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‘We warned you’: Call for urgent action after Britons living in EU denied entry

Campaigners for the rights of Britons living in Europe have called for urgent action after numerous reports of UK citizens being denied entry to the EU countries where they live since January 1st.

'We warned you': Call for urgent action after Britons living in EU denied entry
Britons living in the EU have been turned away from airports. File photo: AFP

In recent days there have been numerous reports of Britons travelling from the UK being unable to return to the countries where they live.

The issues have arisen in part due to Brexit and the end of the transition period on December 31st which brought an end to free movement for UK nationals but also due to the UK's surging Covid-19 rates.

Numerous EU countries imposed strict travel restrictions on travellers from the UK following the emergence of a new, highly contagious strain of Covid-19 before Christmas.

Added to that is the fact the UK is now a “third-country” and so is subject to the EU's ban on all but essential travel to the bloc.

British residents of EU countries, however, have the right to return to their homes, subject to rules on Covid-19 tests and quarantine, but this wasn't the case when several Britons were denied entry to Spain over the weekend.

They were told they didn't have the right post-Brexit residency card – even though Spanish authorities have repeatedly said they didn't need it.

There have also been similar reports of airlines turning away Britons trying to return home to Germany, the Netherlands and Italy.

There have been also reports of British residents wrongly having their passports stamped on entry to their EU home country. With British visitors only allowed to stay for 90-days in every 180-day period, an erroneous passport stamp could cause significant bureaucratic headaches for residents.

Britons living across Europe had been warned that if they travel over the New Year they would need to take proof of residency with them to ensure they would be allowed back in.

But it appears that across Europe there is confusion, with airlines and local border officers appearing to impose their own take on the new rules. 

Campaign group British in Europe has called for urgent action and said it had been warning about the probability of complications.

“This is a serious situation when people face problems getting home although they have a clear right to do so,” the group said in a statement.

“If this is an indication of the problems ahead, the UK government, member states and the Commission need to take this seriously now and get their acts together to make sure our rights are enforced.

“As early as 2017, British in Europe raised concerns about potential problems in the post-transition treatment of UK citizens resident in the EU. We have been raising them ever since – repeatedly over the last month as the second wave of Covid-19 has surged across the EU and its now third-country neighbour. 

“Despite this, there are multiple cases of British citizens who have been unable to return to the EU states which have been their homes for years between Christmas and New Year because of the misapplication of Covid-19 entry restrictions. Now, one day after the end of transition, we have multiple potential breaches across different EU countries of the Withdrawal Agreement rights of UK beneficiaries.”

The group says the problem appears to be that national border guards and airlines are not being kept up to date and informed of the rights of British residents of the EU which are protected under the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement.

As a result, those rights have been “breached” in many cases.

British in Europe is now demanding urgent action.

“We call on the member states to ensure that border guards are fully informed on the Withdrawal Agreement entry rights of UK beneficiaries and that they are implemented correctly and immediately.

“We call on the EU Commission to monitor this and take action in the case of infringements.

“We also need advice on remedies for British citizens denied boarding, for those who have erroneously had their passport stamped on exit or entry and, particularly, for anybody who has been allowed to fly to their host state only to be deported back to the UK.

“Otherwise, despite having done everything they should have done in line with the Withdrawal Agreement, further British citizens resident in the EU may have problems returning to their homes in their host states or find themselves unwittingly in breach of the 90-day rule at the beginning of April with all the administrative and other problems that this could imply for their residence status.”

The Local has asked the EU Commission to respond the difficulties facing British residents in Europe.

Have you been wrongly been barred from travelling home to the country you are resident in? Please get in touch and let us know about your experience. Email: [email protected]

 

Member comments

  1. we will be travelling from london to florence on the 8th. january
    as we own a company in tuscany, i am assuming we will not have a problem entering the country, as long as we agree to a 14 day quarantine. also, it is my understanding that we do to need to have a covid test prior to, or after arrival. please can anyone confirm this, or let me know if you have had any problems entering italy after the 31st dec? thank you

  2. It would appear from your own article that it is the UK border patrol which is in ignorance of the rules of the EU member states so I don’t see why the campaign group is addressing itself to the EU Commission.

  3. Stop the lot of them. Their country’s Virus reaction is tragically incompetent, yet many British, with their Inselaffe exceptionalism and arrogance, still think going skiing is a valid reason to travel. The EU should bar all but absolutely crucial travel from the UK and UK citizens with residency rights.
    Time will hopefully make travel easier again, and if and when it does, do it. But right now, it’s a selfish fools errand. Stay put. Other people live on this planet too.

  4. I totally agree with the previous comment. I am British and full-time resident in Italy. I would be horrified if anyone from the UK arrived in my village in Italy at present, whether they have a home or property here or not. We are talking matters of life and death here. People in Europe call this new strain “the English” virus. If you didn’t understand this before you set off from the UK, or decided to travel to the UK and back to Europe whilst the virus is running amok in the UK, I have no sympathy for you whatsoever. You are totally selfish and, as the previous commentator says, arrogant and suffering from a sense of entitlement. I’m embarrassed by some of my fellow countrymen and women.

  5. I would totally agree that a skiing holiday is less than a crucial reason to travel in these frightening and dangerous times we find ourselves in, however, as a Brit who regularly travels between the U.K. and Italy I take great offence at being assumed arrogant and entitled. It’s with great sadness and disappointment that such unprecedented tragedy is now giving some people the misplaced sense of entitlement to pass judgement of other human beings, based on their government’s incompetences, without first taking into consideration valid reasonings behind them risking travel at the moment. It’s almost xenophobic, and wouldn’t it be devastating if that was the legacy of this pandemic?! I would question if it’s ‘really selfish’ to travel having tested negative for COVID 48 hours before travelling and quarantining on arrival in order to support a partner/family member in their time of need. Is it selfish to visit your long term partner? Is it selfish to visit a family member for the very last time? Or indeed is travelling for business purposes selfish? Unfortunately , we can’t all work from home, we can’t all be furloughed and do not all qualify for government aid, but do still have to keep a roof over our heads so have to go where work takes us. Let’s not let this pandemic conquer and divide our compassion, regardless of what country we live in! It’s extremely difficult now as all our patience is wearing thin, but perhaps now is the time for tolerance and we should take some time to consider others circumstances because I can assure you we don’t all travel just for a holiday. Between Brexit and Covid it is a minefield for anyone needing to travel at the moment and I hope that the complications and additional costs have not put further strain on your mental health. Let’s hope better days are coming and that we can hopefully retain some compassion for one another when it’s all over. I hope everyone can keep themselves and your loved ones safe. Just for the record we aren’t all running a mock over here in England either… some of us have more integrity than that and are suffering great losses in order to keep people we love safe.

  6. Pretty simple really. Just instruct the border staff to ask ALL British entrants “did you for vote leave or remain”? If the answer is “leave” then refuse entry and tell the F off

  7. Pretty simple really. Just instruct the border staff to ask ALL British entrants “did you for vote leave or remain”? If the answer is “leave” then refuse entry and tell them F off

  8. I flew stansted to cologne on 1 January and Ryanair did deny some people without covid tests but everything else went smooth. I am British living in Germany and I was given a stamp in my U.K. passport. When I questioned it and showed my anmeldung, he simply said the U.K. has left the EU. I know he believed me to be resident as only residents abs citizens were allowed to enter Germany from U.K. on the 1st.

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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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