Hard Brexit will damage the benefits of UK citizenship says new report

The outcome of Brexit negotiations could have a significant impact on the quality of the British nationality, new research suggests.

Aeroplane flying over flags from many nations
This article is taken from a series surrounding Relocate’s Festival of Global Mobility Thinking on 11 May 2018. The highly successful, interactive event included speakers such as Prof Dr Dimitry Kochenov, author of the Henley & Partners Quality of Nationality Index (QNI); and Dr Linda Holbeche, author of The Agile Organization. For more information and to find out how you can get involved in this unique event next year, contact: events@relocatemagazine.com 
Marianne Curphey looks at the Quality of Nationality Index (QNI) developed by Professor Dr Dimitry Kochenov, one of the Festival's expert speakers.Brexit will create new and significant problems for British citizens trying to travel, work or settle abroad, and a “hard Brexit” will overwhelmingly impairing the quality of the British nationality, according to an authoritative new study. “There will be fewer rights for British citizens all around the world,” says Prof Dr Dimitry Kochenov, chair in EU Constitutional Law, Department of European and Economic Law, and co-author of an authoritative new study into the benefits of nationality. “The new blue British passport will mean pain for British citizens. The Irish passport will become much more desirable.”

The Quality of Nationality Index

Launching the Henley & Partners – Kochenov Quality of Nationality Index (QNI), a study of international citizenship which ranks the objective value of world nationalities, Prof Kochenov said that in the Brexit talks, the margin for manoeuvre on immigration was “minute”. “The Customs Union does not necessarily imply the free movement of persons,” he explained. Without the freedom to live and work within the European Union, people with a UK nationality will have more in common with the citizens of Chile, Argentina and Canada, all of whom live in countries which have limited reciprocal travel, work and settlement rights around the globe, he added.“Only a fraction of the world enjoys the benefits of a good nationality,” he said. “Pre-Brexit, the UK is a world leader in satisfying its citizens. There is a discrepancy between the potential of your state and the nationality it gives you.” He cited as evidence the wide range of states where UK nationals were welcome to work and settle without hindrance or barriers – a situation which would not be the case after May 2019 when Britain leaves the EU. A ‘hard Brexit’ would see the UK losing its settlement and work rights in 30 of the world’s leading states, overwhelmingly impairing the quality of its nationality. But it could also increase tension and competition between the UK and the rest of Europe and potentially destabilise the nationalities of EU member states that had hitherto enjoyed close ties to the UK, the study claims.“The latest results from the QNI seem to anticipate this lose–lose scenario,” says Prof Kochenov. “Both the value of European nationality overall and the value of UK nationality in particular are in gradual decline, especially in relation to faster-growing economies such as China, the UAE, and the US, whose nationalities continue to increase in value each year.”It would be some time before emerging economies replaced Europe as the most desirable nationality, he said.“Europe remains the undisputed global leader in terms of nationality quality, and emerging economies would need an entire century of unchecked success to unseat it from this position. Accordingly, any loss will be felt much more acutely by an increasingly isolated Britain in the case of a hard Brexit.”
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The QNI study, now in its third year, looks at two groups of factors when assessing the quality of nationality and the benefits of holding a passport from a particular state. These are internal factors, such as the scale of the economy, human development, and peace and stability, and external ones, which include visa-free travel and the ability to settle and work abroad. The co-founders of the index, Prof Kochenov and Dr Christian Kälin, analysed data and weighed both the quality and diversity of destinations when drawing up rankings. Access to important trading blocs such as the US and EU was ranked higher than pure geographical size or number of countries available for citizens to settle in.As a result, the third edition, updated with 2017 data, provides a detailed analysis of contemporary trends in citizenship and migration regulation worldwide. 

What does it mean to have a good nationality?

Prof Dr Dimitry Kochenov is an expert in citizenship, nationality and immigration law. He is Chair of EU Constitutional Law at Groningen University in the Netherlands and also chairs the Investment Migration Council, a global association of investment migration professionals. His assessment of the post-Brexit landscape is a gloomy one. At present, access to Europe makes being British a high quality nationality. “Nationalities are of drastically different values,” he said. “Doing the same job in Switzerland or the Congo has a difference of 9,000 per cent. Nationality determines how much you can reach beyond the boundaries of your state, and affects your prospects in life.”The QNI looks beyond simple visa-free tourist or business travel and takes a number of other crucial factors into account – those that make one nationality a better legal status through which to develop your talents and business than another. “It is no secret that our nationalities have a direct impact on our lifestyles and on our freedom to think independently, do business, and live longer, healthier and more rewarding lives,” he said. “Having a substandard nationality is thus a significant liability, with long-lasting implications for the whole life-project of the holder.”

Quality of Nationality in Europe 

The United Kingdom is currently classed as providing an extremely high quality nationality, ranking 13th in the world and below France, Germany and Iceland in first, second and third places respectively. It has dropped one place since last year, and is down from number 5 in the whole world in 2011.The French nationality earned a score of 81.7 per cent out of a possible 100 per cent, fractionally ahead of Germany, which was knocked off the top spot for the first time in seven years, with a score of 81.6 per cent. While the difference between France’s and Germany’s results is relatively small, France’s comparative advantage lies in its greater Settlement Freedom (attributable mainly to the country’s former colonial empire). France tops the rankings dues to hits high scores in human development, freedom and diversity to travel and settle abroad, although it scored less well on the peace and stability criteria and on economic strength. The citizens of France, Denmark and the Netherlands are leaders because their citizens can settle in the larges numbers of states and territories abroad. They have access to more than 40 state territories and labour markets without any pre-authorisations. They are the most globally integrated citizenships available and have access to roughly one quarter of all the states in the world as hassle-free destinations to live and work. Ireland, which has seen an increase in passport applications from eligible Brits in the wake of the Brexit talks, is in joint 9th position with Switzerland, and just behind Norway, Sweden, Finland and Italy.Iceland and Denmark take 3rd and 4th place, respectively, on this year’s Index.The US increases its position by two ranks, claiming 27th place, with the country’s relatively poor standing on the Index primarily due to its low Settlement Freedom compared to EU member states. China climbs two places to rank 59th, and Russia maintains its position at 63rd place on the Index. This year, the UAE has for the first time ever overtaken Israel on the QNI, now ranking 46th, with Israel in 48th position. The Emirati nationality has climbed 13 positions over the past five years, making a significant leap forward when its holders received visa-free travel access to the Schengen Area in 2016.

Good economics does not mean good nationality

Economically strong countries can have relatively unattractive nationalities. For example, the nationality of India shares 106th place on the general ranking with the Senegalese nationality.Despite the further growth of the Qatari economy in 2017, its nationality has dropped 17 places to 87th place, turning the Qatari nationality into one of the fastest fallers in this year’s QNI edition.By contrast, small economies can offer nationalities of great value, such as those of Lithuania and Romania, which are ranked 22nd and 25th respectively. Georgian nationality has increased spectacularly over the past few years, from 107th place in 2013 to 84th place in 2017, despite the economy of the country being minuscule by global standards.Dr Christian Kälin, launching the report in London, said, “Our age is one of information, sometimes misinformation, mobility and change. There are more mobile phones than people. Internet access is widely available and the digital world is a largely borderless terrain. People can engage in global causes just as easily as they can in their local ones. There are 100 million new immigrants according to UN figures. We may grow up in one territory, go to school in another, work in a different one and then settle in another, and our children may do the same.”He said the “pioneers” of this new global mobility were France, Denmark and the Netherlands, while lagging at the bottom were Sri Lanka, Mongolia and Madagascar.“We set out to map this landscape, looking at what it is like to hold nationality in one country,” he said. “The country where you hold nationality will determine the quality of life you enjoy.”Prof Kochenov said the citizens of Europe, Switzerland, Japan, US, Australia enjoyed the most benefits, while Russia and Mexico provided high quality nationality. “Those nationalities ranked medium and low, instead of giving you rights as a citizen they give you a burden, they make living a normal life very difficult if not impossible,” he said. “That explains immigration. Yet only three per cent of people ever naturalise elsewhere and our glass ceilings are tragically different.”He gave Canada as an example of a developed and successful country with few reciprocal rights, and which ranks at 33 on the Index.“Canadians go through hell to get visas,” he said. “It is not the best passport to have in terms of relocating abroad. Americans are welcome in Albania, but Albania is not top of their list. Compare this with Malta, whose citizens can choose from almost 40 states where they can settle, and which provide settlement and visa-free residence.” Politics also plays a part, he said. “The growth of the economy of Qatar does not compensate for being cut off from the benefits of globalisation. The blockade instigated by Saudi Arabia has really hurt.”

The Brexit ramifications

The launch of the report was followed by a panel discussion on the likely effects of Brexit.Dr Kälin sounded an optimistic note, suggesting “there will be no hard Brexit for UK citizens.”“At the end of the day Britain is a very important economic player and the EU will for sure find an arrangement,” he said. “I am pretty sure there will be no hard Brexit for citizens. I believe that in practical terms we will see the rights of citizens preserved.”He suggested that Britain might benefit by joining up with Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and India and enjoying reciprocal travel and settlement rights. “The UK nationality could be even better than EU rights,” he concluded.

The difficulty of a post-Brexit trade

However, Vernon Bogdanor, Research Professor at the Institute for Contemporary British History, said that there was unlikely to be a deal available to the UK, which resembled the current Swiss arrangement. “There is no such thing as a soft Brexit,” he said. He cited the issues at the border between Turkey and Greece, where trans-border lorries were unable to move freely.He likened the UK’s decision to leave the EU to a member of a tennis club deciding to quit because they don’t like the rules and the subscription is too high.“The UK is in the position of being the supplicant to a rule-governed organisation,” he said. “You can diverge from the club and accept that we won’t get frictionless trade, but that will annoy the business and financial community. For the European Union there cannot be a successful Brexit – it is losing a member and so it needs to minimise the damage and maintain the integrity of the single market.”He concluded that the UK “may find the European Union is not a charitable organisation designed to help Britain out of a situation that she put herself in”.

Reaching a trade agreement 

Sir Christopher Meyer, former British Ambassador to the US and Germany, was more optimistic.“Taken from the point of view of the Man from Mars, it is utterly obvious that the EU and UK will reach a sensible agreement that is in the interests of both sides. Trouble is, when you look at the Brexit negotiations, all you can see is smoke,” he said. “When we come out at the other end the picture is not going to be very different from now. There will be a deal on trade, citizens, rules of origin, and jurisprudence.” Securing a deal was in the interest of the EU as much of the UK, he said. “They need our money, they need our fish.”More information on the report is available at https://nationalityindex.com/worldmap/BNO,BOT,GIB,BOC,BPP,BS,GBR,BNO,BOT,GIB,BOC,BPP,BSFor related news and features, visit our Brexit section. Find out more about our Relocate AwardsRelocate’s new Global Mobility Toolkit provides free information, practical advice and support for HR, global mobility managers and global teams operating overseas.Access hundreds of global services and suppliers in our Online DirectoryClick to get to the Relocate Global Online Directory 

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