In 2016, two words were competing for the election of “word of the year”: hygge and brexit. Like in what could be seen as a parable, brexit won the honorific title, over the Danish vocable signifier of cosiness, warm candlelight, woolen socks and well-being.
Leaving the hygge panoply in the closet – together with their EU-membership – the Brits entered a period of doubt, not knowing exactly what ‘brexiting’ the EU would imply. The terms of brexit were – and still are – not as clearly defined as the term hygge.
Urgent need to reassure the people
British expats living in Denmark are worried about what will happen after the UK leaves the EU on 29 March 2019. As the date draws closer, the British Embassy organised a briefing at the Danish Architecture Center in Copenhagen on August 30. British Ambassador Dominic Shroeder, Chris Jones from the Department for Exiting the EU, and Permanent Secretary for the Danish Ministry of Immigration and Integration, Uffe Toudal, were present to expose the current status of the negotiations between the UK and the EU, and answer the challenging questions.
Allison Brixtofte, Head of Finance and Resources at International Media Support, an international NGO based in Copenhagen, attended the briefing and shared all the details with The International.
“It was a good meeting”, Brixtofte says, before adding that it exceeded the one hour it was supposed to last, due to the huge amount of questions following the talk. Among the 200-250 British Nationals who intended with the hope of becoming better informed and, hopefully, reassured about their future as non-EU citizens, Brixtofte says that she did not recognise any ‘brexit-enthusiasts’ in the crowd; all she could see was a very anxious audience.
Although this general fear is comprehensible, she affirms not being too concerned herself: “I have a good job, property, I have been living here for 19 years and have always paid my taxes,” she says. Yet, she admits not all British expats share her privileges; the younger generation, for instance, may be more at risk, she fears.
More than her personal situation, what keeps her optimistic is her trust in the Danish government, who assured the audience they would work actively to find solutions to protect the British expats’ rights to stay. Her positive view does not apply to the UK government though. While she felt well-informed after leaving the meeting, she says it was certainly not thanks to the British representative, who “didn’t bring any answers” in the event of a “no-deal”.
Status of the negotiations
The UK and the EU are currently negotiating a “Withdrawal Agreement” which will set out the arrangements for the UK’s withdrawal from the EU on 29 March 2019. Covering key issues of (among others) citizens’ right and financial contribution, this text is still in draft, but a ‘final draft text’ should be reached in October 2018 at the earliest.
If accepted, the deal will ensure that UK nationals’ rights are preserved from 30 March 2019 to 31 December 2020. During this “implementation period”, all UK nationals would be able to continue living ‘normally’, enjoying the same rights to healthcare, family, social benefits, pension, residency and free movement as they currently do.
What will happen after January 2021 is however unclear. If the deal is rejected, British nationals might lose their residence permit as well as many of the benefits they enjoy presently. If no contingency measures are put in place after the implementation period, there would be a ‘cliff-edge’, putting the Brits in a most uncomfortable position.
Such a scenario does not seem to frighten Allison who declares: “It would be irresponsible to vote no. They have a duty to protect the rights of the EU citizens who had chosen to settle outside of their own country”. Hopeful and confident about the negotiations, she remains nonetheless rational and concludes: “We have a very good deal on the table – but it is clear they also have a lot of work to do! As much from the British side than from the Danish.”
Stay updated by visiting the UK government’s website, where the latest information will be published: gov.uk/guidance/living-in-denmark
Meet the writer: Léa Severino – Intern for The International
A Master’s student in Film & Media Studies at the University of Copenhagen and an aspiring journalist. Passionate about literature and arts, she started writing culture-related articles for the newspaper of her home university in Switzerland, where she graduated with a Bachelor’s in French and Cinema. Collaborating with other papers, in French as well as English, she has not stopped writing since.