The numbers were laid out in the latest report by the joint EU/UK Specialised Committee on Citizens’ Rights, which was set up to keep a check on whether the Citizen’s Rights aspect of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement was being properly enforced.
In total some 497,100 Britons in the EU out of an estimated 1.093 million have acquired a post-Brexit residence status – although this doesn’t tell the full story because Britons living in many EU countries have not been obliged to apply for a post Brexit residence permit.
EU countries could choose whether to grant post-Brexit residence status under a constitutive system (applicants had to apply directly to government agencies to be awarded residence status), or a declaratory system (applicants’ rights were not dependent on a government decision).
The numbers show the number of British citizens who applied for post-Brexit residency permits in those countries where it was obligatory to do so, how many were successfully granted it and a number for how many were rejected.
Out of 289,900 Britons living in countries that obliged them to obtain a residence permit some 258, 400 successfully acquired it.
In France it was initially estimated that there were 148,000 Britons who were expected to apply for post-Brexit residency status, but in the end French authorities received over 165,000 applications, as shown in the table below.
Out of these 165,400 applications all but 500 have been concluded with 105,600 being awarded permanent residence, (because they had lived in France longer than 5 years prior to Brexit) and 46,700 non-permanent residence (under 5 years of residence pre-Brexit). The figures also show 3,500 applications were refused, 9,100 were withdrawn and several hundred “incomplete.”
When it comes to the refusals that figure also includes an unknown number of duplicate applications so it is unclear just how many Britons were actually refused residency – anecdotal evidence suggested that a significant number of people made two applications – either in confusion when the application system changed or after waiting for months for a reply.
Campaign groups have previously said they believe the number of people actually refused to be very low and mainly due to having a serious criminal record.
Elsewhere the Swedish Migration Agency received 12,700 applications for post-Brexit residence status before the deadline on December 31st 2021. Of these, 9,900 had been concluded by January 24th 2022, when the European Commission’s report was published.
Of the 9,900 concluded applications, 1,100 were rejected (figures are rounded to the nearest 100 except for numbers below 500). This represents a rejection rate of just over 11 percent. This includes 149 applications which were rejected as being incomplete.
In Denmark around 250 applications were rejected out of 18,100 applications. In Austria there was no data available for the number of refused permits but 8,400 UK residents successfully acquired post-Brexit status.
Jane Golding Chair of the British in Europe campaign group, told The Local: “We don’t know anything about whether the figure given includes people who successfully reapplied at a second attempt. I would presume not, as people who were refused would appeal, not apply again, so I’m not sure why there would be a second application. We only know what it says in the table.”
Numbers lower than estimates
In most EU countries that implemented a constitutive system the number of applications was similar to the estimated number of British nationals who would apply. However in Belgium only half of the estimated 18,000 British nationals living in the country acquired a post-Brexit residence permit whilst France was the only country that received more applications (165,000) compared to the estimated number of applicants.
“It’s not surprising that France is the outlier,” says Jane Golding. “There is no compulsory registration system in France for EU citizens and it was the only country in which British citizens in the EU were not systematically registered.
“This accounts for why the estimated numbers might have been wrong and so, as in the UK as regards EU citizens in the UK, there turned out to be more UK citizens in France than estimated.”
As the table below shows, the differences are more marked in declarative countries where Britons were not obliged to apply for a post-Brexit permit. In many countries, like Spain and Italy, they have however been encouraged to apply for a post Brexit residence document.
In Spain, out of an estimated 430,000 British residents only 187,000 have acquired the new document. In Italy the figure is 12,900 out of an estimated 33,800 British residents.
Golding says there are various reasons for the shortfall including a lack of information for British residents in some of these countries, the lack of a hard deadline for applications as well as the fact many may be so well integrated that they were not aware they needed to do anything. Many others may also have applied for citizenship of the country and therefor did not need to apply for the Brexit document.
“For example, Germany used to have over 100,000 UK citizens, but given the large number who have taken dual citizenship, the estimated number is now 85,100,” she said.
In Spain many British residents already had pre-Brexit residence cards and have not been obliged to exchange.
As the table below shows very few residence in declarative countries have been refused the Brexit document apart from in Spain where some 3,400 have been rejected. Again it is unclear whether this figure includes duplicate applications that were later successful.
In Italy only 2 applications have been officially rejected.
In the latest joint UK/EU committee meeting on citizen rights, British representatives raised concerns “relating to evidencing status in declaratory Member States and emphasised the need for clear guidance”. It also raised reports that “UK nationals continue to experience difficulties when seeking to access benefits and services”.
“The UK also expressed concern at the lack of detail around late residency application policies in constitutive member states,” the statement said.
It is also not clear as to whether Austrian figures will reflect Art 50 Angehörige applications from third country national partners/spouses. When I asked the BMI about the potential numbers they were unable to say how many cases they might be.