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Oct 01

How Brexit is set to affect British expats in the EU

Reading Time: 2 mins

Brexit is set to bring about some of the most wholesale changes seen in Britain in decades. Much of the early debate focused on the matter of immigration, which the UK government has now confirmed will move to a points-based system. But what about the rights of British expats living and working in the EU?

There is a degree of uncertainty around the number of Britons living in the EU, though official estimates place it at around three quarters of a million. The majority are workers – not retirees – and many are young people seeking better opportunities and experiences elsewhere.

Lots of them will feel concerned about where they’ll stand come January 1st 2021, particularly amid a global pandemic. So what can our expats expect as Britain moves into a new era?


British rights in the EEA after the transition period

Those intending to stay in their host countries will be relieved to know that the UK has agreements with 31 countries in the European Economic Area (EEA) to protect what are broadly the same rights as they have now.

Existing British expats can continue to live, work and travel in the EU after January 1st. The same goes for British citizens moving before the end of the transition period.

British citizens living in or moving to the EU during the transition period will need to secure residence status to remain. The deadline to do so looks set to change due to the pandemic, however. Expats can contact Withers for guidance if they’re unsure about their rights.


What about British citizens in Ireland?

British citizens in Ireland will see their rights remain without needing to secure settled status. This continuation is thanks to the Ireland Act 1949, which will remain in place beyond Brexit.

British qualifications won’t automatically be recognised as things stand however, so expats are being advised to have them approved by an Irish regulator.


How will travel in and out of the EU work?

The UK has been added to the EU’s list of visa-exempt countries, which means British citizens can still travel in the EU for up to 90 days within a 180-day period without applying for a visa.

They may be asked for more information about their stay however, and will need travel insurance and passports with at least six months’ validity after their trip.

British nationals can travel the other way with non-EU family members providing they knew them before the end of the transition period. They will need to apply for the government’s EU Settlement Scheme should they wish to remain in the UK.


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