It doesn’t matter where you are living in Europe, we’re sure you’ve heard the news:
The United Kingdom has voted 52% to 48% in favour of leaving the European Union.
Yes, Brexit is here.
It’s really happening.
It will take months to digest the full gravity of this result. However, many British expats are deeply concerned about what Brexit means for their short and long term future outside the UK.
Particularly the many Brits currently living in Europe.
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Brexit: What Changes for Brits Living in Europe?
The simple answer is… we don’t know.
The only thing we know for sure is the legal protocol of what happens next.
The UK government must decide if/when to trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which starts a countdown of two years for the sides to negotiate the terms of the UK’s withdrawal.
If no agreement is reached after those two years, the UK/EU relationship ceases to exist. What that means for Europeans living in the UK, and Brits living on the continent, is the source of much 24/7 news coverage. We simply do not know.
What we do know is that both the UK and the EU have moved quickly to ensure nothing will change for expats until after the two years of negotiation are over following Article 50, or an early agreement is met (highly unlikely).
“There will be no change for EU citizens already lawfully resident in the UK,” the Leave campaign said.
This also applies to Brits in Europe, and has been confirmed by various EU officials in the aftermath of the referendum.
The message is that until Brexit is formally triggered and executed, there will be no change to the existing freedom of movement enjoyed by Brit expats and Europeans alike.
Should I Get a European Passport after Brexit?
A 2 year respite may help to settle the money markets, but for Brits living in Europe and planning out the rest of their lives, it is hardly going to lower the stress levels.
None of us like uncertainty.
And this is a Big Old Can of Worms as far as uncertainty goes.
The Guardian has reported a rush of 1,500 Brits seeking to acquire dual-nationality passports, the direct result of uncertainty over what will happen after the negotiation period.
As one student, Declan McAlister, says:
“I did it to keep my options open, really. I applied for an Irish passport last week because I was so worried about the result. I wanted to make sure I could still move freely around Europe regardless of what happens.”
For Brits with the option of applying for dual-nationality, either through citizenship or naturalisation, it is a path worth considering.
However, dual citizenship comes with several disadvantages, such as the potential of double taxation and a weaker UK passport as a result.
Brits in Europe: What Happens Next
When the UK Government triggers Article 50, assuming it does, one of the leading issues will be whether the UK maintains access to the single market.
The EU insists that access to the single market can only come with complete freedom of movement. It is a red line issue; the source of David Cameron’s struggles to re-negotiate Britain’s place in the EU (before the people voted out).
If the UK concedes to freedom of movement, with the so-called Norway arrangement for example, then nothing is likely to change for Brits living in Europe.
If, however, the UK negotiates a Canadian-style arrangement based on free trade but with freedom of movement limitations, this could have a profound effect on the ability of Brit expats to settle in Europe — but it is unlikely to change the situation for Brits already living in Europe.
Several European leaders have been quick to reassure that Brexit will have no effect on immigrants already living overseas — their full rights will be protected.
This point has been reiterated by Boris Johnson, head of the Leave campaign and odds-on favourite to become next Prime Minister.
Whatever happens in the UK, it seems highly unlikely that those Brits already living abroad (or Europeans in Britain) will be forced to leave their adopted homes.
Of course, we hope that sanity prevails on this point.
Either way, you can expect plenty of turmoil in the markets and a never-ending stream of speculation in the media as negotiations are thrashed out.
Welcome to the World, Post Brexit!
Are you concerned for British expats living in Europe? Is Brexit a positive move?
Let us know what you think of the result.