Brexit: What does it mean for expats, here and in the EU?

Approximately 1.3 million Britons live and work in Europe. Spain’s sunny climes are the biggest draw for expats – Ireland and France are also popular.

In these countries British people have taken advantage of the right to free movement and employment.

Under Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union, Britain has two years to arrange new deals with EU member states – but in the meantime what should expats, both Brits abroad and EU nationals here, look out for, now the UK has voted to leave the EU?

What about British expats in the EU?

Many British expats own property in Europe and the likelihood is that they’ll be able to continue to do so. The main issue to be aware of is a potential change in inheritance and tax laws.

Of course, if the pound remains weak many expats may use the opportunity to re-enter the British property market.

Working in the EU could become more difficult for UK expats if host countries ask them to comply with more restrictive rules when it comes to permits and setting up businesses. They may lose their automatic right to work within the EU area and be asked to apply for Blue Cards.

It’s very unlikely that people already living and working abroad will be sent back to the UK – but it could become substantially more difficult for new expats to find work.

They could fall foul of the rule which exists in 15 EU member states, which says that you can only be hired if no other suitable candidate has been found within the EU area.

“[The] Brexit vote throws into serious doubt the rights of UK expats to work in EU countries,” says George Peretz QC, an expert in EU law. “Everything depends on the arrangements that the UK enters into with the EU after withdrawal.”

How will Europeans working in the UK fare?

The personal finances of the three million EU nationals living and working in the UK will also be affected. The biggest group of Europeans living here are Poles, followed by Irish nationals and then Germans.

European expats living here will be affected by any general economic consequences of Brexit as much as the rest of the UK’s citizens.

However, they could be more exposed to a fall in the pound as their salaries won’t go as far when they travel home. Similarly the value of any remittances sent back to their countries of origin will also fall.

What about the right to work in the UK?

This is another issue which will have to be renegotiated with the rest of Europe.

Some EU nationals could be left without the right to work in the UK – in which case they would have to apply for work permits or visas.

Britain already has a points-based system for non-EU citizens who apply to live and work here. That could be extended to EU citizens as well.

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