If there is an agreement between the EU and the UK that is mainly about trade, Annette Schrauwen writes in this opinion paper, and little about the people. That means difficult choices for the 45,000 British in the Netherlands.
The negotiations between the European Union (EU) and the United Kingdom (UK) on relations between them continue from 1 January 2021, and every time we hear that it is ‘close’. This seems to be moving towards a future without a trade agreement between the EU and the UK. Belgium, France and the Netherlands have asked the European Commission to speed up the measures that will prevent the worst of misery if there is no agreement on 1 January 2021.
What is important for the success of the negotiations is trust between the two sides – and that is not great. Perhaps it helps the EU’s confidence in the UK a little that the House of Lords wants to take the edge off the proposed Internal Market Bill and thus prevent a British minister from actually deciding to ignore the already agreed arrangement across the border with Northern Ireland. And maybe it helps a little that Dominic Cummings, the man from take back control and get Brexit done, has disappeared from the stage.
One thing seems certain: if an agreement is reached, it is about the trade in goods, not about the position of each other’s inhabitants. Now most of us will not be very uncomfortable if we want to go to London for a few days after 31 December 2020. Staying there without a visa can take 90 days in a period of 180 days. Perhaps we should turn off the data roaming on our mobile phone if providers decide to increase the price, but that is it. For British people living in the Netherlands and Dutch people living in the United Kingdom, more is changing.
In the withdrawal agreement of January this year, agreements were made on British people living in the Netherlands before 1 January 2021 and Dutch and other European citizens living in the UK before that date. In principle, their stay is guaranteed for the rest of their lives. In the Netherlands, British citizens receive a residence document based on the withdrawal agreement. However, the IND first checks whether they actually have work and/or sufficient income.
British citizens wishing to move to the Netherlands after 31 December will no longer have a European right of residence and will have to apply for a national residence permit. This applies all the restrictive conditions of national foreign law. For Dutch people who wish to move temporarily or temporarily to the UK after 31 December, British foreign law, which operates with a points system, applies. This may mean that British people who would like to take on Dutch nationality in order to express their relationship with the Netherlands will refrain from doing so. Under Dutch law, they must renounce British nationality if they choose to become Dutch. They thus become’ foreigner ‘ for British foreign law, which may cause problems if, for example, they want to take care of a sick relative in the UK for a longer period of time.
The Dutch lack of confidence in British compliance with the withdrawal agreement has led to a specific exception in the Dutch nationality act. Dutch people in the UK who decided to become British as a result of the Brexit can still remain Dutch. A specific group of Dutch people can thus definitively retain a specific dual nationality. The law enters into force ‘ if no agreement is reached which adequately guarantees the rights of Dutch people in the UK’. That seems to be the case now.
The law is in itself a good initiative to protect the Dutch, but it is a double standard. Why does this not apply to the approximately 45,000 British in the Netherlands (13,600 British lived in Amsterdam in January 2019) and to the Dutch in the UK? In the original proposal, the law applied to both groups, but there was no political majority. The British who, in the context of all the uncertainty surrounding the Brexit, have become Dutch, as have the Dutch in the UK who have become British, have also been hit hard in their personal lives by the exit from the EU. Then why the double standards?
Worldwide acceptance of dual nationality is increasing, but in the Netherlands we have problems with it. Even when it comes to an exception for a very limited specific group, ‘born’ Dutch people seem to have a dash for naturalised Dutch people.