Politics

Brexit deal IGNORED by European officials – UK nationals confronted at EU borders

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Under the divorce deal, British nationals living in the bloc by the end of 2020 should be allowed to enter the Schengen free-travel zone without having their passports stamped. This only applies if they can prove they are resident in the host country, by producing a residence card or proof of having applied for a permit. But cases have emerged in France, Germany and the Netherlands where border guards have demanded that all Britons have their passports stamped.

Briton Dan Priestley, who has a Dutch residence permit, was forced to argue that he was exempt from having his passport stamp under the Brexit divorce deal.

He claimed a border official made a move to stamp his passport despite his proof of Dutch residence and a copy of the Withdrawal Agreement.

Mr Priestley told the Politico website: “As I watch the official’s hand move towards the stamp I explained that my passport should not be stamped as I have a Dutch resident permit.

“However, the officials insisted that every British passport, regardless of EU residency, must be stamped and that was on the ‘order of her chief’.”

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He added: “I calmly protested and explained why this is not the case and the matter was debated for sometime.

“As progress was not being made, I brandished a copy of the relevant text from the Withdrawal Agreement – I had a paper version on me.

“She did take the text and explained she was aware of what was written but that she had clear orders to stamp every passport.”

Mr Priestley was re-entering the EU through the French border controls at the entrance to the Eurotunnel service in Folkestone.

An anonymous British citizen quoted by the Politico website claims to have received similar treatment returning to Amsterdam by plane.

They reportedly only managed to avoid having their passport stamped after a 10-minute argument with border officials.

The traveller was said to have presented a state-issued residence document and pointed out the citizens’ rights provisions in the divorce deal on his phone.

He said: “I kind of expected immigration to not be familiar with the new rules, so I was prepared.

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“All the other people that I saw that had the same conversation – and there were many people as I waited there – all got their passports stamped.

“I find it hard to understand how this remains a problem nearly a month in.”

Campaign group British in Europe claimed this had become a widespread issue since the end of the transition period on December 31.

Combined with the coronavirus travel restrictions, its co-chair, Fiona Godfrey, said it was making entering the Schengen zone a nightmare.

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She said: “UK citizens living in the EU are being asked to prove that they are covered by the Withdrawal Agreement even in countries where implementation has just started and where they have no Withdrawal Agreement residence card yet, so they are having to carry a range of documents with them to prove that they are covered.

“These can include employment and rental contracts, utility bills and bank statements in addition to existing EU residence cards where they hold them.”

British in Europe has raised the issue with the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office as well as the European Commission.

They want Brussels to take action to counter Britons, who have residence in the bloc, from having their passports stamped upon entry.

The FCDO didn’t comment on the reports.

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