Tens of thousands of British nationals in five EU member states including France and the Netherlands have yet to apply for post-Brexit residence and risk losing their right to live and work there unless they file their demands within 30 dae.
“There’s only a month to go before a hard deadline, after which a lot of people could lose their rights,” said Michaela Benson, a professor of public sociology at Lancaster University, who has specialised in studying British residents in the EU.
“We urgently need more communication – from the UK, the EU and member states – to get in touch, especially with hard-to-reach, vulnerable UK citizens who risk missing a vital cutoff point.”
Under the terms of the withdrawal agreement, UK citizens who were legally resident in one of the EU’s 27 member states at the end of the transition period on 31 December are eligible for permanent residence, protecting their basic rights.
Fourteen countries, including Spain, Duitsland, Portugal and Italy, opted for systems that automatically confer a new post-Brexit residence status on legally resident Britons, with no risk of losing rights if any administrative deadline is missed.
The other 13, egter, operate systems under which UK nationals must formally apply for their new residence status. Five of them – France, the Netherlands, Malta, Luxembourg and Latvia – have set an earlier deadline of 30 June for doing so.
Benson said the people at risk of “falling through the gaps” were often the most vulnerable. “Those who have stayed off the radar for whatever reason – maybe because they couldn’t prove they were lawfully resident when they had to," sy het gese.
“The ones to worry about are those who are just scraping by, perhaps in remote areas. They are not likely to come forward of their own accord. There will also be homeless British people, sick British people, British children in care.”
According to the EU/UK joint committee on citizens’ rights, whose latest report, dated 28 April, was released on Friday, 'n geskatte 298,000 Britons live in the 13 countries with so-called constitutive systems. Enigste 190,000 have applied for their new status.
In the five countries with an end-of-June deadline, fully 25,500 of France’s estimated 148,000 British residents have yet to register, according to the most recent data, as have 8,300 of the estimated 45,000 in the Netherlands.
Byna 800 still have to apply in Latvia, 1,700 in Luxembourg and 5,300 in Malta, along with 12,000 in Finland and Sweden, which have 30 September deadlines. The cut-off date in Belgium, Denemarke, Oostenryk, Hungary and Slovenia is 31 December.
Benson said the figures were approximate since most were based on data from 2018 and some EU states, such as France, had never required EU residents to register with authorities in order to qualify for public services, so may have significantly underestimated.
“That means it may well have many more British residents than it imagines, just as the UK had many more EU residents than it thought," sy het gese. “It also makes it much harder to reach them than in places like the Netherlands with up-to-date registers.”
According to the EU’s post-Brexit guidance, “failure to apply in time … may lead to a loss of any entitlement under the withdrawal agreement” in countries with constitutive systems, including the right to continue living in them.
According to the committee’s report, 'n geskatte 762,000 UK citizens live in EU countries with automatic – or “declaratory” – systems for post-Brexit residence status, and nearly 165,000 have registered so far.
Several of these 14 countries also have deadlines for UK residents to register for their new status, but those who do not face a fine rather than loss of rights.