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UK seeks post-Brexit 'equivalency' for Brits in EU, ambassador says

The UK wants assurances that citizens will receive guarantees similar to ones offered to EU nationals living in Britain.

Britannian ja EU:n liput liehuvat lipputangoissa Brysselissä.
The last deadline for the UK to leave the EU is 31 October. Image: Laurent Dubrule / EPA

More than three years after a narrow majority of UK residents voted to leave the EU, the terms of the country’s departure are still shrouded in uncertainty. An estimated 5,000-odd UK citizens resident in Finland are watching and waiting for clear signals about what they can expect if and when Britain separates from the regional bloc.

Yle News posed the question to British Ambassador to Finland, Tom Dodd, who said that British nationals living in Finland can count on having their current rights guaranteed -- if there is a deal to govern future relations between the two sides.

"If we leave with an agreement, then there are provisions within the transition agreement for the rights of British nationals in Finland -- and in fact additional arrivals after we leave -- to continue, essentially as they are now and into the future," Dodd commented.

On the other hand, if the UK and the EU divorce without a deal -- a so-called "no-deal" scenario -- then the playing field for UK citizens across Europe and for EU nationals in the UK will differ from place to place.

"If we leave without a deal, then the situation for British nationals varies country by country within the rest of Europe."

"In the case of Finland the last government here passed legislation in March which guarantees the existing rights of registered British nationals in Finland until December 2020 in any scenario," Dodd added. He noted that he is in ongoing talks with the Finnish government to determine what will happen after 2020.

UK wants parallel agreement from Finland

The ambassador said that the government in London will be pressing for "equivalency" across the continent once the country leaves the EU.

"In the UK, we have given, essentially, a guarantee that the rights of European Union nationals who are resident in the UK after Brexit day – that their rights will be continued in perpetuity and we would like to see that reflected across the European Union in any circumstances and that’s what we are pressing for," he explained.

In the case of Finland, Dodd said that would mean "we would like a parallel agreement from the Finnish government to what we’ve said we’ll do in the UK for EU nationals in the UK."

The ambassador said that the policy of the UK government is that it would like to negotiate an agreement with the European Union and have it agreed at a meeting of the European Council due on 17-18 October, before leaving with a transition period for further negotiations on the details. He added that if no agreement is reached then the position of the government is that the UK should leave on 31 October.

The British embassy in Helsinki has been hosting a number of town hall meetings across the country to help answer questions that Brits in Finland may have about Brexit. The ambassador recommended using the "Living in Finland" guide, which he said offers guidance on what people need to do in a deal or no-deal scenario.

Yle News will examine the latest Brexit developments and the implications for British citizens in Finland as well as Finnish nationals in the UK during our All Points North podcast on Thursday 12 September. Guests are British Ambassador to Finland Tom Dodd and Helsinki University researcher Timo Miettinen.

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