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BREXIT

Brits in Europe still face complex post-Brexit cases, rights’ group warns

Resources for Brits in Europe to overcome any problems regarding post-Brexit residency issues are being cut just when some people need them most, citizens' rights group British in Europe has warned.

Brits in Europe still face complex post-Brexit cases, rights' group warns
Brits in Europe still need help from Westminster to resolve post-Brexit issues, campaigners warn. (Photo by Justin TALLIS / AFP)

While the implementation of the Brexit agreement on citizens’ rights has gone “relatively smoothly” in some countries, “resources allocated to the rights of UK citizens in the EU are being reduced drastically” at a time of “a rise in serious and complex cases,” warned British in Europe co-founder Jane Golding at a recent meeting of the House of Lord’s European Affairs Committee.

Golding was participating in an evidence session on Tuesday, together with representatives of EU citizens in the UK and Dr Kathryn Chamberlain, CEO of the UK Independent Monitoring Authority overseeing the implementation of EU citizens’ rights under the withdrawal agreement.

The session followed up on an enquiry carried out in 2021 and will set the basis for a “substantial letter” to the UK government.

Golding said that the experience of British citizens varies depending on EU countries.

“Systems for applications for residents have gone relatively smoothly in some countries, for example, France, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Hungary and Austria.

But in others, they have not,” she said.

Golding cited Sweden as a “big example”, where the rate of refusals is “statistically higher than in other comparable countries, at around 11 to 16 per cent”.

“We have seen cases like a family of four with young children facing an order to leave and the recent well publicised case in the media of a 74 year old lady with Alzheimer’s, living in a care home, who also faced an order to leave”. She added that in Sweden there are more than 900 late residence applications from British citizens under the withdrawal agreement and the current refusal rate is around 60 per cent.

Golding also mentioned problems in Denmark, Portugal and Malta.

As funding for the support network on citizens rights in UK Embassies across the EU was terminated at the end of March 2023 and people rely on volunteer groups for advice, Golding called on the government to maintain support services in place.

She also urged Whitehall to introduce secondary legislation on voting rights so that Britons abroad can have their own representatives in Westminster. The full session can be watched here.

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BREXIT

Commission official: ‘Up to Sweden how strict it is on Brexit applications’

An official from the European Commission has defended its decision not to take action on Sweden's strict treatment of late applications for post-Brexit residency, arguing that it is up to member states how to apply the Withdrawal Agreement.

Commission official: 'Up to Sweden how strict it is on Brexit applications'

In an email sent to The Local, the official confirmed the latest data, published at the end of last year, which showed that 22 percent of residence applications from UK nationals under the Withdrawal Agreement had not been successful in Sweden. The official said this was similar to the rejection rate for Swedish citizens’ applications in the UK. 

“Through its regular monitoring in Annual reports under Article 159(2) of the Withdrawal Agreement, the European Commission is aware of the fact that Sweden has a high rate of refusal of residence applications under Article 18(1) of the Withdrawal Agreement,” the official said. 

But they said that this in itself did not indicate that Sweden was failing to apply the UK Withdrawal Agreement correctly. 

“As long as there is no indication that a Member State in question is incorrectly applying the Withdrawal Agreement rules, it is not for the Commission to tell Member States how strict or lenient they should be when processing late applications,” the Commission official said.

READ ALSO: Brits in Sweden still in limbo years after Brexit deadline

Two EU lawyers The Local spoke to earlier this summer said that they believed that the Swedish Migration Agency had not been correctly applying the proportionality test to late applications, and had been too narrow in its interpretation of what constitutes “reasonable grounds” for a late application.

They also said that they believed the Migration Agency had been overly strict on what level of employment or savings UK citizens were required to have to qualify as resident in Sweden under EU law, and to therefore be qualified for post-Brexit residency.

SEE MORE: Why did Sweden reject Brits for post-Brexit residency

But the Commission official said that when it came to the late applications at least, Sweden was entitled to take the position it had done. 

“If the host State authorities reach the conclusion that a late applicant did not have reasonable grounds for missing the application deadline, they do not have to deal with the application on substance,” the official said.

“This means that someone who would have qualified for the residence rights under the Withdrawal Agreement might not be granted those rights if they missed the application deadline and did not have a valid reason for doing so.” 

READ ALSO: Is Sweden getting EU law wrong on Brexit cases? 

An unusual high rejection rate, the official continued, did not mean that Sweden was breaking the terms of the EU Withdrawal agreement. 

“The fact that there are negative decisions being taken by Member States under Article 18 of the Withdrawal Agreement (WA) does not, in itself, indicate that those Member States apply the Withdrawal Agreement incorrectly,” they said.

The Migration Agency had carried out a review of refusals, they said, checking a selection for “legal quality”, something The Local has previously reported on.

The Commission had received the Migration Agency’s review, they said, but had yet to complete its analysis of the findings. 

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