UK citizens in Brussels asked to take part in survey on post-Brexit impact

UK citizens in Brussels asked to take part in survey on post-Brexit impact
Protesters of the 'Make Love, Not Brexit' movement on the first day of the EU summit meeting, Thursday 21 March 2019, at the European Union headquarters in Brussels. Credit: Belga/ THIERRY ROGE

The UK's decision to withdraw from the European Union brought many complications for its citizens living 'on the continent.' While Belgium implemented a system to guarantee their status, some are still facing administrative challenges, which a survey now aims to highlight.

The Expat Welcome Desk, a hub of expertise on issues facing the British community, launched a survey to understand the impacts of Brexit on UK citizens in Brussels, and specifically at a municipal level.

"Often, these citizens face similar issues that affect the entire expat community, it's just that UK citizens have shifted from being EU citizens to being third-country citizens, which has created a bunch of extra confusion for people on both sides," Bryn Watkins, project manager for the Brexit Impact Scan, told the Brussels Times.

"With this survey, we are looking to understand the challenges faced by two groups of UK citizens, the big dividing line being the end of the transition period."

Pre- and post-Brexit

The survey aims to map what post-Brexit transition life looks like for UK citizens in Brussels, but also for those looking to make a move to the Belgian capital. The big dividing line between the two groups being questioned is the end of the transition period.

One group is made up of UK citizens who lived in Brussels before the post-Brexit transition period (which ended at 23:00 UK time on 31 December 2020) and as a result of this, were entitled to the M-card, a new residency permit specifically created to guarantee their residence and work rights which has been at the centre of most information requests from UK citizens.

While the transition period is finalised now and most have received this document, some people's applications are still pending and there are people who were late to apply and now have to play catch-up, Amélie Bovy, Senior Legal Adviser at the Expat Welcome Desk of commissioner.brussels, told The Brussels Times.

"We still see cases where the application for an M-Card is pending or has been refused," she said. "It is also possible for immediate family members to apply for the M-Card through family reunification and there are sometimes difficulties with this process."

Other ongoing issues for the so-called "pre-Brexit British community" include tax questions and the recognition of professional qualifications. The survey aims to give a sense of the scale of these problems.

The other group that the survey is focused on includes those who arrived after this period – which for them means the same rules apply to all arrivals from outside the EU or Schengen Area. Watkins explained that they have specific needs in terms of information and support because "the whole society is adjusting to this new situation post-Brexit."

The survey aims to reveal which aspects of moving to Brussels are the most challenging for the post-Brexit British community and whether they experience the process differently as UK citizens.

Identifying bottlenecks

As part of the implementation of the EU’s Brexit Adjustment Reserve – designated EU funding to help out the Member States adjust to Brexit –the Brussels Regional Government is looking at how to help and support UK citizens and their rights.

"We want to ensure people can keep coming here to work, as this group is an important part of the intelligent, social and economic capital of our labour market. And we want to focus on keeping those who are already here, here," Watkins said.

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The responses to the survey, part of a wider Brexit Adjustment Reserve project run by the Expat Welcome Desk, will be passed on to the relevant authorities, but the main focus is on using the gathered information to better target specific support needed for British migrants.

"We will map some of the bottlenecks that are appearing in the implementation of people's rights after Brexit and people moving after the transition period. We will also engage legal experts to work with us on some of the trickiest questions facing UK citizens in Brussels, and share this knowledge and advice through our website and other online channels."


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