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BREXIT

EU’s ‘no-deal’ Brexit plan spells out bad news for British travellers

The European Union on Tuesday published further contingency plans for a "no-deal" Brexit, piling pressure Prime Minister Theresa May by warning that Britons will lose a host of travel rights from recognition of driving licences to lower credit card fees and no mobile roaming charges.

EU's 'no-deal' Brexit plan spells out bad news for British travellers
Photo: AFP
The European Commission, the bloc's executive arm, said that, while it is working hard for a deal, it must prepare for “all outcomes” and “contingency measures in narrowly defined areas” may be needed to protect the EU's interests.
 
If a deal is agreed then the arrangements could still be applied at the end of any agreed transition period – which under the current withdrawal agreement would be January 1st 2021.
 
In one measure, Brussels said it will offer visa-free travel within the bloc to Britons on short trips, but warned this was “entirely conditional on the UK also granting reciprocal and non-discriminatory visa-free travel to EU citizens travelling to the UK”.
 
“UK nationals would be exempt from any visa requirement for visits of up to 90 days within a 180-day period. This is entirely conditional on the UK also granting reciprocal and non-discriminatory visa-free travel to EU citizens travelling to the UK.”
 
Frans Timmermans, the vice-president of the European Commission, said: “We will do upon you what you do upon us.”
 
However the Commission notes that “the UK government has already declared its intention not to require a visa from citizens of the EU27 Member States for shorts trips to Britain;
 
The EU says its visa proposal demonstrates its “commitment to putting citizens first in the negotiations with the UK”.
 
The proposal now needs to be adopted by the European Parliament and the Council.
 
The Commission published a nine-point advice notice to travellers between the UK and EU about what will happen if Britain crashes out without a deal. It spells out the rights Britons coming to the bloc will no longer enjoy if there is no agreement between London and Brussels.
 
British driving licences will no longer be recognised automatically by EU countries, leaving UK drivers to check with each country they travel in whether they will need an extra “international driving permit”, the notice says.
 
At airports, UK nationals will no longer be able to use the priority EU passport queue and will be subject to extra questions about the purpose and length of their visit. 
 
When it comes to health a no-deal would mean Brits would not be able to use the European Health Health cards (EHIC) to access treatments.
 
The warnings of what will happen in the event of a no-deal Brexit echo those already given by the British government earlier this year.
 
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Photo: AFP

 
They will also see limits reintroduced on the amount of alcohol and tobacco they can bring into the bloc and may have their bags searched by customs officials.
 
EU rules protecting air passengers will no longer apply to British flights and airlines, meaning that travellers on them may no longer be able to claim compensation if their flights are delayed or cancelled.
 
Recently introduced EU rules on mobile data roaming will no longer apply to the UK, allowing mobile phone companies to reimpose extra charges for Britons using their phones abroad.
 
And Britons were warned about rising costs of paying for gods with bank cards.
 
“As of the withdrawal date, transactions between the EU-27 and the United Kingdom will no longer be covered by the EU rules limiting interchange fees,” read the notice.
 
“Provided that merchants are allowed to apply surcharges on consumers for card payments, this may lead to a higher surcharge for card payments.” 
 
And Britons have also been told they will lose the right under current EU law to seek consular assistance from any EU member state if they are travelling outside the EU.
 
“As of the withdrawal date, UK nationals will no longer be able to benefit from this right and EU-27 citizens will no longer be able to turn to UK embassies and consulates to seek consular protection on the basis of EU law,” the notice reads.
 
But there is perhaps one silver lining for British tourists, they will be able to claim back VAT on items purchased within Europe when they leave. 
 
In today's Communication the EU also outlines priority areas where it is likely measures could be necessary should it appear likely that the UK will leave the EU “in a disorderly manner”. 
 
Among these are citizens' rights and businesses, both areas which could be affected by residency and visa-related issues, as well as financial services, air transport, customs, sanitary, the transfer of personal data, and climate policy.
 
The Commission has said that: “Any contingency measures would only be taken in limited areas where they are necessary to protect the vital interests of the EU and where preparedness measures are not currently possible.
 
“They would be temporary in nature, limited in scope, adopted unilaterally by the EU and must remain compatible with EU law.”
 
Various European countries have been stepping up their own preparations for a no-deal Brexit including France and Germany

Member comments

  1. …”.And Britons were warned about rising costs of paying for gods with bank cards.” i had no idea Britons were paying for gods with bank cards. How do I get one of those bank cards? I’ll pay the higher costs.

  2. Before you give up the simplicity (and low cost!) of buying deities with cash…[“And Britons were warned about rising costs of paying for gods with bank cards…”], think about what happens when you can’t make your payments and the EU god-collectors come round.

    Seriously, I just wonder how much of this is push-back on both sides. Talk about messy divorces! Nobody is thinking about the children!

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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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