18 March 2019
We’re currently living in uncertain times, and although we’re all sick of the ‘B’ word, unfortunately we’re not done hearing about Brexit just yet. For expats who happen to be living in Spain, France or anywhere else in the EU, you must keep yourself up to date on advice as it's available. Not easy as it's still a moving feast. The UK Government have committed to providing country-specific information on their living in country guides for UK nationals moving or living abroad as it becomes available.
If you are planning on travelling on your holidays soon it's worth looking into expat travel insurance so your sorted for your trip.
Here we’ll try to provide the latest information on top questions raised by British expats living overseas in the EU.
Although there isn’t a wealth of reliable information available – and the sands are still shifting, keep an eye on the UK GOV website and sign up for their alerts so you know if new information is added. See https://www.gov.uk/guidance/advice-for-british-nationals-travelling-and-living-in-europe.
They also advise a variety of other key information sources to follow such the Government website of the EU country you are living in regarding Brexit. For example, for those living in Spain it's also worth checking: http://www.lamoncloa.gob.es/lang/en/brexit/howtoprepare/Paginas/citizens.aspx.
The most common question asked by British expats living in the EU is whether they can stay. You’ll be glad to hear that you can. There has been an agreement reached with the EU which enables people permanently living in the EU to continue to stay. The administration processes for ensuring you can retain your residency rights will vary from country to county. After the UK exits the EU, depending on where you live you may need to register with the authorities through a new registration system. If no-deal, you will likely have less time to apply. For example France allows one year to apply for new residency status. If an Implementation Period is agreed between the UK and EU as part of a Withdrawal Agreement, you’ll have until July 2021 to apply. For those who have been residents for over 5 years, you can apply for a permanent residency permit.
Each EU country Government / interior Ministry is working to come up with a system which allows British citizens living in the EU to continue to benefit from certain rights and privileges. Work here is not complete yet. You will certainly need to apply for some kind of residency card (eg: for France a “carte de séjour”), but the important thing is that you are entitled to one, subject to the same requirements as other EU Members. Keep an eye on UK Gov and your local Ministry websites and publications for UK nationals living in your EU country for further news.
It's not just retired expats in their twilight years enjoying all Spain, France and the rest of the EU has to offer, as thousands of Brits chose to live overseas with their young families. If the UK leaves with the Withdrawal Agreement in place, this will also cover schooling for UK Expats in the EU.
After the final Brexit date, whether it's April, May or beyond, the UK will no longer be a member of the EU. However, if the UK leaves with a Withdrawal Agreement, there will be an ‘Implementation Period’ / or ‘Transition Period’ as part of the deal. This is essentially a period of time to allow for the changes that will be required when everything can potentially stay the same as it is now. The implementation period that has been negotiated to date is set to last until December 31st 2020.
The good news is that deal or no deal - yes, you will. The UK Government will continue paying pensions, child benefits, and disability benefits to eligible UK nationals living in the EU after Brexit.
The UK has a draft Withdrawal Agreement (part of a ‘deal’ Brexit) which allows for current rights on accessing healthcare to continue until the end of 2020 and for the continued existence of reciprocal healthcare after this date. If we leave without a deal, then things aren’t so certain and your access to healthcare may change. If you are working in the EU as a UK national your access to healthcare through employment should stay unaffected.
No surprise that this depends on deal or no deal. If we leave with a deal, until the implementation period has drawn to a close, you will be able to move to another EU member state. After that point however, it’s all still up in the air as to what rules and restrictions may apply.
Direct family members will indeed be covered by a Withdrawal Agreement in precisely the same way as they are covered now. This is true for spouses, and partners, children under 21 (whether born before or after the Implementation Period), children over 21 who are financially dependent on parents, dependent grandparents and parents.
The simple answer to this question is yes you will if we leave with a Withdrawal Agreement. The terms and procedures will most likely vary if we leave without a deal and you will need to check the individual requirements for your country of residence.
The UK government was initially elected with the mantra of ‘votes for life’. Because of this, it is supporting a private member’s bill that, if it does become legal, will implement this mantra and enable you to vote, despite not having lived in the UK for longer than 15 years.
So what is certain is that you need to carry on keeping a close eye on the UK Gov and your country of residence Government websites to try and keep track on this unprecedented situation. It’s a good time to get your affairs in order but be prepared for large queues as thousands of others do so too. We wish you luck and hope that we see some concrete progress in the coming days.