“Expat” or “Immigrant”?
Personally, I hate the term “expat” as it confers a status on Brits that is unwarranted and unwelcome. We are immigrants – no better, no different to EU citizens living and working in the UK. I do understand, however, that in the UK media the term is shorthand for ‘British citizens living abroad’, which is – it’s fair to say – a bit of a mouthful.
Let’s stick to the facts though. It may well be true that “expats” who own a second home in Europe are furious. Whether it’s with regard to this coming change caused by Brexit – or by the loss of other EU citizenship rights – there is certainly much to be angry about. What is absolutely not true is that this is a result of “new post-Brexit travel rules”. Yes, this is a result of Brexit, but these rules are not new. These are the same rules that have applied to non-EU citizens all along – we were just lucky enough to have special, favourable rights that waived them. Brexit means the loss of these, and many other, rights associated with EU citizenship. If you are not members of the EU club, then you cannot expect the exclusive benefits that membership brings.
What is the rule?
The Daily Mail article stated that a 90-day stay meant anyone staying in an EU country would not be able to return for a further 3 months. It’s actually worse than that, as the rule does not apply just to one country, but to the EU as a whole. So, once an allowance of 90 days in a 180-day period has been used up, not only can you not return to your holiday home in Spain, or France, you cannot travel anywhere in the EU. Say goodbye to that romantic trip to Paris, or that historical tour of Rome. While you can enter the Schengen area more than once in the 90 day limit, the official guidance from the EU outlines the rules thus: “you must carefully calculate your days of stay as the overall period of stay must not exceed the overall total of 90 days of stay within any 180-days period”. Those “swallows” that like to spend winter in the sun, will find themselves returning to cold, British weather rather sooner than they’d like.
And what does it mean?
The ramifications of overstaying your welcome in Europe could be serious. Post-Brexit, British passports will be scanned on arrival and departure in Europe. Anyone caught “illegally present”, staying longer than permitted, risks an “over-stay flag” on their passport. This could not only lead to a fine, but to difficulties applying for any visa in future, or even a re-entry ban.
The implication from the Brexit-loving media, throughout the ongoing negotiations, has been that the EU are punishing the UK for leaving the union. Whenever details of the loss of rights or benefits has been brought to the public’s attention, blame has been levelled at the vindictive EU. Rules have, supposedly, been brought in specially to penalise the Brits, when in fact, those rules have always existed for third country nationals. Apart from the expectation that nothing would change – that lie sold to the British people during the Leave campaign – many assumed the UK could just negotiate the bits of EU membership they valued and ditch the bits they didn’t. The fact that there are rules that the EU must comply with never seemed to equate. To allow British citizens special rights after Brexit would not just be unfair to other third country nationals, in many cases it would actually be illegal.
Whether a second-homer or not, travel to the EU is about to become more difficult, and more expensive, for every Brit. The EU is about to launch the European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS), a new travel system aimed at controlling who enters EU territory. Citizens of more than 60 countries – including the UK – will need to apply for and obtain authorisation before turning up at EU borders. The date that the ETIAS will come into force is still to be determined.