Bulgaria’s government approved at its January 30 sitting the EU withdrawal agreement negotiated between Britain and the European Commission, but also an action plan in case the UK leaves the bloc in a no-deal scenario.
“In a managed departure by the UK, the maximum continuity will be guaranteed as regards citizen rights, our financial interests, existing trade and transport links, with minimal gaps in relations. At the same time, given the current state of the Brexit process, Bulgaria is preparing for a no-deal departure,” the Cabinet’s media office said.
Under both scenarios, Bulgaria will have to make legislative changes, boost its administrative capacity and carry out an information campaign, the government said.
The key areas to address were amendments to the Foreigners Act, as well as updating regulations on its implementation; increasing the staff at the Bulgarian consulate in London and opening a new consulate in Edinburgh; consultations with the European Commission, other EU member states and the UK government on changes to the legislative framework; and a wide information campaign on the changes resulting from Brexit.
This campaign is to include 20 information meetings for Bulgarian nationals residing in different parts of Britain, daily consular consultations for Bulgarian nationals on the process of registering as foreign residents, seminars on how Brexit will impact the social security payments of Bulgarian nationals residing in the UK, and information meetings with businesses on the impact of UK’s departure from the EU.
Several ministries, including foreign affairs, interior, justice and tourism will set up Brexit sections on their websites to host relevant information, the Cabinet statement said. The Government also said it was ready to assist the British embassy in Sofia for any information campaigns about the rights of British nationals that reside in Bulgaria.
However, the Cabinet did not specify any deadlines regarding such information meetings, given the continued uncertainty surrounding the terms of Britain’s departure from the EU with less than two months remaining before the target Brexit date of March 29 2019.
The Cabinet decision comes on the same day that a group of ministers met with an European Commission working group to discuss potential issues that could arise under a no-deal Brexit.
“Great Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is its choice, but we must minimise the unpleasant repercussions and make life after Brexit easier for businesses and citizens,” Bulgaria’s Foreign Minister Ekaterina Zaharieva said after the meeting. She said that the Cabinet supported the EU unity approach in Brexit negotiations.
“As regards EU citizens, in particular Bulgarian nationals, London undertook the commitment that those residing in the UK on March 29 will keep their rights. Consequently, the Bulgarian Government today made a reciprocal commitment that British citizens, about 7000 who reside in Bulgaria, to have an easy and simple registration process. They are welcome here,” Zaharieva said.
In case of a no-deal Brexit, there would be no visas for UK citizens travelling to Bulgaria for short periods of time (up to 90 days). “This is important for us, because there are about 340 000 British tourists who visit Bulgaria every year. They should be able to travel without worries,” Zaharieva said.
For its part, the European Commission continued publishing its no-deal contingency measures on January 30, with proposals regarding the Erasmus+ students, social security coordination rules and the EU budget.
Over the past year, the Commission has published 88 sector-specific preparedness notices to inform the public about the consequences of a no-deal Brexit and has made 18 legislative proposals in the context of its Brexit preparedness and contingency work.
(Illustration: Tiocfaidh ár lá 1916/flickr.com)