Urgent border issues must be solved in case of no-deal

The UK Home Office's announcement that strict entry restrictions would be applied for EU visitors immediately after a no-deal Brexit has raised uncertainty over key border issues for people coming and going between the UK and France from November this year.

With France expected to treat visiting Britons as ‘third country’ nationals immediately in the case of no-deal and the UK’s Home Office also now announcing plans for an immediate end to free movement rules, there are several problems to be resolved with just over two months to go.

In the worst-case scenario it could be impossible to cross the channel without a complex, costly and time-consuming visitor visa process.

It had been expected that the UK would leave the current free movement rules in place for EU citizens until such a time as a new immigration law, which has been having a difficult journey through Parliament, was finalised. However new Home Secretary Priti Patel says hard border restrictions should be imposed immediately.

This comes as there are also question marks over whether or not the UK and EU would be ready by October 31 to guarantee visitors may cross the borders without a visitor visa, as both sides have said they would want.

Visitor visas are required to enter EU countries if the person is from a country that is not on a list of approved countries for which visas are waived. Inclusion depends on various factors including how stable and safe the country is deemed to be, and the strength of economic and other relations between the EU and the country.

The announcement of hard border controls in the UK immediately after a no-deal has been criticised by pro-EU group New Europeans, which champions a ‘European green card’ scheme which would mean Britons resident abroad in the EU and EU citizens resident in the UK would have a physical card they could show at borders maintaining free movement rights.

Founder Roger Casale said the Home Secretary’s proposals could cause disruption at the UK border.

“Ending free movement will require a new system to be phased in and this will take time,” he said.

“The UK is not ready to implement such an aggressive and abrupt change in the system. We fear it would result in long delays and ports and airports for all passengers moving in and out of the UK.”

He added: “Without a physical proof of their status EU citizens in the UK and Britons abroad may face discrimination due to a misperception about their residency rights.

“That is why it is essential that the EU and UK agree an EU Green Card scheme as soon as possible, as proposed by New Europeans.

“In practice, ending free movement will have to take place step by step as new measures to regulate the movement of people between the UK and the EU are brought in.

“To claim otherwise is nothing more than political posturing. To implement such a policy would be hugely disruptive. To pass the legislation above the heads of parliamentarians would be draconian.

“We strongly oppose the Home Secretary's proposal and urge MPs to do the same.”

Key questions surrounding no-deal Brexit border issues include:

In both directions

Is a visa waiver agreement in place to be ready on November 1? If not then people could be banned from crossing the channel without a visitor visa, for which an application has to be made to a consulate.

At the UK border

  • How will EU citizens living abroad in the UK before Brexit be able to show that they are UK residents so that they are not subject to any extra restrictions such as having a stamp on the passport allowing only a short holiday visit to the UK (if a visa waiver agreement is in place) – or even visitor visa requirement if the waiver is not in place?
                               
  • Those who have applied for an obtained the UK’s ‘settled status’ (similar to having a carte de séjour in France but without a physical card) may be able to show this on a phone application, but what about those who have not obtained this yet? The UK has said EU citizens living there before Brexit would have until the end of 2020 to apply for this.
                                
  • Will people such as French citizens going on holiday in the UK have to join a ‘non-UK’ queue at the airport on entering the UK?
                                            
  • Will EU citizens and UK expatriates visiting the UK have to consider taking out holiday healthcare insurance for a trip in the UK? (The UK has said that with regard to other matters like extra paperwork to be shown at the border nothing should change for EU residents visiting the UK).

 At the French border

  • How will British citizens living in France before Brexit prove this status so that they are not treated at the border like visitors? Those with cartes de séjour could show them at the border but they will say 'EU citizen'. Could that be a problem? And what about those who do not have one yet? France has said Britons would need to apply for a new non-EU citizen carte within six months after a no-deal Brexit and obtain one within a year. 
                                        
  • Visitors to France from the UK after a no-deal would need a stamp on the passport allowing only a short visit (or a visitor visa if no waiver is in place) and may be asked to show documents like a return ticket and proof of travel health insurance, holiday money and details of where they are staying.

Connexion is seeking clarifications on these points from the UK, EU and France, and will provide further updates in due course in our Brexit section online and in the September edition of the monthly newspaper, out next week.

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