The burning questions about Brexit facing British expats

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The burning questions about Brexit facing British expats
Sarlat in the Dordogne where there are many concerned Britons right now. Photo: Ben Salter/Flickr

The only thing certain about Brexit at the moment is that Britons in France and elsewhere in the EU are asking a lot of questions about the future.


No-one will be asked to move home or even be made to apply for a visa or residency permit just yet, and we have been assured by both David Cameron and Boris Johnson (for what that's worth anymore) that our rights will be maintained.

While at this moment there are no real answers for expats, it doesn't stop them dwelling on the issues they may soon face.  

What about my job?

For those that have stable jobs in big companies, this may not be a major concern. While leaving the EU would mean losing the automatic right to work most expect reciprocal deals to be set up to enable to Britons to continue working abroad. However nothing is certain.

Will we have to get visas or some kind of work permits? Will unskilled workers still be able to find work in France easily? These questions may be more appropriate for those who may want to move to France in the future.

What about healthcare?

Health treatment is currently free for those travellers with a European health insurance card (EHIC) and for UK state pensioners living in the European Economic Area. 

As a result tens of thousands of British retirees currently enjoy free health care in France. That deal will automatically end when Britain pulls out of the EU and separate deals with European nations will have to be struck.

Before joining what was then the EEC, the UK had reciprocal health agreements with many European nations, including Spain, so a new deal is likely on the cards.

What will Brexit do to our pensions?

"My pension dropped by 10 percent in a matter of days." That's what many British retirees have been muttering since the shock referendum vote saw the pound tumble.

Anyone who relied on savings and income from properties has also been hit and now face a tough decision on whether to transfer more money over or wait and hope the value of the pound rises again

If British citizens are still permitted to retire in an EU state, they may find their pensions affected, not least because at present, anyone who retires within the European Economic Area, has their state pension increased every year under the “triple-lock” system. 

This means that pensions rise by the higher of wage or price inflation, subject to a minimum of 2.5pc. Which isn't the case for pensioners who retire to Canada for example. Their pensions are frozen.

With Brexit the UK will have to negotiate individual reciprocal agreements with EU countries if annual state pension increases for expats were to continue. 

While many believe the UK will able to negotiate protections for expat pensioners some analysts point out that the UK has not arranged a similar deal with a non-EU country since 1981.

"With a cash strapped government in the UK, they could just decide to freeze our pensions," fears said John Collyer, who lives in the Eymet, in the Dordogne.

Photo: Tommy Hemmert Olesen/Flickr 

Border checks

(Sergei Vladimiriv/Flickr)


Would British Citizens would have to pass through NON-EU gates at the EU borders which would be likely to prove onerous with more detailed inspection?

What about money transfers?

In theory if Brexit happens the individual EU States could impose a tax on money coming from the UK.  "It has happened before," says France-based British expat Brian cave.

"The British Government could impose ceilings on money going abroad – it has done so before," he added.



Will my driving license still be valid?

Just as in the case of UK passports, driving licences issued in the UK are EU-branded and will have to be phased out as people renew them. But post Brexit will British driving licenses be valid in France or will people living here have to apply for French ones? What about those expats who have already got themselves a French driving licence? Will they be valid if and when you return to post-Brexit Britain?

“My British driving license is due to expire and I don’t whether I should renew with the DVLA or start the Spanish application and if I do will have to reapply if I move back?” asked Samantha, an English teacher living in Spain.

Will Brexit bother my four-legged companion?

Remember those days when pets had to suffer six-months of quarantine to bring them into the UK? The EU pet passport scheme put an end to that but for the thousands of Brits who take their furry pals back and forth between France and the UK each year, Brexit could be a disaster.

It could also have a dire impact on the charities that seek British homes for the animals abandoned in overcrowded shelters across France.

Can I still get involved in local life?

As a citizen of the EU, Britons in France have not only been able to vote in local elections in France, but they have also been able to stand for office, which scores of them have done.

Local villages have often encouraged Britons to joined the local councils which is seen as a way of helping integration between the two communities in areas where there are large numbers of expats.

What about the study abroad programme?

The Erasmus+ scheme is an EU programme open to education, training, youth and sports organizations. It offers opportunities for UK participants to study, work, volunteer, teach and train in Europe. And thousands of British students opt to study in France each year and vice versa.

Jo Johnson, Minister of State for Universities and Science, released this statement following the referendum result:

"The referendum result does not affect students studying in the EU, beneficiaries of Erasmus+ or those considering applying in 2017. The UK’s future access to the Erasmus+ programme will be determined as a part of wider discussions with the EU.

"More broadly, existing UK students studying in the EU, and those looking to start in the next academic year, will continue to be subject to current arrangements."

But after Brexit, who knows?

 Photo: Flickr

What will happen to roaming charges?

Mobile phone users across Europe are looking forward to the complete removal of roaming charges between EU states in June 2017 but the controls were introduced under an EU regulation and are not incorporated into UK law.

So the UK will have to negotiate their own deal with mobile phone operators once Brexit occurs or we will all be looking at a hike in roaming charges on trips back to Blighty.

Photo: AFP



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