On Tuesday 28th November, The British Embassy in Poland, hosted a ‘community connect – #britsinpoland’ event where the British Ambassador to Poland, Jonathan Knott, gave a presentation and held a question and answer session on Brexit and citizens rights.
Around 100 people attended the Embassy in Warsaw, where the Ambassador, together with representatives of the Polish Government and European Commission presented an update to UK citizens in Poland, and answered a number of questions.
The ambassador acknowledged that many questions cannot be answered at the moment, however he was keen to begin a dialogue and communication with UK citizens in Poland.
It was clear that the Embassy were tackling a difficult subject, within the confines of uncertainty as we approach the crucial conclusion to the first phase of the negotiations.
Whilst it was largely positive, ie asserting that there would be as little change as possible, it was also clear to us that the entire discussion was based around agreements in principle, and a presumption that those agreements would be reached.
The embassy did not allow the full presentation and discussion to be recorded or livestreamed, as they felt this may restrict frank and open discussion on this difficult subject.
The following is a summary of the key points taken from our notes of the discussion.
Ambassadors Brexit Presentation – Key Points
The British Ambassador to Poland, Jonathan Knott welcomed everyone to the Embassy and outlined the key points he would be covering:
- Future Relationship UK/EU
He commented that ‘very little is completely certain for EU27 citizens in UK and UK citizens in EU. He added that he wasn’t in a position to offer any more certainty, but would provide a best view on ‘direction of travel’.
The intention was to make a start, to talk about the next steps, and how to keep informed. It was important to remember that nothing is agreed, until everything is agreed but what the UK agree on now won’t change.
UK feel quite close to an agreement on citizens’ rights UK more certainty even though no agreement at present.
29th March 2017 – Article 50 signed
29th March 2019 – UK Leave the EU
29th March 2021 – End of 2 year transition period
The transition period was a proposal by the PM to avoid the ‘cliff edge’ scenario, to give time for people to adjust and understand what the new relationships are going to be and what they need to do, before a new system is in place.
The second reason for the transition period is that everyone should only have to make changes once – both business and individuals.
Mrs May said several times, she wants to end up with with the closest possible relationship between the UK and EU, best for UK, the EU 27 and their citizens.
She also said that for the UK, the priorities are the people. Issues should be dealt with and confirmed early to allow people to start planning their lives. This is the UK aim, which we think and hope is shared by EU 27.
HOW DO NEGOTIATIONS WORK?
On the UK side, the Secretary of State for exiting the EU David Davis leads the UK team, Michel Barnier leads on the EU 27 side. The EU27 agreed a mandate for him to negotiate on their behalf.
Until recently negotiations have been carried out in rounds. Each side prepared at home then came to table and started discussions.
As we get closer to a deal these have intensified, no longer monthly rounds, now on a rolling negotiation basis to allow as much progress to be made as quickly as possible. ‘The rights of people are important’.
WHAT’S HAPPENED SO FAR?
UK’s current focus is on ‘Separation Issues: –
Five or six rounds of talks, have taken place since June, pretty much monthly, focusing on the separation issues of :-
- Citizens’ Rights
- Financial Settlement
- Northern Ireland
- Separation Issues – technical elements
Now, in December the UK feel we are close to a deal, seen a lot of progress in recent months’ and are confident, but can’t be sure, that we are within touching distance of a deal. We can then move on to other issues such as law enforcement co-operation, education and universities collaboration, trade relationship etc.
Over Summer, the UK Government developed a number of papers, looking at what things are going to look like in the future?
UK Government position papers – Future partnership papers have been prepared on:
- Security & law enforcement
- Foreign Policy Defence & development
- Collaboration science and innovation
- Exchange & Protection of personal data
- Enforcement dispute issues
- Cross border civil judicial co-operation
- Future customs relations
These papers can be found on www.gov.uk (also check out the links at end of this article)
The ambassador concluded this recap on – ‘what’s been done so far and is the current environment’, and moved on to what he called the crux of what matters – Citizens Rights, what is life going to be like?.
He reiterated that this is what we know so far, there is still an element of uncertainty, but let me spell out where we think we are on the main issues of:-
- Citizens’ Rights
- Residency rights
- Onward movement
- Pensions and social security
- Professional qualifications
- Economic rights
On the UK side we have proposed a new status -Settled Status – for EU27 citizens in the UK to replace the EU term ‘permanent residence status’.
Essentially the principle for eligibility for that status is :-
Anyone in the country for more than 5 years on the cut off date – Which is yet to be confirmed.
Mrs May also said Anyone already resident in the UK will not be made to leave – i.e. those in the UK for less than 5 years at the cut-off date can stay in UK until they attain that 5 year residence
At which point they can obtain settled status.
The UK are seeking reciprocity for UK citizens in EU27 countries on all issues particularly citizens’ rights status.
That is that if we make offer as the UK Government to EU there should be an equivalent offer to people in UK from EU27 countries.
ONWARD MOVEMENT RIGHTS
The rights of UK citizens to move between different EU countries. This is one of the things the EU side consider which shouldn’t be taken for granted. As a result the UK Government had made an offer to try to secure that.
What the UK Government have offered is:
EU citizens who attain settled status will be allowed lifetime right to return. i.e. if they need to leave UK for more than 2 years for study, take care of family matters etc, – which under current EU law would cause the loss of their residency status – they would be able to return to UK under this proposal.
The EU are considering whether in return their will be a right to move between different EU countries, the UK are hopeful this can be resolved in the next week or two
PENSIONS & SOCIAL SECURITY
The UK Government plan is:-
Rights to export and uprate UK state pensions to UK nationals in EU27, which the UK believe they will achieve a reciprocal deal for.
Agreement in principle to continue to count, periods of work, insurance or residency, before and after the Brexit date, within the UK or EU. Periods count whether in Poland or UK, Can transfer pensionable rights.
Pension contributions will be protected.
Social security contributions past and present will be protected.
If UK citizens move back to the UK, the years accrued in PL will still continue to count.
UK Government view is that we have resolved pretty much all of these issues.
One that remains to be agreed and resolved is the Export of Benefits. There is a difference of opinion there , EU seeking lifetime rights, UK wants only existing rights at time of Brexit.
The issue for UK is that otherwise EU citizens in UK would have better rights over normal UK citizens.
Good progress on reciprocal for those present in EU on Brexit date.
Progress has been made on rights of UK in EU.
Principle is to protect existing rights.
What people are entitled to now, you should be at that point too.
UK citizens will have continued entitlement to EH1C insurance and S1 / S4 forms
Secure rights to continuation of any healthcare provisions
Similarly, in principle, secured agreement to protect rights of patients to complete any course of treatment started before Brexit.
Agreed UK citizens can still use qualifications in EU, but still some issues to resolve. Still some Agreement to be made on the scope of this agreement, scope of protection of those qualifications.
For anyone with settled status, their rights to be employed, self-employed or own a business should be as they are now.
Agreed in principle –
People will be able to commute across borders and allowed to work in neighbouring EU countries as now, so long as they continue in that employment. IE France Benelux, to UK, or a person lives in Poland and travels to Slovakia, we are seeking the same agreement.
In principle – treated same way if they have settled status, ie access to education and further education, in English universities, UK guaranteed this for duration of courses started before Brexit – eligible for student support etc. Applies also for research, PhD applications etc.
UK view is to continue as is, so far as possible i.e. vote in local elections. Keep change to a minimum, as per UK Governments aim.
EU have not been able to agree to that, they suggest this is an issue that the UK need to talk to individual member states about rather than the EU as whole, this is an issue that needs to be agreed and resolved, remains on the table.
How do we know that what is agree, in the negotiations will actually happen, what guarantees do we have?
The UK Government position is that everything agreed will be transited directly into UK law.
Intention to reassure that this is not a deal that could be reneged on, and will be guaranteed in that way.
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?
Next key date is European Council on 14th-15th December.
Hope is that at that point we reach agreement on first phase of negotiations.
What does agreement mean ?
The EU definition is:
Sufficient progress has been made across the areas.
Northern Ireland/Island of Ireland
In other words, not a definitive answer or agreement, but ‘sufficient progress’
When that happens, and we hope that it will, we then need to move on to the second phase of negotiations, which is the future relationship.
There is a lot of work to be done on that, what we hope is encouraging is that in the UK, the focus of a good part of government has been on exactly that for the past few months.
What we’ve seen, across the EU is that many EU governments are beginning to think about what that relationship may look like, as have the EU as a group. Which is important to allow us to get to the point of ‘complete certainty’ as soon as possible.
This has been the best view of the issues, where we are now, stressing we are still in the negotiations. We would like to organise future meetings, but in the meantime how to keep informed?
HOW TO KEEP INFORMED – USEFUL gov.uk BREXIT LINKS
Department for Exiting the EU on Twitter: @DExEUgov
UK EMBASSY CONTACT & UPDATES
General Enquiries: firstname.lastname@example.org
Consular Enquiries: www.gov.uk/contact-consulate-
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Poland
A representative of the Polish MFA, gave this brief input on the Polish perspective:-
Whilst Poland is not involved directly in negotiations, it pays special attention as Poles are the largest group of citizens in the UK. According to recent data, there are almost 1 million Poles living in UK, a very important aspect so the Polish Government are very much engaged.
The referendum was unexpected, but we respect this democratic choice.
The concept of citizens rights became a key priority. It was clear we had to minimise the potential negative impact of Brexit on citizens lives. We (PL Govt) recognised it was important to resolve issues quickly to answer questions form citizens on both sides of channel, and provide maximum clarity and give time to adjust to this new situation. But solid legal grounds were equally important.
The message for you, from the Polish government, is that there is no contradiction between UK and EU in general terms, both interests are to protect citizens rights, a matter of joint interest.
However, there are many details, some can be problematic, as we have different perspectives, we are thinking in terms of EU law, and Britain is now thinking of UK law.
Let me also express how much the Polish government value UK citizens contribution on many fronts and I hope we continue that co-operation even after Brexit.
On the subject of acquiring Polish citizenship, there are two options:
1. Apply to President, who has power to grant citizenship at his discretion.
2. Naturalisation as a Polish citizen, the requirements for which are:-
Permanent residence plus 3 years so 8 years
Proof of a place to live
Fee 219 pln
LANGUAGE EXAM !
3 months to issue decision
We also took the opportunity to speak with the Ambassador, who was kind enough to give a short video interview.