The Brexit withdrawal agreement, which still has to be approved by European leaders, the European parliament and the British parliament, does not appear to contain any improved rights for British nationals living the Netherlands and the rest of the EU.
The parts of the withdrawal agreement on citizens rights were agreed in March and have not changed substantially since then. This means British nationals will be able to stay, work and use the healthcare services in the Netherlands but will lose their right to move to another EU country at will.
‘What counts is this agreement will country-lock British people where they are living,’ Laura Shields, of the British in Europe movement, told broadcaster France 24. ‘Four out of five of our members need to cross borders for work.’
Nevertheless, the agreement does give some clarity about the rights British nationals will have after March 29 2019.
‘This agreement, if it goes through, means all British citizens living in the Netherlands by the end of December 2020 – the end of the transition period – will continue to be entitled to live here,’ says immigration lawyer Jeremy Bierbach, of Franssen Advocaten.
‘It is always a good plan to apply for a permanent residence document as an EU citizen because it is confirmation of the fact you are here. As the withdrawal agreement states, you will be able to exchange it, free of charge, for whatever new permit they come up with.’
In addition, people who have not registered with their local authority, for whatever reason should do so now, Bierbach says. ‘You should start collecting evidence about your stay here such as pay slips, jaaropgaven, bank statements, homeowner’s insurance and utility bills.’
Businessman Stephen Huyton, who has lived in the Netherlands for 23 years, says the deal avoids the ‘cliff edge’ scenario but still has a long way to go.
‘Since the document was published last night and is almost 600 pages long, it’s going to be a case of the devil in the detail. Until the experts have read the documents in full I will reserve judgement,’ he told DutchNews.nl.
‘On a personal note, as I understand it, a UK national will cease to be an EU resident as from end March so will be obliged to use non EU passport lines like somebody from, say, Australia. This is going to be a challenge at Schiphol.’
Campaigners are now pinning their hopes on the European parliament.
Jane Golding, co-chair of the British in Europe group, said in a statement: ‘It is now up to the European Parliament, not only to walk the talk on its red lines – free movement in our case – but to put pressure on all sides to ring fence the agreement on citizens’ rights so that 4.6mn people can sleep at night now whatever happens on Brexit.’
The Dutch immigration service website continues to state that ‘the validity of an EU permanent residence document officially will expire permanently for you on 29 March 2019. After all, on that day British citizens are no longer EU citizens.’
DutchNews.nl has asked the IND for comment.
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