Passport control at London Heathrow Airport (in March)
Photo: TOBY MELVILLE / REUTERS
Brexit is making life difficult for many people in the UK. Rising prices, problems on the labour market and, last but not least, new hurdles in travel are just some of the consequences of leaving the European Union. But Brexit is also having a negative effect in the other direction.
Since leaving the EU, the United Kingdom has denied entry to significantly more citizens from Germany and EU countries. Until 2020, between 20 and 110 Germans per year were initially turned away at British borders, but the number skyrocketed after London's exit from the EU customs union and the single market.
In 2021, 251 Germans were affected, and in 2022 as many as 805 – ten times as many as in 2019, the last normal travel year before the pandemic. This is according to data from the British Ministry of the Interior, which the dpa news agency has evaluated.
The same trend can be observed for the whole of the EU. In 2021, about 16,500 EU citizens were turned away and in 2022 even almost 17,000 – almost a sixfold increase compared to 2019. However, it was suggested by the British Home Office that those affected had not submitted the necessary documents. Germans now also need a passport to enter the United Kingdom as tourists, an identity card is not enough.
The figures include both pre-checks, such as at ports or Eurostar terminals in the EU, and post-arrival checks in the UK. The statistics do not indicate whether the initially rejected travellers were allowed to enter the UK at a later date.
In 2016, a narrow majority of people in the United Kingdom voted for Brexit. At the end of January 2020, the country left the EU. There was still a transition period until the end of the year, but since January 1, 2021, the UK is no longer a member of the EU customs union or the single market. Since then, EU citizens have also needed a visa if they want to live and work in the country. This does not apply to those who had entered the country by 31 December 2020.
British government: Regain control of borders
"The large number of EU citizens being stopped at the British borders is extremely worrying," Andreea Dumitrache of the organization The 3 Million, which looks after the rights of EU citizens after Brexit, told dpa. The Ministry of Internal Affairs is creating a hostile environment. "Since Brexit, EU citizens have been treated with suspicion," Dumitrache said.
The EU was cautious. "We have closely followed these statistics, which may be a consequence of the end of freedom of movement," it said in response to a dpa request. "We have had contact with the member states and the British Home Office in the past." Diplomats in London, on the other hand, expressed concern about the development in intimate conversations.
The British government made it clear that the development is intentional. "The British have voted for us to regain control of our borders, and that's what we're delivering," the Home Office in London said in response to a dpa request. "Border Guards may stop all arriving passengers for the purpose of further investigation if they are not immediately satisfied that they are eligible to enter the country."