or at LocaToWeb.com – Search ‘The Rogue Consultant’) • Europe has exceeded all expectations. The support and kindness of all those met along the way, as well as the 1000s of messages received online has been mind-blowing. Thank you all ? • The right to explore as well as live and work abroad, without tiresome red tape, is an immense privilege. As it stands, the ability to freely access and roam our fellow EU member states makes us incredibly fortunate. For me, this adventure has highlighted what is at stake. • I’ve got a huge backlog of photos and videos to process and complete over the coming weeks. Stay tuned for blog updates! I’m also in the process of calculating and offsetting my CO2 emissions. • The final list of countries (in order of first entry) is as follows: UK ➡️ Republic of Ireland ➡️ France ➡️ Belgium ➡️ Netherlands ➡️ Germany ➡️ Denmark ➡️ Sweden ➡️ Norway (non-EU) ➡️ Finland ➡️ Estonia ➡️ Latvia ➡️ Lithuania ➡️ Poland ➡️ Slovakia ➡️ Hungary ➡️ Romania ➡️ Bulgaria ➡️ Greece ➡️ Austria ➡️ Czech Republic ➡️ Slovenia ➡️ Croatia ➡️ Italy ➡️ Luxembourg ➡️ Spain ➡️ Portugal #StopBrexit ??❤️?

A post shared by The Rogue Consultant (@therogueconsultant) on Oct 31, 2018 at 1:19am PDT

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EUROPEAN UNION

How Europe plans to ease long-term residence rules for non-EU nationals

Non-EU citizens living in the European Union are eligible for a special residence status that allows them to move to another country in the bloc. Getting the permit is not simple but may get easier, explains Claudia Delpero.

How Europe plans to ease long-term residence rules for non-EU nationals

The European Commission proposed this week to simplify residence rules for non-EU nationals who live on a long-term basis in the European Union.

The intention is to ease procedures in three areas: acquiring EU long-term residence status, moving to other EU countries and improving the rights of family members. 

But the new measures will have to be approved by the European Parliament and the EU Council, which is made of national ministers. Will EU governments support them?

What is EU long-term residence?

Non-EU citizens who live in EU countries on a long-term basis are eligible for long-term residence status, nationally and at the EU level. 

This EU status can be acquired if the person has lived ‘legally’ in an EU country for at least five years, has not been away for more than 6 consecutive months and 10 months over the entire period, and can prove to have “stable and regular economic resources” and health insurance. Applicants can also be required to meet “integration conditions”, such as passing a test on the national language or culture knowledge. 

The EU long-term residence permit is valid for at least five years and is automatically renewable. But the status can be lost if the holder leaves the EU for more than one year (the EU Court of Justice recently clarified that being physically in the EU for a few days in a 12-month period is enough to maintain the status).

READ ALSO: IN NUMBERS: How many non-EU citizens live in European Union countries?

Long-term residence status grants equal treatment to EU nationals in areas such as employment and self-employment or education. In addition, EU long-term residence grants the possibility to move to other EU countries under certain conditions. 

What does the European Commission want to change?

The European Commission has proposed to make it easier to acquire EU long-term residence status and to strengthen the rights associated with it. 

Under new measures, non-EU citizens should be able to cumulate residence periods in different EU countries to reach the 5-year requirement, instead of resetting the clock at each move. 

This, however, will not apply to individuals who used a ‘residence by investment’ scheme to gain rights in the EU, as the Commission wants to “limit the attractiveness” of these routes and not all EU states offer such schemes. 

All periods of legal residence should be fully counted towards the 5 years, including those spent as students, beneficiaries of temporary protection or on temporary grounds. Stays under a short-term visa do not count.

Children who are born or adopted in the EU country having issued the EU long-term residence permit to their parents should acquire EU long-term resident status in that country automatically, without residence requirement, the Commission added.

READ ALSO: Why it may get easier for non-EU citizens to move to another European Union country

EU countries should also avoid imposing a minimum income level for the resources condition but consider the applicant’s individual circumstances, the Commission suggests.

Integration tests should not be too burdensome or expensive, nor should they be requested for long-term residents’ family reunifications. 

The Commission also proposed to extend from 12 to 24 months the possibility to leave the EU without losing status, with facilitated procedures (no integration test) for the re-acquisition of status after longer absences.

A person who has already acquired EU long-term residence status in one EU country should only need three years to acquire the same status in another EU member state. But the second country could decide whether to wait the completion of the five years before granting social benefits. 

The proposal also clarifies that EU long-term residents should have the same right as EU nationals with regard to the acquisition of private housing and the export of pensions, when moving to a third country. 

Why make these changes?

Although EU long-term residence exists since 2006, few people have benefited. “The long-term residents directive is under-used by the member states and does not provide for an effective right to mobility within the EU,” the Commission says. 

Around 3.1 million third-country nationals held long-term residence permits for the EU in 2017, compared to 7.1 million holding a national one. “we would like to make the EU long-term residence permit more attractive,” said European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson.

The problems are the conditions to acquire the status, too difficult to meet, the barriers faced when moving in the EU, the lack of consistency in the rights of long-term residents and their family members and the lack of information about the scheme.

Most EU member states continue to issue “almost exclusively” national permits unless the applicant explicitly asks for the EU one, an evaluation of the directive has shown.

READ ALSO: Pensions in the EU: What you need to know if you’re moving country

This proposal is part of a package to “improve the EU’s overall attractiveness to foreign talent”, address skill shortages and facilitate integration in the EU labour market of people fleeing Ukraine. 

On 1 January 2021, 23.7 million non-EU nationals were residing in the EU, representing 5.3% of the total population. Between 2.25 to 3 million non-EU citizens move to the EU every year. More than 5 million people have left Ukraine for neighbouring states since the beginning of the war in February. 

Will these measures also apply to British citizens?

These measures also apply to British citizens, whether they moved to an EU country before or after Brexit. 

The European Commission has recently clarified that Britons living in the EU under the Withdrawal Agreement can apply for a long-term residence too.

As Britons covered by the Withdrawal Agreement have their residence rights secured only in the country where they lived before Brexit, the British in Europe coalition recommended those who need mobility rights to seek EU long-term residence status. 

These provisions do not apply in Denmark and Ireland, which opted out of the directive.

What happens next?

The Commission proposals will have to be discussed and agreed upon by the European Parliament and Council. This is made of national ministers, who decide by qualified majority. During the process, the proposals can be amended or even scrapped. 

In 2021, the European Parliament voted through a resolution saying that third-country nationals who are long-term residents in the EU should have the right to reside permanently in other EU countries, like EU citizens. The Parliament also called for the reduction of the residency requirement to acquire EU long-term residence from five to three years.

READ ALSO: COMPARE: Which EU countries grant citizenship to the most people?

EU governments will be harder to convince. However, presenting the package, Commission Vice-President for Promoting our European Way of Life, Margaritis Schinas, said proposals are likely to be supported because “they fit in a broader framework”, which represents the “construction” of the “EU migration policy”. 

National governments are also likely to agree because large and small employers face skill shortages, “especially in areas that are key to our competitiveness, like agri-food, digital, tourism, healthcare… we need people,” Schinas said.

The 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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