The UK government has launched a campaign to reach out to over 1 million British citizens living in the EU to make sure they know the steps to take if they wish to continue to live in the EU after Brexit.
The government is said to be in discussions with EU member countries to encourage them to accelerate the process involved for British nationals to register themselves and secure their rights.
It comes amid growing concerns that some of the EU countries are not doing enough with some not having opened schemes for UK citizens to register themselves.
A UK Foreign Office spokesperson said, “UK nationals living in the EU must be able to rely on the rights the withdrawal agreement gives them, just as EU nationals living in the UK can.
“We continue to call on the EU and member states to protect the rights of UK nationals with faster implementation, longer application windows and clear communications, as the UK has done for EU citizens in the UK”.
It comes after Michael Gove contacted vice-president of the European Commission, Maroš Šefčovič, to voice his concerns that while the UK had given EU citizens 27 months to apply for settled status, some EU member countries were only considering giving British ex-pats a shorter window to register.
This has raised concerns that it may not give them sufficient time to secure their rights to remain in their host country post-Brexit.
It is thought that 13 EU countries including France, which is popular with ex-pats have opted for a ‘constitutive’ system which is similar to that used in the UK for EU citizens to seek settled status.
The other 14 member states including Spain, where there is said to be around 400,000 British nationals, have opted for a ‘declaratory’ system where British citizens only have to register their residency to maintain their rights to continue to live, work and study.
Spanish Minister for Inclusion Hana Jalloul recently did a video presentation with UK Ambassador to Spain, Hugh Elliott in which she reassured Brits that Spain would “always remain your home” and that their rights were “guaranteed” if they were living in Spain before the end of the transition period on December 31.
Current statistics from the country suggest that 360,000 British nationals have registered themselves with over 100,000 of those residing in the Andalucia region. There has also been a large number of registrations in other popular parts of Spain including Alicante and Valencia with 97,000 registrations, 40,000 in the Canary Islands and 29,000 in the Balearics.
Despite the relatively straightforward registration process, there remains some concern that there are still many thousands of elderly or vulnerable British nationals who are not getting the message as they do not all have access to the internet.
As a result, the UK Foreign Office has begun to work with several organisations across the country to amplify the message and reach the over-65s who may not be fully registered in the country.
Helen Weir, the Director of the charity Age in Spain said, “I suspect a large number of people are out there who may not understand that there is an issue that they have to deal with because of Brexit, some of whom may not like to approach officials because they don’t know or fear how it might impact on things like taxation and health care”.
She stressed that it was important that relatives living back in the UK contact Age In Spain if they knew of loved ones who needed help to make sure they were legally registered.
“If you have a relative in Spain who may not have residency or cannot cope with officialdom because they don’t speak Spanish or because they can’t cope with bureaucracy, you can contact Age in Spain and we can put them in touch with people who can help.”
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