Leigh Turner

Leigh Turner

Ambassador to Austria and UK Permanent Representative to the United Nations and other International Organisations in Vienna

Part of UK in Austria

13th July 2018 Vienna, Austria

Brexit and the rights of UK citizens in Austria Q&A

Update: for the UK Government’s guidance on Living in Austria as a UK national, see Living in Austria. Please sign up for email updates on that page to get the latest information as and when anything changes. 

A team from the Department for Exiting the EU visited Vienna recently to talk to UK ex-pats and the Austrian government about Brexit.  During the visit, and afterwards on the Embassy’s social media channels, British nationals raised a number of questions about how Brexit might affect their right to live and work in Austria.  I thought it might be useful to address these questions, along with others which British people in Austria have raised in my meetings with them.

We have produced answers to the questions in a series of videos, along with a transcript.  Feel free to dip in and out, depending on which questions you are most interested in.

Since we produced these videos, the British Government has produced its White Paper on the future relationship between the UK and the European Union.  You will find more details on some of the issues below, for example, on mutual recognition of qualifications and onward movement, in the White Paper.

Introduction

Hello Everyone. My name is Leigh Turner, I’m the British Ambassador here in Vienna, and I wanted to talk to you about Citizens’ Rights. I hope you’ve had a good start to the summer.

Last month, here in the Embassy, we hosted a visit by the citizens’ rights experts from DExEU, the Department for Exiting the EU back in London.  They met with members of the Austrian government, and also had Q&A with British community groups here in Austria, who represent different groups and also individuals.  During that, people raised quite a few interesting questions so we thought that following on from those meetings, we would produce a series of little videos addressing each of the questions.  So here we go.

What has been agreed so far?

So, the first question is what has been agreed so far?  The main point that if you’re a UK National who legally resides in any EU Member State, e.g. Austria before the end of 2020, then you will be able to continue doing so afterwards in broadly the same way, and I’m going to come back later to what we mean by ‘broadly’ when we talk about what hasn’t yet been agreed.  So, if you’re living, working, studying or retired in Austria you’ll be able to keep on doing those things, or indeed to change between them.  You also should be able to access healthcare and social security, just as you did before.

The Withdrawal Agreement will apply to EU citizens who move to the UK, and UK nationals who move to the EU, before the end of the implementation period (that means by the end of 2020).  That period is from when the UK leaves the EU in March 2019 up to the end of 2020.

The deal on citizens’ rights is reciprocal, which means the same agreements apply to UK nationals in the rest of the EU and EU citizens living in the UK.

In terms of the process – the UK and EU reached an agreement in December 2017 on the protection of UK and European citizens’ rights and that agreement was translated into the draft Withdrawal Agreement, which in turn was agreed and published before the March European Council.

What happens next?

So, what happens next? The EU and UK negotiating teams are now working on agreeing the outstanding issues within the Withdrawal Agreement.  These outstanding issues are on topics separate from citizens’ rights, such as what’s going to happen with the Irish border.  So, our goal is to agree the whole Withdrawal Agreement by the time of the October European Council, so that’s the next thing that’s going to happen. 

What hasn’t yet been agreed?

So, what are those issues that haven’t been agreed yet on citizens’ rights?  These are some important matters that we had, as the UK, wanted to resolve in the first phase of negotiations, but were unable to reach agreement on.  These issues include, first of all, onward free movement for UK nationals: we know it’s something that people in Austria are really concerned about.

Secondly, a more wide-reaching agreement on the mutual recognition of professional qualifications.

So, what’s going to happen next?

We will return to these issues in discussions about the future relationship between the UK and EU.  We have always said that the UK government will keep citizens at the heart of its approach, and we are confident that we can get a deal in the best interests of UK nationals both here in Austria, and in the rest of the EU.

What documentation will British citizens need to stay in Austria after Brexit?

The next issue is, what documentation will British citizens need to stay in Austria after Brexit?  Let me answer this by talking first about what is being planned in the UK.  So, the UK is developing a new application system for ‘settled status’, which will ensure that EU citizens are able to stay lawfully in the UK after the end of the implementation period.  The agreement on citizens’ rights sets out a commitment for the EU27 to ensure any equivalent processes will be transparent, simple and streamlined.

The introduction of administrative processes, or changes to existing administrative processes will be decided by each Member State, because each one has different arrangements now.  This means that once the Withdrawal Agreement is agreed, it will be up to Austria, in this case, to decide exactly what administrative process they’ll introduce to ensure UK citizens in Austria can confirm their legal residence status.

Although the Austrian Government hasn’t yet issued public information about what they will implement and exactly how, we in the Embassy have been in regular contact with them on this very question, along with UK Citizens in Austria. They’ve made three points to us:

  1. EU law continues to apply for UK nationals in Austria until the UK leaves the Union and furthermore until 31 December 2020, that’s the end of the interim period, provided the Withdrawal Agreement enters into force.
  2. Any administrative procedures introduced by the Government of Austria to facilitate the continuation of lawful residence by UK nationals in Austria will be based on what is agreed in negotiations between the UK and EU.
  3. Our Austrian hosts will put further information into the public sphere as soon as possible.

I am exporting an uprated UK state pension to Austria. Will I still be eligible to do this after Brexit?

Several people expressed concerns about pensions.  What happens if you are exporting an uprated UK state pension to Austria?  Will you still be eligible to do this after Brexit?

So, the answer to this is that the UK State Pension is payable worldwide under domestic UK legislation.  So, people covered by the Withdrawal Agreement will keep receiving an uprated UK State Pension if they’re resident in an EU member state by the end of the implementation period and for as long as you remain in scope of the Agreement.  This also includes people who are not yet at state pension age once they do start drawing their pension.

Individuals of UK state pension age and resident in the EU by the end of the implementation period will also continue to receive associated reciprocal healthcare cover alongside their state pension, for as long as they remain in scope of the Agreement.

Not only that, even people who are below state pension age – for example a 55-year-old living in Austria – will continue to have the right to reciprocal healthcare once they do start drawing their UK state pension, providing they are resident in the EU27 by the end of the implementation period.  So, I hope that is reassuring. 

I have a Diplomatic ID card – a Legitimationskarte – in Austria. Will I be covered by the Withdrawal Agreement, and will I be able to stay here afterwards?

Here’s another question which several people have asked us. Supposing you have a Diplomatic ID card – a Legitimationskarte – in Austria, will you be covered by the Withdrawal Agreement, and will you be able to stay here afterwards?  Now, the Withdrawal Agreement, and this is crucial, covers every UK national legally residing in accordance with EU law in an EU member state by the end of the implementation period.

The Austrian Government haven’t yet made any public statements about the specific situation of people with diplomatic ID, but we are in regular contact with them, and they have said they will put further information out there in the public sphere as soon as possible.  Meanwhile, EU member states and the UK have both agreed that any registration system will be simple, streamlined, and will provide sufficient time for everyone to gain documentation if it is required.  I hope that is reassuring. 

Will British nationals be able to get Austrian dual citizenship?

Quite a few people have asked us; is it possible for us to get dual citizenship if we are living here in Austria?  We have heard this from quite a few British nationals, and we have raised the issue with the Austrian government.  Of course, Austrian Citizenship is a matter for the Austrian government, as British citizenship is a matter for the British government.  At the moment, the Austrian government does exercise a principle of mono-nationality.  In other words, except in a very limited number of cases, they do not allow people to hold another nationality alongside Austrian nationality.  We are not aware of any plans at present to change this principle. 

I’ve been abroad for over 15 years and therefore cannot vote in UK elections. Will the government change this policy?

So, one of the things we often hear is concern that people have been abroad for more than 15 years and therefore cannot vote in UK elections, and people have asked us whether the British government is going to change that policy.

Now, as many of you will know, the UK government was elected with a commitment to legislate to change the law to allow British nationals a lifetime right to vote in UK elections.  There is, at present, a private members bill called the ‘Overseas Electors Bill’ which is making quite good progress through parliament, with the support of the government.  If this Bill becomes law, it will remove the fifteen-year time limit on the right to vote for UK nationals living abroad. 

What is the embassy doing around Brexit for UK nationals in Austria?

So, some people have asked us; what is the Embassy is doing around Brexit to help UK nationals in Austria?  I’d highlight two main things. The first is what this video is all about; engaging with British citizens who are living here in Austria.  Our goal is to do this regularly by publishing information online, and by taking part in face-to-face discussions across the country with different groups of British citizens.  So far, I’ve had meetings with members of the British community in Klagenfurt, Graz, Innsbruck and also in Vienna, and I’ve also met Brits in other parts of the country.  It’s important to us to share information with you, to hear your views, and, of course, to do our best to answer your questions.

The second thing we’re doing is engaging with the Austrian government.  We meet them regularly to talk about citizens’ rights as well as other aspects of Brexit.  We explain our position and we seek information about their views.  As I have said, they have told us that on citizens’ rights they will put information about residency documentation and other areas that fall within their responsibility into the public sphere as soon as possible, and we will continue to discuss that with them. 

Will the agreement on citizens’ rights be ring-fenced?  Could there be a risk that if other issues in the Withdrawal Agreement are not sorted, and there’s no deal, then the citizens’ rights section will fall through?

The next question is: will the agreement on citizens’ rights be ring-fenced?  Could there be a risk that if other issues in the Withdrawal Agreement are not sorted, and there’s no deal, that the citizens’ rights section will fall through.  People are very concerned about this.

The view of the British Government is that a deal between the UK and EU is in the interests of both sides, and we don’t want or expect a no-deal outcome.  Both the UK Government and the European Commission have said repeatedly that providing certainty for citizens is a priority, so we believe it’s very unlikely for the deal on citizens’ rights to be reopened.  I hope that is reassuring.  Thank you.

Closing words

To get the latest, do follow our embassy Facebook and Twitter accounts for further updates. As and when there are more updates we will share them with you through those channels. Thank you very much and I hope you have found the videos useful.

4 comments on “Brexit and the rights of UK citizens in Austria Q&A

  1. I didn’t even know the DExEU met with UK Citizens in Vienna. Mostly, a select few that would not ask the difficult questions.

  2. I also would like to say a big thank you for your video’s, they put my mind at ease, especially about my state pension.
    Best wishes to you ambassador and to your team.

  3. Thank you,

    These short videos are a great idea and answer or explain the current situation very well.

    Regards
    E Newman

Comments are closed.

About Leigh Turner

I hope you find this blog interesting and, where appropriate, entertaining. My role in Vienna covers the relationship between Austria and the UK as well as the diverse work of…

I hope you find this blog interesting and, where appropriate, entertaining. My role in Vienna covers the relationship between Austria and the UK as well as the diverse work of the UN and other organisations; stories here will reflect that.

About me: I arrived in Vienna in August 2016 for my second posting in this wonderful city, having first served here in the mid-1980s. My previous job was as HM Consul-General and Director-General for Trade and Investment for Turkey, Central Asia and South Caucasus based in Istanbul.

Further back: I grew up in Nigeria, Exeter, Lesotho, Swaziland and Manchester before attending Cambridge University 1976-79. I worked in several government departments before joining the Foreign Office in 1983.

Keen to go to Africa and South America, I’ve had postings in Vienna (twice), Moscow, Bonn, Berlin, Kyiv and Istanbul, plus jobs in London ranging from the EU Budget to the British Overseas Territories.

2002-6 I was lucky enough to spend four years in Berlin running the house, looking after the children (born 1992 and 1994) and doing some writing and journalism.

To return to Vienna as ambassador is a privilege and a pleasure. I hope this blog reflects that.

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