Monday, June 5, 2023

Four-way Brexit and the loss of free movement make life difficult for mixed British-European families

Brexit and the end of free movement between the UK and the EU have had notable consequences for family life, especially for mixed British-European families, whether living in the UK or Europe. Family members who had normal status as EU citizens before Brexit now find that they have different status and rights, both in the places they live and when it comes to mobility between places.

We recently conducted a survey of British citizens living in the EU and EU/EEA, as well as non-EU/EEA citizens living in the UK (2,024 people in all), looking at migration and citizenship after Brexit. Happened. One-fifth of the participants were in mixed-status British-European families. Three quarters of them said the difference in their status is a matter of concern. In his own words, these are the four ways Brexit has affected British-European families.

1. Family members are newly dependent on each other

Spouses, parents and children are often navigating domestic migration and citizenship law for the first time. No longer enjoying equal mobility and residency rights, relationships in some families suffer as they find themselves dependent on each other’s residency status. A British woman living in Spain described the effects of the difference in her children’s status after Brexit:

My two children have dual nationality and can live, work and go anywhere in Europe. The third has only British nationality and must apply for Spanish nationality to achieve the same freedom of movement as his siblings, but renounce his British nationality in the process.

Brexit has also created inequalities between spouses and partners, making one person’s position dependent on another. This clearly emerges in the words of a British woman living in Malta:

I am now dependent on my spouse’s position to be in my house.

2. Lost Migration Opportunities

Their residency rights are protected only in their current country of residence, with British citizens living in the EU/EEA before the end of the Brexit transition period are no longer entitled to exercise free movement rights to move to another country in the bloc. Doing so now means complying with domestic immigration law in the destination country for yourself and any non-EU/EEA citizen family members.

A British man in Italy highlighted how his change in status affected the rights and feelings of his non-EU/EEA partner about possibly moving to a different country:

My wife is a Russian citizen. His residence and right to live and work depend on my status under Article 18 of the Evacuation Agreement. The delay was delayed by increasing uncertainty and even now, she fears the prospect of moving to Germany because her residency rights are entirely up to me.

3. Moving from the UK to the EU has become more difficult

For British citizens who do not work, there are fewer routes to immigrate from the UK to the EU. One route is through their status as family members of an EU citizen. Families are having to negotiate with each other, considering compromises and trade-offs, while dealing with this new reality.

One Hungarian woman living in the UK explained, after Brexit she felt:

I have been forced to choose between being a second-class citizen or my (British) husband, who is not able to obtain permanent residence and (…) pension.

Spouses, parents and children in British-European families are struggling to navigate new mobility rights after Brexit.

Family interactions can also reach stalemate, as one German woman in the UK speculated:

I want to go but am stuck here because my kids refuse to leave the UK. My intentions shift when the youngest turns 18 – after that they are adults and have to take care of their own affairs. As my husband is a British citizen, he doesn’t want to leave if it means he has to become a member of a third country family, which means our marriage (since 2003) has to end.

4. Returning to the UK with non-British family members becomes more complicated

A common concern for British citizens living in the EU was whether they would be able to return to the UK with non-British family members, who are subject to new immigration controls. There are many reasons why British-European families may want to move to the UK in the future, from caring for the elderly to work and retirement.

A British woman in France explained:

If something happens to the family abroad, I (France) cannot leave for more than a few months. My partner cannot come to the UK without applying for a visa even to care for a relative.

Whereas for a British woman in the Netherlands:

We were planning to return to the UK upon my husband’s retirement (around 2041), but now I think it is more likely that we will be living in the Netherlands for the rest of our lives.

World Nation News Desk
World Nation News Desk
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