(This is the last of Universul.net’s three-part interview with British Ambassador to Romania, Andrew Noble)
Even though more than one million Romanians have officially settled in Britain post-Brexit, the country’s pragmatic approach to everyday life still surprises some Romanians, UK Ambassador to Romania says.
Romanians, and other Europeans sometimes find it hard to understand the way UK authorities relate to citizens in day-to-day affairs which is different to most other European countries.
“Romanians are more used to bureaucracy. I still have Romanians that do not believe me when I say there is no such thing as a British identity document and that you do not have to register where you live with the police,” Ambassador Andrew Noble told Universul.net in an October 28 interview.
“Lots of nationalities don’t understand why the utility bill acts as what in the other countries would be legal proof. But we’re very pragmatic people (with a) very low level of interaction between the police and the citizen going about law-abiding business.”
“The U.K. works on the basis of am I trusted to do this instead of: Do I have permission to do this?”
“If I break the law then I’ll be followed up on. But you don’t have to demonstrate everything. The fact that we don’t have the police recording where we live, proof of address, proof of residency is something very pragmatic in the UK.”
More than ten months after Britain left the European Union, the Ambassador noted there were many more Romanians in the UK than previous estimates.
“We’ve got 2.5 times the number of Romanians registered than anybody thought were living in the UK,” he said. “When I arrived here in 2018 everybody said there were about 400,000 and here we are with over one million.”
“There are 1,060,000 although we don’t know how many are actually there. Some left for Covid reasons.”
He said Romanians could leave without endangering their settlement status, but if they are away too long they could lose it.
“Traditionally (you are) allowed to be away for six months in a year. But because of things like professional or academic requirements, that enables you to be out of the U.K for longer.”
“The government readily accepts that because of Covid that some people will have been out of the country for even longer. But gov.uk has got very clear guidance of what the limits of the possible are…. I think they’re very generous.”
“ I won’t say they aren’t problems anywhere with the settlement scheme but there is so much focus on solving the problems. On helping vulnerable groups on funding NGO’S and structures within local government that are readily accessible,” to everyone.
The deadline was 6 months after we left the EU, but it had been open by that stage for 3 years. It attempted to be very flexible and citizen friendly,most of the difficult bits you can do on your mobile phone. “
Piece of plastic
“You as an individual have proof of your status and the state can look that up in its records. Who needs a piece of plastic?”
“Romanians and many other nationalities do not like the absence of a card. It’s a reflection of the different stages that the people have got to in automation,” he said.
The UK embassy in Romania for example is not involved in visa applications.
In a typical scenario where a Romanian wants to go and work in the UK: “They start their application online, if they need a visa for studying or working, family unification the process is done online.”
“They apply online if they have a smartphone they can upload their biometric data online, they need to send their passport in to have their visa applied, but they don’t need to go. All of the work is done in the U.K, various places, Sheffield etc.
Asked whether residence applications has gone smoothy, the ambassador answered diplomatically.
“It is quite easy to set the wrong tone. A lot of work (was) required to create solutions to processes and questions where there had been an answer up to a certain date and then that answer no longer applied.
„On immigration, police cooperation, new systems had had to be invented or old systems had had to be brought back to life in order that we did not lose what we had before in terms of cooperation and collaboration between the U.K. and other E.U. countries… It took a heck of a lot of work by U.K. officials and also member states.”
“Whatever people think (of Brexit), the job is now to get the best out of the situation we’ve got. The job of the diplomat has never been any different.”