Brexit Brits in Croatia: Special Rules to Apply to Ensure Residence

By 22 January 2019

Theresa May's withdrawal agreement with the European Union suffered a historic defeat recently. The British prime minister had delayed the vote which was due to take place back in December 2018 when she realised she was set to suffer the aforementioned historic defeat. Why she thought simply delaying the inevitable was a good idea is beyond me, but so is the entire notion of Brexit itself.

My political views aside, let's get to the point of this article. Point number one is that the article I wrote a while ago about what Theresa May's former withdrawal agreement means for British citizens living in Croatia is now likely void for the most part. We all love wasting our time, don't we?

The second point is that you don't need to worry about anything, well, no more than you would already anyway. You may have noticed that many EU countries have publicly declared their plans for making sure British citizens don't become Brexit's collateral damage (anymore than already, that is), and don't fall victim to the United Kingdom's bizarre desire to enact Brexit and leave the world's largest trading bloc. You're likely wondering why Croatia hasn't done so yet, at least not publicly. As Lance Corporal Jack Jones would have said: Don't panic.

Belgium, Italy, Germany, Spain and the Netherlands are just some of the EU countries to have come forward and assured Brits living and working in their countries that plans are firmly in place to make sure their lives go on undisrupted by this utter mess. That's a little too late for many after years of inexcusable limbo, but it's very welcome for many nonetheless.

But what about other countries, you might ask? What of, let's say, Romania? Romania has been eerily quiet on the matter despite having been given assurances that Romanian citizens living and working in the United Kingdom will remain protected and have their rights enshrined into UK law regardless of the Brexit outcome. The same assurances, with all due respect to Britain, have been given repeatedly to all other EU citizens legally residing in Britain. A new system has been set up which promises to be simple and as recent announcements have confirmed - totally free.

The UK has dropped its former demand for £65 for ''settled'' and ''pre-settled'' status after listening to the concerns of many, and EU citizens in the UK now have a very clear way of securing their rights before June 2021. The UK hasn't done much right since the non-binding referendum delivered a shock Leave result, but in making sure to put citizens and their acquired EU treaty rights first, it has been firm.

Everyone knows Croatia likes to drag its heels. It doesn't mean anything bad by it really, that's just what it does. That being said, it will gladly bow to whatever the EU asks of it, but in its own time. What do I mean by this? Well, to put it simply, MUP (Croatian Ministry of the Interior) has stated when asked (probably repeatedly) by Balkan Insight that there will be ''special rules'' in place for British citizens who have legal residence (biometric permit) in Croatia.

As Balkan Insight writes on the 22nd of January, 2019: ''The Interior Ministry in Croatia, which joined the EU in 2013, told BIRN that “special rules will be applied UK citizens who, on March 29, 2019, have regulated status of foreigner in the Republic of Croatia, which will allow [them] to maintain the right of residence.” But the ministry said it was “still developing in details the modalities of residence” of British citizens in Croatia after Brexit and how new documents would be issued.

The goal, it said, would be to allow British citizens and their families who have regulated status continued access, without restrictions, to the Croatian labour market. According to official data, currently 659 British citizens have regulated status in Croatia – 277 permanent residents and 382 with temporary residence.

The British embassy in Zagreb said it expected Croatia to reciprocate the commitment London made with regards the rights of citizens from the EU residing in Britain in the event of a no-deal scenario.''

So, what does this actually mean? It means that British citizens in Croatia can expect forthcoming reassurances like those which have been provided by a growing number of EU countries about their status, but the details must be finalised first. MUP knows it needs to do something. In any case, with assurances pouring in from other EU countries confirming the legal residence status of British citizens living in their countries, Croatia is sure to follow, just in its own time. Ever the lover of red tape and miraculously turning one sheet of paper into ten, it shouldn't come as a surprise that Croatia is dragging its heels. 

In any case, although the majority of what I wrote in my last article is now void (cheers, Theresa), what remains to be true is that as long as you hold a residence card and are known by the system, you don't need to worry.

You can apply for permanent residence when you've reached five years as you normally would for now, and if you're nowhere near that five year mark yet, just make sure you're properly registered and have a residence card that is valid.

Nobody wants to punish anybody for acting on their EU treaty rights, least of all Croatia after having the rights of its citizens guaranteed and set to be enshrined by London long ago, so make sure to follow us for any updates as we'll be sure to bring them as soon as we're informed of any, should the UK ever actually leave the EU at all.

Make sure to follow our dedicated politics page for more.