Brexit: Brits in EU feel European and don’t want to return home

The majority of Britons who live in the EU, Norway, Iceland or Switzerland and are protected under the Brexit agreement feel European and intend to remain in Europe permanently, but many have concerns about travel problems, a new survey reveals.

Brexit: Brits in EU feel European and don't want to return home
Flags of the European Union outside the European commission headquarters in Brussels. Photo by Kenzo TRIBOUILLARD / AFP

The research also shows that problems exist and “travel is where most issues relating to the new status currently occur”. For instance, border officials are still stamping passports of UK citizens with residence rights under the EU UK withdrawal agreement, even though they shouldn’t.

“There is constant confusion around passport stamping. I was ‘stamped in’ to France on a short trip… but could not find anyway to be ‘stamped out’ again. I think I can only spend 90 days in other EU countries, but have no idea how anyone can check or enforce that – until someone decides to try. It’s a mess,” was one of the answers left in an open question.

“Every time I go through a Schengen border control, I need to provide both my passport and Aufenthaltstitel card [resident permit in Germany] and watch to check that they don’t stamp my passport. As I am currently travelling a lot that’s been 20-odd times this year…” another respondent said.

The survey was carried out by Professor Tanja Bueltmann, historian of migration and diaspora at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, between October and November 2022. About 1,139 UK citizens replied.

Of these, 80 per cent found acquiring their new status easy or very easy, 60.7 per cent feel their rights are secure, while 39.3 per cent have concerns about their status going forward.

Staying permanently

More than three quarters (76.6 per cent) of respondents said they plan to live permanently in the EU or the other countries of the European Economic Area and Switzerland. In fact, 65.7 per cent said that Brexit has increased the likelihood of this choice.

For some, the decision is linked to the difficulty to bring non-British family members to the UK under new, stricter immigration rules.

“My German wife and I decided we no longer wanted to live in UK post Brexit referendum. In particular, we were affected by the impact of immigration law […] We cannot now return to UK on retirement as I cannot sponsor her on my pension. We knew it was a one-way journey. Fortunately, I could revive an application for German citizenship,” was a testimony.

“My husband is a US citizen and getting him a visa for the UK was near impossible due to my low income as a freelance journalist. We realized under EU law, moving to an EU country was easier. We settled on Austria as we had both lived there before… we could speak some German, and we like the mountains,” said another respondent.

Professor Bueltmann noted that the loss of free movement rights in the EU could be a factor too in the decision of many to stay where they are.

Citizenship and representation

Among those who decided to stay, 38.2 per cent are either applying or planning to apply for a citizenship and 28.6 per cent are thinking about it.

A key finding of the research, Bueltmann said, is that the vast majority of British citizens do not feel politically represented. Some 60 per cent of respondents said they feel unrepresented and another 30 per cent not well represented.

Another issue is that less than half (47.5 per cent) trust the government of their country of residence, while a larger proportion (62 per cent) trust the European Union. Almost all (95.6 per cent) said they do not trust the UK government.

Feeling European

The survey highlights the Brexit impacts on people’s identity too. 82.6 per cent of respondents said they see themselves as European, a higher proportion than those identifying as British (68.9 per cent).

“Brexit has really left me unsure of what my identity is. I don’t feel British, and I certainly don’t identify with the mindset of a lot of British people who live there. Yet, I am not Danish either. So, I don’t really know anymore!” said one of the participants in the survey.

Professor Bueltmann said the survey “demonstrates that Brexit impacts continue to evolve: this didn’t just stop because the transition period was over or a deadline for an application had been reached. Consequently, Brexit continues to shape the lives and experiences of British citizens in the EU/EEA and Switzerland in substantial, sometimes life-altering, ways.”

Considering the results of the study, Professor Bueltmann recommends policy makers in the EU and the UK to address the issue of lack of representation, for instance creating a joint UK-EU citizens’ stakeholder forum.

The report also recommends the UK government to rebuild trust with British citizens in the EU introducing voting rights for life and changing immigration rules to allow British-European families to return more easily. 

This article was prepared in cooperation with Europe Street News.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


Danish agency slammed for not sending new Brexit reminder letters

A support group for British nationals who live in Denmark has criticised the country’s residence permits agency after it said it would not be sending reminder letters before an upcoming deadline.

Danish agency slammed for not sending new Brexit reminder letters

The decision not to send individual letters to people who may not be aware of the deadline was criticised by British in Denmark, a support group for UK nationals resident in Denmark.

The group said it was disappointed that people who were not sent letters back in 2021, due to an error by authorities, would again not be individually notified of the need to apply.

“We were disappointed to read that SIRI does not intend to reach out to the hundreds of British citizens who arrived in 2020 and did not get the information letters,” a spokesperson from British in Denmark told The Local with reference to the Danish Agency for International Recruitment and Integration (SIRI), which is responsible for processing residence permit cases.

“We fear that this is potentially a massive problem as we know that many who arrived in 2020 were wrongly told in person by staff at SIRI that they did not have to do anything else after registering under EU rules,” they said.

In a statement last week, SIRI underlined the importance of the extended deadline to apply for residence in Denmark under the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement.

“British citizens and their family members who do not already hold a residence document in Denmark under the Withdrawal Agreement must submit an application – SIRI is not going to send out individual information letters,” the agency said on its website.

We will not send letters’: Danish immigration agency in reminder over extended Brexit deadline

In March, the government announced that British nationals who had missed the previous deadline to secure their post-Brexit residency status, now have until the end of 2023 to apply or resubmit their late application.

That decision came after a large number of British nationals living in Denmark missed the 2021 deadline, in part because many did not receive individual notification of the need to apply.

In December last year, SIRI told The Local that, due to an error, it did not send individual reminders to people who moved to Denmark from the UK after January 2020 — meaning many people were not directly notified that they needed to submit an application to update their residence status before the December 31st, 2021 deadline.

“There could still be many individuals out there who are unaware that they were given the wrong advice and have to re-apply to keep their residency under the Withdrawal Agreement by the end of the year,” the spokesperson from British in Denmark said.

“British in Denmark will continue to lobby for letters to be sent out, otherwise we fear that another wave of ‘late applications’ will happen after the new deadline has passed,” they said.

“We also will continue asking for clear guidance on late applications so that those who miss the extended deadline have some kind of clue as to what constitutes a ‘reasonable reason’ for applying late,” they said.

SIRI said that it was using its regular channels to inform affected persons about the deadline and that it was engaged in an information campaign.

“The British citizens and their family members encompassed by the Withdrawal Agreement should be aware that they must apply by the end of the year,” Kirsten Meier, the head of SIRI’s EU office, told The Local in a written comment.

“We have chosen to use the information channels we offer to all of our other users and therefore don’t send out individual letters,” Meier said.

“From SIRI’s side, we provide information about the deadline via the website and our Brexit telephone line. Up to December, we will also spread the message on social media and via our network,” she said.

SIRI’s Brexit helpline can be contacted on the telephone number 72 14 20 05, according to the agency’s website.

Majority of Britons not affected

In 2021, British residents in Denmark who moved to the country under EU free movement rules were asked to submit applications to extend their residency status, and thereby receive a residency permit card.

People who completed this process in 2021 – the majority of Britons who live in Denmark – do not need to contact authorities again before the extended deadline.

People who moved to Denmark from the UK after December 31st, 2020 are not covered by the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement and are therefore subject to Denmark’s general immigration rules for third-country nationals. They are also unaffected by the extended deadline.

However, the December 31st, 2023 deadline is important for a significant number of people.

That is because some Britons who have lived in Denmark since 2020 have not previously submitted an application under the Withdrawal Agreement. Others submitted their applications after the original deadline of December 31st, 2021 and subsequently received a rejection to having their application processed.

It is people who fall into these two groups who must submit applications within the new deadline.

According to figures provided by SIRI to The Local in January, 352 late applications had been received by the agency. Of these, 50 were rejected while 179 were pending. Some 113 had been approved despite late submission and 10 lapsed without an outcome. The figures cover late submissions from persons who both did and did not receive the information letters.

SIRI did send letters to over 19,000 British nationals in Denmark, but only to earlier movers — not those who registered after moving to the country between February and December 2020. Some 17,811 applications were received by SIRI before the deadline.