To say that Brexit has rocked the world would be an understatement. While the United Kingdom was divided neatly in half about the issue during voting, everyone in Europe can agree that big changes are in the future and that the transition period promises to be rather rocky. Nobody is as heavily affected by Brexit as expats. For British citizens living elsewhere in the European Union and EU citizens living in the United Kingdom, the future is confusing and a bit frightening. What is in store for UK and EU citizens living between zones post-Brexit? Nobody knows for sure what Europe will look like after Brexit, but that doesn’t mean we have to be in the dark about the future. Here are some things that expats need to know about life after Brexit.
Deal or No Deal? Much of what the future holds for expats depends on what sort of deal the UK will make with the EU. A deal with the EU would cover freedom of movement, emergency healthcare, residency rights, and work permits, to scratch the surface. There is also a possibility that no deal whatsoever will be made. If this is the case, residency and other rights will disappear. Expats will then fall into the same category that other expats (like United States expats, for example) fall into. Currently, it looks like both sides would prefer a deal that is beneficial to both sides, and both UK and EU officials have recognised the importance of EU and UK expats’ status.
Status in the Case of No Deal. If there is no deal between the UK and the EU, the United Kingdom and individual European countries can still make policies or deals to handle the issue of expats. Any nation can opt to offer emergency healthcare, residency status, and work visas to UK citizens, and vice versa. At the end of the day, the European Union is only a collection of individual entities and states still have the power to create their own policies.
Healthcare. European Health Insurance Cards will become invalid for UK citizens in the case of no deal. This will take away health care rights from UK citizens in the rest of Europe, and may even cause UK citizens to lose the ability to seek emergency medical care in the European Union.
Immigration. There is a real possibility that for EU citizens already living in the United Kingdom, few changes are in store. United Kingdom officials have hinted that existing EU expats may be allowed to retain their currents rights and status. The same cannot be said quite as confidently for UK citizens in the EU, but a deal that is good for the UK would still preserve many, if not most, of the current rights of UK citizens living abroad. There’s bad news, however, for people who would like to immigrate to the United Kingdom. The UK intends to reduce immigration significantly, cutting almost two-thirds of current annual immigration.
Transition. Britain’s transition out of the European Union is inevitable at this point, but there are many forms this transition could take. The political Brexit process is expected to take two years, but a full transition could take longer, depending on what deals are signed. If the UK made an abrupt exit at the end of the two-year period, things would literally change overnight. A longer transition would be beneficial to expats. This could give you time to get things in place and to figure out what changes you will have to make in your own life. In either case, it is a good idea to stay informed during those two years and be prepared for either scenario.