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.