Implementing the Withdrawal Agreement: citizens’ rights Contents

2UK nationals in the EU

What do we know about the procedures in each country?

6.When we took evidence at the end of June 2020, only three EU countries had started their process for regularising the status of UK nationals in their territory—Italy, the Netherlands and Malta.8 As such, it was difficult, at that point, for our witnesses to form a view on implementation so far.9 We wrote to the Ambassador for each EU Member State in the UK to ask whether their country planned to adopt a declaratory or a constitutive system for British nationals resident in their country, what preparations had been made so far, and how many UK nationals they understood to be resident in their country. The European Commission has published a guidance note on citizens’ rights in the Withdrawal Agreement (WA), to assist in uniform interpretation and has an online resource showing the implementation of citizens’ rights in each Member State.10

7.Among EU Member States, thirteen have chosen to use a constitutive system, and fourteen have chosen a declaratory system.11

Declaratory

8.A declaratory system does not require UK nationals to apply for a new residence status, but may provide an option for them to get a new document to evidence that their rights are protected under the Withdrawal Agreement.12 Below is a list of the countries that have chosen to operate a declaratory system.

Table 1: Countries operating a declaratory system

Country

Estimate of UK population

(as of date)

Relevant steps and dates

Bulgaria

9,955

(July 2020)

Current residence document valid for one year after transition or expiry date. Arrivals during transition should register as resident by 31 December 2020

Czech Republic

8,462

(June 2020)

Since 1 February 2020, UK nationals have been able to register for new residence document certifying holder is beneficiary of rights in the WA

Croatia

900

Register as resident by 31 December 2020.

Issuance of new residence document will be in place by 31 December 2020

Cyprus

“thousands”

Register as resident by 31 December 2020

Exchange current registration document for new UK residence document after 1 January 2021 (€30)

Estonia

1,400

(July 2020)

UK nationals can continue to reside in Estonia with current ID card until expiry

Germany

93,365

(1 Jan 2020)

Register with the residents’ registration office before 31 December 2020. Then notify their stay by 30 June 2021 to receive residence document

Greece

28,000

Register as resident before 31 December 2020.

New residence document available from 1 October 2020

Italy

Register in the Italian registry office before 31 December 2020

Lithuania

669

All listed UK nationals in Lithuania will get a letter explaining steps to take to obtain new residence document

Poland

6,361

(June 2020)

Issuance of new residence document from 1 January 2021 and until at least 30 June 2021

Portugal

34,300

UK resident for less than five years register with local municipality. UK resident with more than five years apply for permanent residence with immigration authority. Will continue to accept applications after 30 June 2021

Slovakia

2,672

(June 2020)

Ensure registered as resident. Apply for new residence permits by 30 June 2021 at the latest

Spain

359,471

(2019)

From 6 July 2020. UK can apply for new TIE biometric card. No deadline for TIE card application

Ireland*

Common Travel Area

Source: European Commission overview of implementation, Letters from the EU Ambassadors

9.We note that there are special circumstances regarding Ireland because of the long-standing Common Travel Area. The Irish Ambassador told us that “Ireland remains committed to upholding all aspects of the Common Travel Area and maintaining in full the associated rights and privileges that UK citizens currently enjoy in Ireland”.13

10.British in Europe, a coalition of organisations representing UK nationals in the EU, has expressed a preference for countries to adopt a declaratory system with registration, and the ability to apply for a card to provide evidence of residence status. In such a system, for those who qualify under the Withdrawal Agreement, rights cannot be lost because a deadline was missed. At the same time, UK nationals will be given the opportunity to get a residence document that enables them to evidence their rights (see the section below on a Common format residence card).14 As Kalba Meadows, British in Europe and Co-founder, France Rights, told us “It is going to be very important for people to make that application for a document.”15 Michael Harris, British in Europe and Co-Chair of EuroCitizens in Spain, explained what was happening in Spain:

The situation is that, legally, you will not have to do it but, practically, you will if you want to live in the country, access services and come in and out of the country.16

The new residence document in Spain is called the TIE, and the letter we received from the Spanish Ambassador said that there would not be a deadline to apply for the TIE card but:

It is highly likely that the majority will prefer to have a physical biometric card such as TIE [ … ] which can show they are beneficiaries of the Withdrawal Agreement [ … ] This will facilitate in practice the enjoyment of their rights in administrative procedures and border crossing, among other categories.17

Kalba Meadows told us that this was already being done in Italy where implementation had started and “people are being invited to request a certificate to show that they are covered under the withdrawal agreement. It is crucial.”18

11.The process in Cyprus, a declaratory country, encourages UK nationals to be registered before 31 December 2020 and therefore have a residence document. From 1 January 2021, they will be able to exchange it for a new residence document. The process allows for UK nationals who arrive in Cyprus during transition, and may not have registered yet, to be able to apply for residence documents as long as they can submit documentary evidence that they were resident prior to 31 December 2020. However, it states that for those UK nationals who already hold relevant the relevant residence documents “the process will be particularly straightforward” and keep any requirements for “documentary evidence to a minimum”.19

Constitutive

12.Below is a list of the countries that have chosen to operate a constitutive system and where the deadlines are known.

Table 2: Constitutive countries

Country

Estimate of UK population

(as of date)

Relevant steps and dates

Austria

11,177

(Jan 2020)

Procedure starts on 1 January 2021. Apply for a new residence document by 31 December 2021

Belgium

22,350

Register by 31 December 2020. Belgium has decided to extend the deadline beyond 30 June 2021 to 31 December 2021

Denmark

19,000

(Jan 2020)

Application process for obtaining a new residence document available from 1 January 2020.

Denmark has decided to extend the deadline beyond 30 June 2021 to 31 December 2021

Finland

5,000

UK nationals registered in Finland can apply for a new right of residence from 1 October 2020. Finland has decided to extend the deadline beyond 30 June 2021 to 30 September 2021

France

148,300

(2016)

UK nationals in France can apply for a new residence permit from 15 October 2020. Deadline is 30 June 2021

Hungary

5,500

Register by 31 December 2020. Application process for obtaining a new residence document available from 1 January 2020. No decision on the deadline

Latvia

1,209

From October 2020, UK nationals in Latvia, who arrive before 31 December 2020, can apply for a new residence permit. Deadline 30 June 2021

Luxembourg

From 1 July 2020, UK nationals can apply for a new residence document. Deadline 30 June 2021

Malta

13,553

UK nationals in Malta can apply for a new residence permit from 17 February 2020. Deadline 30 June 2021.

Arrivals during transition have to be resident for three months before making an application

The Netherlands

Register before 31 December 2020. From 1 February 2020, UK nationals can apply for a new residence document online. Deadline 30 June 2021

Romania

2,762

Subject to necessary draft law being passed, aim is that UK nationals can apply for a new residence document from 1 January 2021. Romania has decided to extend the deadline beyond 30 June 2021 to 31 December 2021

Slovenia

785

(Dec 2019)

Information on procedures will be sent to all registered UK nationals. UK nationals can apply for the new residence status from 1 January 2021. Slovenia has decided to extend the deadline beyond 30 June 2021 to 31 December 2021

Sweden

19,000

Necessary legislation expected in force 1 December 2020. From 1 December 2020 UK nationals can apply for the new residence status. Sweden has decided to extend the deadline beyond 30 June 2021 to 30 September 2021

Source: European Commission overview of implementation, Letters from the EU Ambassadors

13.The decision that the transition period would not be extended confirmed two relevant dates for the implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement. First that free movement would not apply from the 31 December 2020. Second, that under Article 18(1) of the Withdrawal Agreement the deadline for applications under a constitutive system cannot be earlier than six months after the end of transition, i.e. 30 June 2021.20 For those countries choosing a constitutive scheme, UK nationals will have to make an application, and if they do not do so successfully before the deadline, they could lose their rights.

14.Of the 13 countries that have chosen a constitutive system, seven have decided to extend the deadline for applications for the new residence status beyond 30 June 2021. Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Romania and Slovenia have extended it to 31 December 2021.21 Finland and Sweden have extended it to 30 September 2021.22 We understand Hungary has not made a decision on whether it will accept applications beyond June 2021 yet.23

15.The deadline for new applications is 30 June 2021 for France, Latvia, Luxembourg, Malta and the Netherlands. Latvia, Luxembourg, Malta and the Netherlands opened their application procedures early, and both Malta and the Netherlands have been accepting applications since February 2020. France intended to open its applications procedure early—in July—but this was postponed to October 2020, without extending the deadline.

16.In those countries where UK nationals will be asked to make a new application for a residence status under Article 18(1) of the Withdrawal Agreement, the deadline for applications is 30 June 2021 at the earliest. Each Member State can decide if it wishes to extent this deadline, and we understand that so far seven out of the thirteen countries, where this applies, have done so. We urge other EU Member State to consider extending deadlines if it appears that a large number of UK nationals in their country have not taken the necessary steps, and there is a possibility they would lose their status.

17.A constitutive system will create a new process and will require an application to be made by each person, in order to secure a new status. As Kalba Meadows told us, “Without an application in a constitutive system, there are no rights.”24 Our witnesses were concerned that the application for the new status might require new evidence to be presented and “a large pile of documentation” be provided in order to prove their rights.25 They were unsure how the application requirements would follow those of the 2004 EU directive on free movement—under which people need to demonstrate that they are employed or self-employed, have sufficient resources and health insurance, or that they were a student with sufficient resources and health insurance.26

18.Kalba Meadows said that the strict application of conditions for legal residence were applied differently across the EU27, and this included what documentation they ask for.27 She also pointed out that there may be inconsistency on how this was implemented within a country where processing of applications or registrations is devolved to local authorities. She gave the examples of France, which had 101 local authorities, and Italy, where it was devolved to 6,000 different local authorities.28

19.Addressing the question of what UK nationals in Europe might be asked to do to demonstrate residence rights, Wendy Morton MP, Minister for European Neighbourhood and the Americas, at the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO), said:

The conditions to obtain residence rights replicate the existing free movement rules with respect to residence rights. As such, UK nationals who have not acquired the right of permanent residence before the end of the transition period, will need to demonstrate that they are exercising free movement rights at the end of the transition period in order to be considered lawfully resident. [ … ]

The European Commission has been clear that there is no discretion in the application of the relevant rules–unless these are in favour of applicants, in which case certain requirements can be waived. On this basis, UK nationals are not being asked to provide any additional information than they would under free movement rules except to demonstrate that they were lawfully resident before the end of the transition period.29

20.We welcome the increased information on how each Member State will choose to implement Part Two of the Withdrawal Agreement to protect citizens’ rights provisions for UK nationals in the EU. The introduction of a constitutive system in EU member countries for UK nationals has caused some concern that it may involve burdensome administrative procedures as part of the application. We welcome the remarks of the Minister that nobody should be asked for information beyond what is necessary to demonstrate that they were lawfully resident before 31 December 2020. We call on the Government to monitor the proposals in each Member State and, working with the European Commission and Member States, ensure that any such process is smooth, transparent and simple, and that any unnecessary administrative burdens are avoided.

How will UK nationals know what they have to do?

Communication and coordination

21.Jane Golding, Co-Chair British in Europe, said that UK nationals living in the EU were still the responsibility of the UK Government, as it was “the FCO’s remit to deal with UK citizens in the EU. We are part of their responsibility.” She saw the FCO as having “primary responsibility”, then the organisations [UK National Support Fund], and then Member States.30 Part of this responsibility includes communicating with UK nationals about what will change and what they will be asked to do. When asked if they had concerns about what could happen in the time available, Kalba Meadows said:

I have a lot of concerns, but if I had to pick one out it would be that, in constitutive countries, people failed to obtain residence status because a robust communication system had not been put in place to inform them that they needed to apply. That needs to be put in place now—it is no good waiting, because it is going to take many months to get through to everybody. I am not yet seeing sufficient evidence that that is happening across the EU; it varies from country to country.31

Jane Golding said:

The key issue is that time is short, and it has been made shorter by the Covid crisis. We went through three cliff edges last year. This year, we are again in a window between the Covid crisis and what we expect to happen in the autumn, which is the Member States and the UK again making no deal contingency plans. That is likely to have an impact on the amount of bandwidth on both sides for informing our members as well as getting on and implementing the withdrawal agreement.32

22.In her letter to the Committee, Wendy Morton told us of the work that the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office has been undertaking to communicate to UK nationals in each Member State:

On 13 July, we launched a tailored public information campaign to inform UK nationals of the changes taking place at the end of the transition period and the actions they may need to take to secure their rights in their Member State of residence. Overall, the campaign will operate across 30 countries and is planned to continue until 30 June 2021.33

As part of its information campaign, the FCO encourages all UK nationals living in the EU to visit the Living in Guide on the GOV.UK website. The Living in Guides give advice on matters such as residency, working, studying, money and tax, healthcare and voting, for the 31 countries in the EU and EEA. They can also provide signposts to other sources of advice—including the host Government webpages on Brexit—and invites British nationals to sign up to receive emailed updates as the situation changes.34 Wendy Morton described the Living in Guides as:

the principal source of guidance for UK nationals in the EU, including their rights under the Withdrawal Agreement.

She added that the Government:

will continue to work closely with Member States to ensure that the introduction of, or changes to, administrative procedures are communicated to resident UK nationals.35

23.Many of the letters we received from the Ambassadors referred to outreach events for UK nationals, jointly arranged by the British Embassy and officials in the host country.36

UK Nationals Support Fund

24.On 6 March 2020, the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office announced a UK Nationals Support Fund (NSF), comprising £3million funding for organisations to provide practical support to UK nationals and their residency applications under the Withdrawal Agreement. The organisations that received funding and the countries in which they operate are:

On making the announcement, the FCO said “This extra assistance will build on the information and support that British embassies are already providing.”38 Wendy Morton told us that the NSF “should complement and support services put in place by Member States”39 and that the organisations in receipt of funding will:

[ … ] inform UK nationals about the need to register or apply for residency and support them as they complete their applications. This will include those who may find it harder to complete all the paperwork—focusing on the most vulnerable, those living in remote areas and those needing assistance with translation or interpretation.40

25.While British in Europe did not receive funding from the NSF,41 they welcomed the decision of the Foreign Office to provide funding to some organisations. At the time we took evidence, in June 2020, our witnesses felt it was too early to judge the organisations’ performance, but they did offer comments about the characteristics of the organisations and the geographical coverage. Not all Member States are covered.42

26.The organisations benefitting from the NSF are operating mainly in countries that have opted for the declaratory system where, in the words of British in Europe, “the support will be helpful but not as critical as in the so-called constitutive countries.”43 In contrast, of all the constitutive countries—where there will be a deadline of 30 June 2021 for UK citizens to apply and secure their status—only France has any NSF organisations providing support. In addition, organisations in receipt of NSF only covered Brittany, Normandy, Paris and Dordogne. This prompted Kalba Meadows to ask “why, given that France has the second highest population of British people across the EU, only 23% are covered, and why there are such large geographical gaps.” There are three organisations operating in France, and one of those, SSAFA, would be focussed on support to military veterans. She also said:

Only one of the organisations funded in France has any previous experience at all in citizens’ rights; the other two are starting from zero. We have some concerns about the level of expertise that they can bring to the scenario. The rights under the withdrawal agreement are incredibly complicated, as we know from all the work that we have done on it, so we have concerns about getting it right. Under a constitutive system, getting correct information to people is absolutely vital and can make the difference between them obtaining a residence status or not.44

Kalba Meadows called for “robust monitoring of the operation of the funds” in France and elsewhere across the EU,45 and for there to be feedback from users.46

27.Michael Harris said that in Spain—the EU country with the largest population of British nationals—funding had been provided to three organisations with differing geographical coverage or emphasis. Age Concern has a focus on the elderly but only in Catalunya and the Balearic Islands. The Asociación Babelia operate along the Mediterranean coast, including Alicante, and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) in Madrid, Murcia and Andalusia. Mr Harris said that he was worried about Andalusia, which had one member of IOM staff to cover a region “physically the same size as England”, and that included Malaga and the Costa del Sol, where there would be “probably over 100,000 Britons”.47 Mr Harris said that IOM had started to help British people in Spain register, so that the process for getting a new residence document under the Withdrawal Agreement would be easier, once it came out.48

28.In her letter, dated 21 July, Wendy Morton MP, Minister for the European Neighbourhood and the Americas, FCDO, explained the evidence that the UK Government expected the recipients of the NSF to produce regular reports:

29.In addition, the letter said:

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office will respond to any requests to update Parliament on the progress of the fund.49

30.It is vitally important that UK nationals resident in the EU are aware of how their situation might change and what steps they need to take to protect their rights. It is the responsibility of both the UK Government and the relevant host country to make sure that information is available and communicated to those who may be affected. This has to happen now so people can prepare, and it needs to continue into 2021 reflecting any deadline. The aim has to be to make sure as many people as possible understand what steps they have to take to ensure they do not lose their rights under the Withdrawal Agreement, and that as few people as possible lose rights inadvertently because they did not act in time or did not know they needed to act.

31.We welcome the fact that the direct efforts of the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office will be complemented by those of the organisations in receipt of the National Support Fund. We know from the experience of the EU Settlement Scheme in the UK that there are going to be hard-to-reach parts of the British population in Europe and it is important that the NSF organisations emphasise supporting those who may find the procedures required challenging. Particular focus needs to be given to the British population in countries such as Spain and France, given their numbers and their geographical spread across the country, and the proportion who are unregistered.

32.Monitoring of the effectiveness of the National Support Fund will be important. We are pleased that the Minister also thinks this is important and we support the principle set out by the Minister that those in receipt of funding must evidence their work in a series of regular reports. We commend the commitment shown by the Minister in her letter to update Parliament. We recommend that the monthly and quarterly reports are published. Furthermore, given the various procedures and deadlines in each EU Member State, and the potential need for the support to be refocussed to meet demand as it is identified, we recommend that the Government set out a strategy for how the NSF will be used to support citizens in countries or regions where demand increases and there is currently no coverage.

How many UK nationals will this affect and where do they live?

33.Estimates of the number of UK nationals living in the EU vary. The ONS estimated that on 1 January 2017 there were 784,900 UK nationals living in the EU.50 The United Nations has a figure of 1.2 million British citizens in the EU.51 Figures based on the estimates of each Member State are probably more reliable as they will be based on those who have registered, and UK nationals are required to register in most EU Member States. Eurostat’s estimate, as of the beginning of 2019, was around 900,000.52 In her letter to the Committee, Wendy Morton, said:

It is important to note that the number of UK nationals who may be eligible for protections under the Withdrawal Agreement will continue to fluctuate as individuals make life choices throughout the transition period. The number of UK nationals in scope will also continue to change in the future. [ … ] On this basis, it is not possible, to make a definitive estimate of UK nationals who may or may not be in scope of the Withdrawal Agreement.53

She then goes on to give the broad ONS figures of 784,900 British citizens living in the EU on 1 January 2017, not including those living in Ireland.

34.The size of the population in each Member State is relevant. Larger populations may present a greater challenge in terms of the administration of any scheme in limited time. The three countries with the largest estimated British populations, not including Ireland, are Spain (359,000), France (148,300) and Germany (93,365).54 Some countries have very small British populations and, assuming most are registered, it may be easier to communicate with and manage such numbers. For example, Lithuania (669), Croatia (900), Slovenia (785) Latvia (1,209) and Estonia (1,400) all have estimated British populations below 2,000.55

35.Most EU Member States require foreigners to register their presence and collect data based on those registrations.56 The numbers we were given by many Ambassadors were based on their national statistical service data on registered UK nationals.57 However, the accuracy of such estimates will depend on the varying registration requirements in EU Member States.58 The Greek Ambassador told us that there were an estimated 28,000 British in Greece, but also that it was “presumed that there is a yet undefined number of UK nationals residing in Greece.”59 Mr Michael Harris told us that the British in Portugal group thought there were an estimated 30,000 unregistered Britons in Portugal, but it is difficult to quantify because these are “people who are under the radar and just do not figure in the statistics”.60 If the unregistered figure is anything near 30,000, it would be a remarkable number given the Portuguese estimate is that there are 34,300 British nationals resident in Portugal.61 Our witnesses told us there were increasing numbers of UK nationals inquiring about how to register as a resident in several countries—which would suggest statistics based on registrations are undercounting.62

36.An important country in this regard is Spain, which has the largest British population in an EU Member State—about 360,000 according to the Spanish Ministry for Inclusion, Social Security and Migrations.63 This figure may be an underestimate because of the number of British people who may not be registered as resident in Spain. Michael Harris told us that “They are one of the groups that we are most worried about in terms of guaranteeing or achieving rights after the end of transition.”64 The Spanish Ambassador told us that, due to “a remarkable effort” by the Spanish authorities, they had registered 62,000 previously unregistered UK nationals between 1 January 2019 and 30 June 2020.65

37.We asked our witnesses what they would suggest for the British population who were unregistered. Michael Harris said that, for those without residency:

I would encourage those people spending up to six months a year in Spain to register, in order to get healthcare and to meet their fiscal obligations. Under EU law, after living for three months in a country, you should register. People should register if they want to spend that amount of time in Spain.66

This is important for declaratory countries, where registration helps to secure any new residence document.

38.It is also important for constitutive countries where they use the register of foreign nationals as the basis for who is likely to apply for the new status. The Belgium Ambassador told us:

It is on the basis of this already existing registration system, which already yields a record of UK citizens legally residing in Belgium, that the additional registration for UK citizens who fall within the scope of the Withdrawal Agreement will operate.67

The Latvian and Maltese Ambassadors also said that they had used their database of UK nationals registered as resident in order to write and provide information on the new application process.68

39.France does not require EU citizens to register with the authorities. It has a substantial British population and has opted for a constitutive system. All British nationals resident in France will have to apply for new status and residence card. The application will be online, then processed at the local level in the departmental préfectures.69

40.It is in the interests of UK nationals to make sure that they are registered in their host state before the end of transition on 31 December 2020. The UK Government needs to focus particular attention on those countries where there is potentially a large number of UK nationals unregistered, and where registering is the first step to gain protection under the Withdrawal Agreement.

41.Understanding the size of the population affected also helps the FCO and host countries reach their target audience. This is crucial given that they may not be aware of what they need to do in order to secure their status, and when they need to do it by.

The impact of Covid so far

42.The pandemic has affected efforts to establish processes. Kalba Meadows explained what had happened in France:

As a result of Covid, registration offices around the country have a three-month backlog in processing residence applications from third-country nationals. It was felt that, because of that, it would not be possible to do justice to a whole load of applications from a whole new group. Covid was directly responsible for the delay.70

Jane Golding pointed out that Covid affected the speed with which countries have brought out their draft legislation and started to implement it.71 Michael Harris explained that in Spain, where the lockdown started in February:

We had a couple of meetings with the Spanish Government, which told us that it was a declaratory system with no legal obligation, but just confirming status. Since then, everything has gone haywire. We had a very severe lockdown, and things are beginning to move only now.72

He added:

In early June, the wheels of bureaucracy started to grind once more, although slowly.73

He gave the example of one person who had an appointment in May which had been put off until January next year. As Spain will be a declaratory country, there is not going to be a legal deadline.74 Other countries had experienced similar delays, for example, the letter we received from the Maltese Ambassador said that the agency with responsibility for processing the relevant documents “had to suspend its operations during the height of the pandemic period” and reopened in June.75

43.There is evidence of delays happening in some EU Member States earlier in the year when Covid-19 caused offices to close down, reduce their staffing or levels of access. The risk remains that the pandemic could lead to restrictions being reintroduced and delays to the administration of any scheme. We call on Member States to be pragmatic in how they enforce a deadline where someone seeking to comply with the procedure is delayed through no fault of their own, and we call on the UK Government to urge all EU Member State governments to be flexible and pragmatic when administrative delays have been caused by the pandemic.

Scope for improving the situation for UK nationals in the EU

44.While rights to reside in their host country stay broadly the same, the rights are not the same as they were under free movement. Loss of free movement means losing the right to work across the EU and EU-wide recognition of professional qualifications. UK citizens in the EU have lost rights; for example, those relating to bringing future spouses back to the UK, and the ability of young British students to study in Europe have been diminished.76 UK nationals lose the rights deriving from EU citizenship, unless they also have dual nationality with that of an EU Member State. This means that they lose political rights such as the right to vote and to stand as a candidate in European and municipal elections.77 It is possible that the current situation may change, either through the work of the Joint Committee or through the negotiations on the future relationship.

Common format residence card

45.In February, the European Commission published an implementation decision, which proposed a uniform format EU-wide physical biometric document that would evidence the rights of people covered under the Withdrawal Agreement. This would be available to UK nationals if they lived in a country with either a declaratory or a constitutive system. The document would have a minimum validity of five years and a maximum of 10 years. This decision would be binding on all Member States from the end of the transition period.78 In Spain, this is a biometric card that proves that its UK national holder is a legal resident in Spain who benefits from the rights in the Withdrawal Agreement. We note that in his letter, the Spanish Ambassador said that “We feel that the issuance of a physical biometric document would also be much welcomed by EU nationals residing in the UK if made feasible for them too.”79

46.The common format residence card was welcomed by our witnesses from British in Europe, and recognised as important so that people can use a physical document enabling them to demonstrate that they are “covered under the Withdrawal Agreement for accessing services, travel, employment and every other reason under the sun.” However, Kalba Meadows said:

There is one issue with the format of that proposed document, which is that it does not make a distinction between those who have permanent residence rights and those who have ordinary or temporary residence rights. In the EU, people acquire permanent residence rights when they have lived legally in their host countries for five years. [ … ] Without evidence that somebody is legally resident on a permanent residence basis, there are going to be difficulties for them, because so many things across the board rely on having a permanent residence right. We feel it is very important that the document shows not only that somebody has rights under the withdrawal agreement but that, if they have them, they have permanent residence rights under the agreement.80

47.In her letter to the Committee, the Minister welcomed the decision for a uniform format residence card across all EU Member States, but added:

I am aware that groups representing UK nationals in the EU are concerned that a differentiation between permanent and temporary residence is not made on the card itself. As you know, the UK’s EU Settlement Scheme makes this clear by providing successful applicants with either pre-settled or settled status. Whilst Member States are not legally obliged to add this information to the document, I think it is sensible to do and ensures UK nationals have full certainty about their status and don’t have to rely on providing further evidence to national authorities in the future.

I will therefore call on all Member States to make the differentiation on the card as some have already chosen to do. I understand the European Commission are making a similar recommendation and my officials will raise this point on my behalf at the next Specialised Committee on Citizens’ Rights.81

48.We welcome the proposal for a common format residence card for UK nationals so that they can show that their rights are covered under the Withdrawal Agreement, and that the card will state if the holder has acquired permanent residence. It is important that all relevant authorities recognise this card and the entitlements that it brings to the bearer.

49.Furthermore, we welcome the Minister informing this Committee in advance of a meeting of the Specialised Committee of the UK position on the common format residence card for UK nationals in the EU. We look forward to similar examples of such transparency in future, and we call on the Minister to keep our Committee updated on progress with regard to Member State governments recognising the common format residence card for UK nationals.

Mobility rights and third country nationals

50.At present, the Withdrawal Agreement does not provide a right to cross-border working for UK nationals in the EU. In June 2020, the European Parliament called for the negotiations on the future relationship to include legally binding provisions on citizens’ rights and cross border working.82 Third country nationals, i.e. those from outside the EEA, who have lived in the EU for five years and secured long term residence, can acquire mobility rights across the EU. They would have more mobility rights than a UK national who has acquired the equivalent five years residence. Michael Harris pointed out that in Spain, there are thousands of British people who are family members of an EU citizen. They could choose to get status as a third country national, which would bring improved mobility rights, but it is not clear whether in doing so, they would lose their rights under the Withdrawal Agreement. It is not clear if the two statuses can be combined.83

51.When we took evidence from British in Europe, this was not being discussed as part of the future negotiations and was not part of the draft text put forward by either the UK or the EU in the future negotiations.84 Media reports of the second meeting of the Joint Committee suggested there was discussion of enabling UK nationals, who moved to the EU before the end of 2020 and had five years of continuous residence, to be able to move and settle in a different EU Member State to the one they are currently resident in, for work and study.85

52.We welcome discussions in the Specialised Committee regarding the possibility of combining the rights under the Withdrawal Agreement with the mobility rights of a third country national in EU law and urge the Government and the EU to support measures that would ensure that UK nationals with five years residence would not be treated less favourably, in terms of mobility rights, than third country nationals with five years residence.

Mobility for UK citizens who are not resident in an EU Member State

53.We have received written evidence on the subject of how long UK nationals can continue to visit an EU country after the end of the transition period, where they may not wish to move permanently. The UK’s position, at present, is that the UK will treat EU and non-EU citizens equally under our domestic immigration system from 1 January 2021. From this date, EU citizens will be treated as non-visa nationals, meaning they can come to the UK as visitors for six months without the need to obtain a visa. This is what the UK currently offers to the nationals of many other countries. At the same time, the EU will apply its existing rules for non-visa short term visits by UK citizens to the Schengen area, as it does for other third countries. This means applying the standard 90 days stay in a rolling 180-day period that the EU provides to the nationals of eligible third countries that offer visa-free travel access for EU citizens, in line with existing EU legislation.86

54.The 180daysvisa-free.org campaign advocate for the many UK nationals who have second homes in the EU and want to be able to visit these homes for more than 90 days in a 180 day period, for the UK Government to actively negotiate a reciprocal arrangement on tourist mobility in the UK-EU future relationship, and consider inserting into the UK draft text wording that achieves 180 days visa free travel in any rolling period of 360 days.87 This would resemble the UK’s intended policy to allow EU citizens to visit the UK visa free for a period of six months. We also received evidence from The Barge Association, whose members include UK nationals resident in the UK and in the EU, and who moor boats in an EU Member State and use them to move within and between more than one Member State. Their views include a similar desire to relax the 90 days in 180 days rule for UK visits to the EU, and possibly negotiated bilateral arrangements.88

55.Kalba Meadows, British in Europe and resident in France, suggested there were three choices available for those who spend part of the year in the UK and part of the year in one or more Member State:

We received evidence that the required income levels and the prohibitive cost of Schengen compliant travel insurance is likely to preclude many UK citizens who live for part of the year in France from making such visa applications.90

56.The EU does not appear to have changed its position, and Wendy Morton told us that in that event:

UK nationals may be able to stay in Member States for longer than the EU’s 90 in 180-day visa-free allocation, but this will be a decision for the government of the relevant Member State to make and implement, in the same way they already do for third-country nationals.91

On the matter of whether the UK would be willing to negotiate non-visa visit arrangements, Ms Morton said:

The Government does not typically enter into agreements on visa-free travel. Mobility is part of the Mobility and Social Security Coordination strand of the negotiations. As you will be aware, negotiations with the EU are ongoing and updates will be provided to Parliament regularly.92

57.The position of the UK and the EU on non-visa visits are consistent with their respective established policies. It is less clear whether the UK, in the negotiations on the UK-EU future relationship, proposed any form of change to the EU’s 90 day in 180 day rule in order to allow UK nationals, such as those who own second homes or have family in different European countries, to visit for more than 90 days in a 180 day period. In the absence of it being part of the negotiations with the EU, the UK Government should state whether it intends to try and negotiate bilateral arrangements with any EU Member State.


8 Q481

9 Q484

12 Q481

13 Letter from the Irish Ambassador (FRE01400)

14 British in Europe (FRE0014)

15 Q487

16 Q487

17 Letter from the Spanish Ambassador (FRE0133)

18 Q487

19 Letter from the Cypriot Ambassador (FRE0118)

20 Article 18(1)(b) states that “the deadline for submitting the application shall not be less than 6 months from the end of the transition period, for persons residing in the host State before the end of the transition period.”

21 See Letters from the Romanian Ambassador (FRE0130) and from the Slovenian Ambassador (FRE0132), and the European Commission overview of implementation.

22 Q483. Letter from the Swedish Ambassador (FRE0134)

24 Q481

25 Q484

26 Q484. See British in Europe (FRE0014), paras 10–12

27 Q484

28 Q484

30 Q510. The FCO has since merged with DFID to become the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office.

31 Q514, Q508

32 Q514

36 For example, the letter from the Maltese Ambassador (FRE0136), the letter from the Slovakian Ambassador (FRE0131) the letter from the Austrian Ambassador (FRE0115) and the letter from the Polish Ambassador (FRE0128)

38 UK Government allocates £3 million to support UK nationals in the EU, 6 March 2020. The FCO has since merged with DFID to become the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office.

41 Q506, Q511. British in Europe Statement, 6 March 2020

42 Organisations in receipt of Nationals Support Funding are operating in Bulgaria, Cyprus, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain. Plus the EEA countries Iceland and Norway.

43 British in Europe (FRE0014)

44 Q508

45 Q508

46 Q511. See also British in Europe Statement, 6 March 2020

47 Q506

48 Q507

50 ONS, Living abroad: British residents living in the EU: April 2018. This figure does not include UK nationals in Ireland

51 Q478

54 See letters from the Ambassadors of Spain (FRE0133), France (FRE0135) and Germany (FRE0123)

55 See, for example, the letter from the Slovenian Ambassador (FRE0132)

56 Q478

57 For example, letters from the Bulgarian Ambassador (FRE0116) and the Latvian Ambassador (FRE0126)

59 Letter from the Greek Ambassador (FRE0124)

60 Q478. See also Q493 and the British in Europe (FRE0014)

61 Letter from the Portuguese Ambassador (FRE0129)

62 Q478

63 Letter from the Spanish Ambassador (FRE0133)

64 Q478. The Spanish estimate 250,000 and the ONS estimate 300,000

65 Letter from the Spanish Ambassador (FRE0133)

66 Q488

67 Letter from the Belgian Ambassador (FRE0137)

68 Letters from the Latvian Ambassador (FRE0126) and from the Maltese Ambassador (FRE0136)

69 British in Europe (FRE0014), Annex France

70 Q500

71 Q482

72 Q482

73 Q502. See the letter from the Spanish Ambassador (FRE0133)

74 Q502

75 Letter from the Maltese Ambassador (FRE0136). See also the letter from the Polish Ambassador (FRE0128)

76 Q472

79 Letter from the Spanish Ambassador (FRE0133)

80 Q479. See British in Europe (FRE0014), paras 13–19

83 Q479. See also Q502

84 Q473

87 180daysvisa-free.org (FRE0038)

88 The Barge Association (FRE0072). See also The Cruising Association, Cruising in the EU post 31 December 2020, 4 June 2020

89 Qq 494–495

90 Alan Jones (FRE0056)




Published: 20 October 2020