Brits in Finland ‘trapped’ by latest Brexit deal

Deal, no deal or no Brexit - the turmoil in UK politics is having an impact on Finland as well.

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File image of UK and EU flags, Brexit / Credit: iStock

British citizens living in Finland won’t keep the right to move freely to other EU countries for work or study after Brexit, according to the draft Brexit agreement between the European Commission and the British government.

If the latest proposals are approved by UK and European parliaments, they would allow British citizens in Finland to continue living and working as they do now, but they would be ‘trapped’ in Finland, and not allowed to take those rights to another EU country after Brexit.

Finnish citizens in the UK would continue to have rights to live and work there; and of course keep their rights to move anywhere else in the other 27 EU countries for work or study.

Reaction from Brits in Finland & Europe

After a tumultuous day of high-level government resignations, there are fears that the Brexit deal won’t be approved by the UK Parliament, leaving negotiations back at square one, and  Finland’s British residents with no guarantees over their future status in Europe.

“It’s a concern. My family mostly live in France, and I run my own business which often takes place internationally. Obviously I don’t want to suffer restrictions on either of those things” says Emily Matthews, a British citizen living in Fiskars.

Some other Finnish residents aren’t so worried. Nick Walters, who moved from the UK to Tampere four years ago says “it doesn’t concern me personally, because I love living in Finland, plan to stay here permanently and have applied for citizenship anyway.”

The campaign group British in Europe which represents UK citizens living in the EU says in a statement that they are angry and disappointed that Brexit negotiators “failed to deliver their promise to agree a deal that would allow people to carry on living their lives in exactly the same manner as before Brexit”.

“It is unacceptable and upsetting that free movement – a lifeline for many of us – has been excluded when both sides knew it was critical for us” says campaign chairperson Jane Golding.

Golding also criticised the former British Brexit Secretary, Dominic Raab, saying “his resignation only adds to the uncertainty that millions of people have been experiencing for two years”.

File picture showing the flags of the European Union and United Kingdom / Credit: iStock

Political trouble for UK’s Prime Minister

Raab quit his job overseeing the UK’s exit from the European Union after just 129 days, saying he “[could] not in good conscience support” the deal proposed by British Prime Minister Theresa May.

Raab’s surprise resignation came just hours after May declared that the cabinet – the top ranking ministers in government – had accepted her plans.

The former Brexit secretary was joined by six other MPs from the ruling centre-right Conservative Party, who all resigned from their government jobs in protest at the proposed Brexit deal. The resignations, along with increasingly strident criticism of Theresa May from anti-EU Conservatives like Jacob Rees-Mogg, make the task of getting the draft agreement through parliament look harder and harder.

As news of the first government resignation came in, Finland’s European Commissioner, Jyrki Katainen (NCP) said “things nudged forward. However, the outcome is not certain. The UK Parliament can vote down the agreement”.

“Complicated things usually aren’t straightforward” he writes on Twitter.

With Conservative rebels, the main opposition Labour Party and the country’s third largest party the Scottish Nationalists looking set to vote against Theresa May’s Brexit deal in Parliament, the question of what happens if the UK and EU can’t reach a deal in time is once again looming over the Brexit process.

Deal or No Deal

After Theresa May returned from an EU summit in Salzburg in September, she gave a speech committing to guarantee the rights of EU citizens living in the UK after Brexit.

In a televised statement, May said: “I want to be clear with you, that even in the event of a no deal, your rights will be protected. You are our friends, our neighbours, our colleagues […] we want you to stay.”

The Finnish government has made no such guarantee to UK citizens living in Finland.

Speaking to News Now Finland in October, Interior Minister Kai Mykkänen said that in the case of a no-deal situation, Brits in Finland would have to apply for residence permits as third-country nationals.

Mykkänen’s statement leaves British residents in Finland at risk of having their residency applications rejected under the stricter criteria applied to non-EU applicants.

Despite this, Hyvinkää resident Spencer Watts isn’t bothered.

“I have more faith in the EU protecting citizens in EU countries than I do in the UK Government […] plus I’m married to a Finn and have two Finnish daughters, so I’m not that concerned” he says.

After moving to the UK from Finland 20 years ago, London-based university professor Arttu Rajantie says he’s still Finnish, but Britain is his home.

“I don’t just have the perspective of an EU citizen in the UK, I want Britain to do well,” he says.

As a long-term resident, Rajantie isn’t worried about qualifying for the UK government’s new ‘settled status’ for EU citizens. What does worry him, however, are the potential knock-on effects of Brexit, which could be made worse in the event of no deal.

“With the uncertainty around working conditions in the UK, if they were to change, I’ve actively started to think about going back to Finland.

“I thought I’d settled and would have my life in the UK, until the end, but things change” he tells News Now Finland.

Credit: Pixabay / Creative Commons License

Brexit deal is “so very close” 

While it hasn’t made any commitment towards the rights of British residents, the Finnish government says it’s still committed to pursuing a deal between the EU and the UK.

Speaking to state broadcaster YLE, Prime Minister Juha Sipilä (Centre) says “Theresa May has always had to make sure that the draft agreement would get through Parliament. It won’t be easy but certainly my prediction is that it will go through.”

“It’s to everyone’s benefit that there is not a hard exit, but rather a managed departure,” he adds.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, tasked with overseeing Finland’s future trading relationship with a post-Brexit UK, said all options were being taken into account.

The ministry’s Brexit Coordinator, Terhi Bunders, tells News Now Finland that preparations were continuing for both a Brexit deal and a no-deal Brexit, saying, “both scenarios are there.”

Bunders concedes that Finland’s influence at this stage was limited, saying that a Brexit deal was “for the EU commission and the UK to decide”.

“It’s so very close!”