‘Overwhelming’ EU bureaucracy blamed for plight of British nationals caught in limbo

EU: British expats ‘suffering’ over visa backlog says expert

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European Union countries have been slammed for lacking a “unified approach” to providing British nationals with a clear and robust means of proving their entitlement to residency rights. Brexit campaigner Joshua Mackenzie-Lawrie has told Express.co.uk that Britons living in France and Spain have been left “suffering” amid a bureaucratic EU system where the “left-hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing.” It comes after Lord Frost argued some members states were saddling expats with “overburdensome” amounts of paperwork following Brexit.

Mr Mackenzie-Lawrie told Express.co.uk: “In the UK obviously we have spent the last four years allowing people to apply moving things forward, paving the way for it to be a seamless transition.

Despite the general approach set out in the withdrawal agreement, individual EU capitals are able to dictate their own domestic immigration laws and systems

According to Mr Mackenzie-Lawrie, this has meant there has been “no unified approach over how countries should do it, in one country it is different to another.

“Meaning that people who are ex-pats don’t necessarily know what is going on and there has been such poor communication from those domestic governments over what’s going on partly because of Covid undoubtedly which means they have been focused on that which is totally fair.

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The Brexiteer continued: “But they have then to go to shift and say okay we have not been able to get this sorted in time in order to make sure there isn’t a massive backlog.

“People rushing through applications just to rubber-stamp them or simply deny them out of a lack of knowledge of what is going on.

“So there for you should at least expand the period of grace that expats have been granted in order for those papers to actually be filled out properly and not having these panicked decisions whereby people are arriving in Spain to collect their residency permits and being rejected to leave simply because the border force is not communicating with the relevant officers and the bureaucracy is just so overwhelmingly unorganised.”

Under the Withdrawl Agreement, the rights of Brits who were legally resident in Spain prior to January 1 2021 are automatically protected and there is currently no deadline to register.

Lord Frost grilled on rights of British expats in the EU

He added: “It means that the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing and it means that British expats are suffering for it.”

Lord Frost told a meeting of the House of Lord Committee that members of the EU have been slow to roll out ID cards that would enable British nationals to prove entitlement to residency rights.

The peer reported: “The sorts of problems we get is difficulty evidencing rights for example if members states are slow to roll out the right kind of ID card that evidences that you are a citizen with withdrawal agreement rights. Sometimes people from it had to access services, benefits, unemployment benefits, travel benefits, health and so on.

“And occasionally we find still that some governments require overburdensome paperwork from people to acknowledge their rights. But in all cases, we are working with them and the situation is improving.”

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Lord Frost added: “I don’t want to downplay it. The provisions of the treaty need to be complied with Because they affect citizens’ lives in Europe and we do our very best to make sure that takes place.”

The Foreign Office has been encouraging those British nationals who are covered under the agreement to register their residency if they haven’t already done so.

A UK Government spokesperson said: “The rights of UK nationals to continue living, working and studying in their EU Member State are protected by law. Anyone legally resident before 1 January 2021 can stay but should register their residence.

“The UK Government has been running a public information campaign across Europe to inform UK nationals about the actions they may need to take to secure their rights and access to services. This includes outreach events, adverts on social media and in newspapers, and support through our network of Embassies, High Commissions and Consulates.”

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