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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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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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