Two years of negotiations with Brussels went up in flames last Tuesday (15/01/2019) after the UK parliament’s House of Commons emphatically rejected Theresa May’s proposed Brexit deal. The deal’s motion was defeated by a margin of 432 votes to 202, making this the greatest defeat ever suffered by a prime minister in British parliamentary history.
In the political turmoil that has ensued, only one prospect has increased in certainty. Previously the rank outsider, the ominous prospect of a no deal Brexit from the EU has now emerged from the fray as a distinct possibility.
Time still remains for a new deal to be struck. However, with the deep fissures that have opened within, in addition to between, the main British political parties, the ever louder calls for a second referendum and the date officially set for Brexit—29/03/2019—looming ever closer. Brexit’s final outcome is currently anyone’s guess.
In this article, we’ll look at how a number of the possible no deal Brexit consequences could affect the 1.3 million British expats living in Europe after Brexit.
Residency Rights After No Deal Brexit
For many British expats living in the EU, the most feared no deal Brexit consequences are those that could impact upon their right to remain living in their adopted EU country of residence. A no deal Brexit would lead to the overnight evaporation of EU citizenship for all British expats, and with it, their automatic right of abode in EU member states. Deportation is a frightening prospect under no deal circumstances, and theoretically at least, one that’s possible. In reality however, for Brits living in Europe after Brexit, the threat of immediate expulsion is very unlikely to materialise.
Although sadly it can’t always be relied upon, especially in politics, sheer common sense dictates that the retention of British expat communities lies within with the EU’s best interests. Expat communities are often economically valuable assets, and it’s therefore in the interest of host nations to protect the working and the residential rights of expats living under their jurisdiction.
Thankfully, this appears to be something that the EU, by and large, has recognised and is acting upon. The Netherlands has recently unilaterally announced that it will be implementing a 15-month post-Brexit grace period during which British expats will be able to apply for residency. Many other EU countries are, or have already followed suit.
Financial Implications of No Deal Brexit
A no deal Brexit would almost certainly take a heavy toll on the value of the pound. This could be very bad news for those British expats living in Europe after Brexit who get paid or receive their pensions in sterling. For them, a diminished post no deal Brexit pound would create to a sudden, potentially significant rise in the cost of living. This potential problem is exacerbated by the neigh on the impossibility of even approximating with reliable accuracy how much the value of the pound might suffer in relation to that of the euro. This produces difficulty in even planning for this eventually.
On top of a diminished pound, the effects of no deal Brexit could spell further financial problems for British pensioners living in the EU. Current agreements between the UK and the EU ensure that UK state pensions received by British pensioners residing in other EU member states rise in accordance with inflation in the same way that they do for British pensioners living in the UK. The scrapping of this arrangement would almost certainly number among the effects of a no deal Brexit. Consequently, in addition to the devaluation of the pound, British pensioners living in Europe after a no deal Brexit would likely be faced with the added financial pressure of a permanent inflation freeze on the income provided by their state pension.
Access to Healthcare After No Deal Brexit
Under the status quo, reciprocal agreements between the UK and each of the other EU member states ensure that UK citizens have access to free or reduced cost healthcare throughout the EU. A no deal UK exit from the EU could poetically leave Brits living in Europe after Brexit with no access to public healthcare services. If this scenario were to come into fruition, it’s considered likely produce an influx of sick and injured Brits suddenly denied healthcare in the EU returning to the UK. With the NHS still operating at the furthest stretch of its capacity, fears abound that these such possible effects of no deal Brexit could push it past the breaking point.
The British government has stated that it is working to protect the current agreements to ensure continued access to public healthcare services for Brits across the EU in the event of a no deal Brexit. No post-no-deal pledges have been signed so far however, and the protection of agreements as they currently stand cannot be guaranteed.
In their ‘EU citizens in the UK and UK nationals in the EU Policy Paper’ The Department for Exiting the EU state:
*Aspects of the reciprocal healthcare and social security coordination section of the Withdrawal Agreement require reciprocity from the EU or individual Member States and cannot be protected unilaterally. We are exploring options to protect past social security contributions, made in the EU and the UK, and reciprocal healthcare arrangements in the unlikely event of a ‘no deal’ scenario. We are in the early stages of discussions and will announce further details of such options prior to our exit to allow citizens to make appropriate arrangements.
*To ensure that you do not get caught without healthcare in the event of a No Deal Brexit, click here for a free insurance quote.
Travel Disruption After a No Deal Brexit
Travel disruption could also find itself a place on the list of no deal Brexit consequences. Without a Brexit deal having been struck prior to the UK’s withdrawal for the EU, airliners will be required to seek permissions to continue operating flights between the UK and EU member states. In theory, this could mean UK airspace might even be effectively rendered an indefinite no-fly zone for airliners flying from EU airports. Disruption of this magnitude is, however, highly unlikely. Although some disruption could well occur, severe, prolonged disruption is neither in the UK’s interest, nor that of the EU. It’s likely both would work quickly to resolve issues affecting flights. As such, If you’re a British expat living in Europe after Brexit, you may be faced with flight delays or cancelations, but the chances of finding yourself stranded on the continent long-term are reassuringly slim.
The effects of no deal Brexit for those British expats living in EU member states who regularly drive are likely to be more severe. British driving licence holders are currently permitted to drive on the roads of all other EU member states. However, following a no deal scenario, British expats living in the EU may be required to pass their specific country of residence’s driving test.
No deal Brexit consequences would likely also extend to Brit’s wanting to drive while visiting EU countries on short-term trips. In the event of a no deal Brexit, British drivers may be required to produce three types of international driving permits before they are legally allowed to drive in the EU, with different permits being required by different member states. Two of these permits, the 1949 and the 1926, are currently available for purchase in the UK for a small fee. The third—the 1968—is due to become available in the UK in the near future.
At current, Ireland is the only EU member state that has stated its intension to allow Brit’s to continue driving on its roads without the need for additional licenses or documentation, regardless of whatever eventual form Brexit takes.
Although the prospect of a no deal Brexit has increased in likelihood, it’s worth remembering that of the various potential Brexit scenarios, this remains the least favoured on both sides of the English Channel. Even in the event that the UK does part ways with the EU without a divorce settlement in place, it’s fair to imagine that the EU’s remaining member states will have devised contingency plans to minimalize the potential no deal Brexit consequences for expats outlined in this article. Doomsday is not likely to descend upon British expats living in the EU.
That isn’t said to encourage complacency however. If you’re a British expat planning to remain living in Europe following Brexit, we’d advise thinking about how a no deal Brexit could potentially impact you, and to make plans to mitigate potential issues as best you can before they arise. We hope you’ve found this article useful.
*In the latest news, the UK’s request to renegotiate the Brexit deal has been rejected by the EU’s chief negotiators. For more information, click here.
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