‘Brexit is like a hangover that won’t go away’

For British residents in Sweden, it remains unclear what the impact of Brexit will be in the long-term, although citizens' rights are addressed in the Withdrawal Agreement. What is now clear is that the UK is on track to leave the EU on January 31st, so with just days to go, we asked Brits in Sweden how they felt about the approaching deadline and what questions they had about Brexit.

'Brexit is like a hangover that won't go away'
The process of confirming residence status in Sweden after Brexit is one of the things that is still unclear. File photo: Nik Shuliahin on Unsplash

Under the Withdrawal Agreement, the rights of most Brits in Sweden (and those who move before the end of the transition period) will be unaffected by Brexit.

There are some exceptions, notably the fact that Brits will no longer enjoy freedom of movement, which might make it harder for those job-hunting within the EU, for example.

And there is still a lot that remains unclear, years after the UK originally voted to leave.

“The uncertainty has gone on for too long. Settled Status has been running for a year and this has allowed much needed scrutiny,” said David Milstead, referring to the UK's programme for EU citizens already resident in the UK. 

Meanwhile, there is little information about exactly how Brits in Sweden will go about securing their status.

In an update last week, the British Embassy in Stockholm said: “If you want to guarantee your rights beyond the end of the implementation period (31 December 2020), you and your family may need to apply for a residence status to confirm that you are already resident in Sweden.”

“The application will be short, simple and either free of charge, or cost no more than applying for a similar document, for example a national identity card or passport. You will have until at least 30 June 2021 to submit your application. We will share information on how to apply in our Living in guides when it is available,” the update stated.  

The lack of certainty and concrete guarantees, after years of limbo, has caused frustration for many Brits across Europe.

“Others have had to put their lives on hold. Do you apply for planning permission and build that extension? Do you buy that car? Do you move to a bigger house? Do you decorate? Do you get a family pet? Do you have a baby?” said Garry Jones, a British citizen living in Stockholm.

After more than 40 years in Sweden, Michael Eyre noted how tough it was to predict any long-term impact on a general or individual level: “We'll probably see both the upside and downside of Brexit as the years roll by.”

But he described his own mood in relation to Brexit as “disappointed, disillusioned, disgusted.” 

“The EU needs the UK as much as vice-versa. Sadly this is not to be,” he said.

British and European Union flags fly over Britain's parliament in London. Photo: AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth

Michael was one of many British residents who didn't have the right to vote in the Brexit referendum due to the time he had lived outside the country, and he regrets that Brits in the EU weren't given a vote.

A more recent arrival, Emma Grossmith, moved to Sweden in 2014. Although she hasn't changed her plans because of Brexit, she says that she would likely not have made the move if she had anticipated Brexit becoming a reality.

The freedom to move within the EU for work, and mutual recognition of qualifications were a “safety blanket” that for her made relocation possible. Now, she is one of many Brits prompted by the Brexit vote to apply for dual nationality.

“I've always been Irish, but it took Brexit to make me get my Irish passport. I never bothered with one before. As a Northern Irish person who grew up in the Troubles I know all too well where petty tribalism leads and I'll always be grateful for my dual nationality,” Grossmith said.

“As a British/Irish person who lived for a long time in Scotland before coming to Sweden, I'm very angry that half the UK is being dragged out of the European Union against its will,” she added.

Half-Swedish Erik Sandberg, who grew up spending summer holidays in Stockholm before making the full-time move to Scandinavia in 2017, is in a similar position. He hasn't yet applied for Swedish citizenship, but plans to do so soon, saying: “I feel closer to Europeans than I do to Brits, which is weird given technically I am a Brit.”

“I'm feeling fairly indifferent to the fact Brexit is happening this week. It's been such a long and emotionally draining process for both sides of the argument that it feels like a bit of an anti-climax,” he commented.

For others, January 31st will be a symbolic moment, and dozens of members of the Brits in Sweden Facebook group based in Stockholm have signed up to a meetup at the capital's British pub on the evening itself.

For Michael Heron, the idea of watching the news on Brexit news felt like “attending the funeral of a close relative through video conferencing”.

He moved to Sweden only a few months before Brexit Day, after being offered a job in Gothenburg.

“But I'd be lying if I said it was the only reason,” he added.

“The reason I was looking for jobs in places like Sweden in the first place was because Brexit seems like the greatest self-inflicted injury any country will ever inflict upon itself. Leaving the EU threatens so much, and it blows my mind that politicians and the general population, barring the hard-core resistance, are so blasé about the whole thing. It's like the entire country, fittingly, has Stockholm Syndrome.”

“I lived with a kind of low-grade depression in the lead-up to Brexit until I came here, and now it's like a hangover that just will not go away,” said Heron.

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Passports: What are the post-Brexit rules for dual-nationals travelling in Europe?

People who have more than one citizenship often hold multiple passports, so what does this mean for crossing borders? Here's what you should know.

Passports: What are the post-Brexit rules for dual-nationals travelling in Europe?

For many readers of The Local, gaining citizenship of the country where they live helps them to feel more settled – but there are also travel benefits, including avoiding the long ‘non EU’ queue when coming back into the Schengen zone.

But this week the problems associated with travelling while holding dual citizenship came to light, leaving many people wondering what they should know when they are entering different countries.

Put simply – which passport should you use? And do you have to carry both with you?

Financial Times journalist Chris Giles tweeted that the UK Border Force “detained” his dual-national daughter while she was travelling from France into the UK with her German passport – and not her British one. 

He went on to say that UK border guards released his daughter. According to Giles, the border staff said she should have had both passports with her “and asked why she was travelling on her German one”.

The rules on dual-nationality have not changed, but now that the UK is not in the EU, there are strict rules on non-Brits who enter the country (and vice-versa) which has made it trickier for travel.

For instance, UK nationals receive a stamp in their passport when entering Schengen member states because they are only allowed to stay up to 90 days within an 180 period (unless they have a visa or residency card).

READ ALSO: Brexit: EU asks border police not to stamp passports of British residents 

People coming from the EU to the UK can generally visit as a tourist for up to six months without a visa – but are not allowed to carry out any work while there.

So which passport should you show?

The first thing to be aware of is there are no specific rules on travelling with more than one passport. 

Travellers can choose to use whichever passport they prefer when going to a country. 

But one thing to note is that it’s worth using the passport that is best suited to your destination when travelling there. Each country has its own set of immigration and visa rules that you’ll need to research closely.

It could be that one passport is better suited for your trip – and you may be able to avoid visa requirements.  

READ ALSO: How powerful is the German passport?

In the case of the UK, many people are still getting to grips with the different rules that apply because it’s not in the EU anymore.

A question submitted to the Secretary of State for the Home Department in September 2021 provided some insight into this issue. 

The question from Labour’s Paul Blomfield asked what steps the UK government “is taking to enable dual UK and EU citizens to travel to the UK on an EU member state passport without having to further prove their UK citizenship?”

The Conservatives Kevin Foster said: “Border Force Officers examine all arriving passengers to establish whether they are British citizens, whether they require leave to enter or if they are exempt from immigration control.

“Where the passenger claims to be British, but does not hold any evidence of British citizenship, the officer will conduct all relevant checks to satisfy themselves the passenger is British.

Border control at Hamburg airport.

Border control at Hamburg airport. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Christian Charisius

“When dual nationals who are eligible to use e-gates travel to the UK, they will enter via the e-gates without being examined by an immigration officer.

“We recommend all dual nationals, including EU citizens, travel on their British passport or with evidence or their British citizenship to minimise any potential delay at the border or when commencing their journey.”

The Local contacted the UK Home Office to ask if there was any official advice. 

A spokesman said: “An individual can present whichever passport they desire to enter the UK, however they will be subject to the entry requirements associated with the nationality of the passport they present.”

They said anyone who is looking for more information should check out guidance on entering the UK and on dual nationality.

In short, if you present a German passport on entry to the UK you will be treated the same as any other German citizen – which can include being quizzed about your reasons for visiting the UK – as border guards have no way of knowing that you are a dual-national. 

Do I have to carry both passports?

There’s no rule requiring you to have both passports, but you won’t get the benefits of a British passport (entry into the UK without questions) if you don’t show it.

Likewise if you are a French-British dual national and you enter France on your UK passport, you will need to use the non-EU queue and may have your passport stamped.

Should I think about anything else?

An important thing to remember is that if you apply for a visa and register your passport details, the same passport has to be used to enter the country. 

It could also make sense to travel with both passports, just in case. 

However, note that some countries – like the US – require that US nationals use a US passport to enter and leave the States even if they are dual nationals. 

In general, it’s best to use the same passport you entered a country with to depart.

The rules and systems are different depending on the country. But many countries require people to show their passport when leaving – and they will either stamp or scan the passport – this is how authorities know that a foreign visitor hasn’t overstayed their time in the country. 

So if your passport is checked as you leave the UK, you should show the one you arrived with, just to ensure there is a record of you arriving and leaving.

However as you enter France/Germany/other EU destination, you can show your EU passport in order to maximise the travel benefits of freedom of movement.