Consequences of a Brexit for British citizens in the Netherlands
De Vreede Advocaten is a young and dynamic law firm specialised in immigration and international employment law for both businesses and individuals.
On June 23, a majority of British voters decided that it was time for the United Kingdom to leave the EU.
Many are wondering about the consequences of the Brexit for British citizens who want to live in the Netherlands, or who are already residing here, and their family members.
The current situation
According to a recent publication from the Dutch Immigration Services, about 43.000 British nationals are residing in the Netherlands. As EU citizens, British nationals have the right to look for a job and to work in the Netherlands without requiring a work permit or residence permit.
They also enjoy equal treatment with Dutch citizens in access to employment, working conditions and in terms of social and tax advantages. If Britain leaves the EU, British citizens may no longer enjoy these rights.
Predictions on a timeline
At this moment the United Kingdom is still a member of the EU and it is not certain what agreements will be made between the United Kingdom and the EU and/or the Netherlands after the Brexit. Britain has not formally notified the European Council of its withdrawal yet, which is required by Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union.
However, as Teresa May, the UK’s new prime minister, has stated there will be a Brexit, and has also appointed a minister for Brexit, it is indeed to be expected that the Article 50 process will be set in motion.
The UK’s new minister for Brexit, David Davis, has said that he sees Britain triggering Article 50 by the end of this year. This means that the Brexit could be concluded by the end of 2018.
Process of leaving the EU
In Article 50, it is stipulated that "the Union shall negotiate and conclude an agreement with that State, setting out the arrangements for its withdrawal, taking account of the framework for its future relationship with the Union."
This means that following the notification, the UK and the EU shall enter into negotiations to work towards an agreement that will set out the transitional arrangements.
What the UK and the EU decide upon is up to the states themselves to define. If they reach an understanding, the content of this agreement will govern their future relationship and may therefore contain rights for British citizens residing abroad.
Failure to reach an agreement
If the UK and the EU fail to come to an agreement, after two years the EU treaties will cease to have an effect on British citizens. This deadline of two years can be extended if the UK and all member states agree to an extension.
During the two-year negotiation period, and as long as there is no agreement yet, EU rights can still be invoked by British nationals.
As no other member state has left the EU yet, the UK and the EU are in uncharted territory. There can only be speculation as to the outcome of a Brexit, but as the negotiations are expected to take some time, there is no need for immediate concern.
Options after a Brexit
The Dutch government is resisting the temptation to make early statements on the position of British citizens residing in the Netherlands, as everything depends on the outcome of the negotiations.
We would like to advise British citizens residing in the Netherlands to carefully assess their current situation to see if steps need to be taken to safeguard their legal stay here.
An existing option to ensure you can stay in the Netherlands is to obtain Dutch citizenship. On July 27, 2016 the IND published new numbers for British nationals obtaining Dutch citizenship: 40 people applied in 2015 and the IND has already received 20 new applications in the last month alone.
Dutch citizenship would provide British nationals with the same rights as Dutch citizens and would preserve their status as an EU citizen. Migrants are typically required to have lived in the Netherlands for an uninterrupted period of at least five years before applying.
However, obtaining Dutch citizenship might mean giving up one's British nationality as dual citizenship is not permitted, apart from some exceptions.
From five to seven years
For Dutch citizenship, a law is in the making that will change this term to seven years - but with a transitional arrangement for people who have already resided in the Netherlands for three years.
Another requirement for the Dutch citizenship procedure is the successful completion of the Dutch civic integration examination.
To make sure that you have the option to apply for a Dutch passport in the future, we therefore advise British citizens residing in the Netherlands to document their legal stay and, if necessary, to take a Dutch language course.
A residence card is not required but can be obtained after five years of uninterrupted stay. An "Application for a Permanent Residence Document for Nationals of the Union and their Family Members" can be filed.
If you have already resided in the Netherlands for an uninterrupted period of five years, you may have already acquired a permanent right of residence by law.
An EU-citizen only needs to visit the Municipality to sign a statement stating five years of residency in the Netherlands. This period of five years can be interrupted with one period of six months residence abroad.
Explore your options
There is something to be said for the argument that, once acquired, EU rights cannot be lost. But as there is a lot of uncertainty surrounding the Brexit, we would recommend British citizens to take the precautionary steps mentioned above to safeguard their rights.
Are you worried about how the Brexit can affect your specific situation or that of your family? Contact De Vreede Advocaten to learn more about what your options are.