A Finnish MEP is backing a plan to introduce new EU ‘Green Cards’ in the aftermath of Britain’s departure from the European Union.
Heidi Hautala (Green) is a Vice-President of the European Parliament and says the idea of a special status for UK nationals already legally resident in other EU countries would allow them to continue having the same free movement rights they’ve earned now, even in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
She intends to raise this issue in the European Parliament again next week when Brexit is being discussed; and also with the British Ambassador to Finland Tom Dodd at an upcoming meeting in Helsinki.
“The European Parliament set as its primary goal to secure the rights of British citizens in the EU and EU citizens in the UK, so I think the Parliament should be the driving force in trying to get this done” she tells News Now Finland.
“At the moment everything is unclear and a lot is left unanswered for citizens all over the place with regards to Brexit” Hautala adds.
What would an EU ‘Green Card’ do?
The idea of a European Union green card is being put forward by a pressure group called New Europeans.
The groups says the card would prove and maintain the current rights of British nationals to move to another EU country to live and work.
It would mean that British nationals who have obtained the right of permanent residency in Finland or any of the other 26 EU countries could continue to exercise those rights even if they’re taken away from other Brits in the UK in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
In practice, if an EU green card holder living in Finland was to travel to the UK or anywhere else outside the EU, they could show the card when they come back to Helsinki Airport and not be obliged to have a pre-completed Etias authorisation which all non-EU nationals will need to obtain before traveling to the EU from 2021.
“It’s so far the only practical solution that’s been suggested, and it would restore freedom of movement rights to UK citizens in the EU” explains Matt Savage, the New Europeans’ Helsinki-based campaign coordinator for the Nordic region.
“Removal of freedom of movement rights is a massive blow to UK citizens and it would be a real boon to get those back” he says.
Savage has been living in Finland since he moved with his partner in 2016.
Struggling to find work in his field without fluent Finnish, the 31-year old took a Finnish course to give him better chances of finding a job, and is now studying towards a qualification from Business College Helsinki.
He says the green card proposal would give him peace of mind for future employment.
“Even though I’m studying to improve my future, I don’t want it compromised by having employers questioning my ability to keep working here” he tells News Now Finland.
“An EU green card would be a way to guarantee to employers that you can stay here and can work” he says.
What’s the situation for British nationals in Finland
The status of British nationals in Finland has been frozen – deal or no deal – until the end of next year.
The previous government pushed through a special law to give at least temporary piece of mind to the estimated 5000 British nationals living in Finland.
“All UK citizens now living in Finland can continue to live, work, conduct their business and study in Finland without interruption” former Interior Minister Kai Mykkänen (NCP) said at the time the law was approved by parliament.
Without this special act, UK passport holders living in Finland would have had to apply for a residence permit at short notice before Brexit, and some people might not have met the requirements to get one.
Chances of the green card idea getting approved
So what are the odds that the proposal will become a reality?
Heidi Hautala says it’s got support among the 11 UK MEPs in her European Parliament group, like fellow Green MEPs, Welsh nationalists Plaid Cymru MEPs, and Scottish National Party MEPs as well.
“Next week the Parliament will have a Brexit debate […] but honestly I don’t know if the green card is a bit too far reaching at the moment. But I think we should keep it in progress because it would be an ideal solution for citizens and that’s what the European Parliament has been calling for implicitly at least” says Hautala.
“If Brexit happens which I hope it doesn’t, it would pave the way for a continuing close relationship, which also has to be a close relationship with citizens.”