How leaving the EU could affect British expatriates in Europe

Leaving the European Union will affect most UK nationals to varying degrees, but those living in or owning property in Europe will have specific concerns about their future.

While we have to wait and see how negotiations unfold to establish the UK’s relationship with the EU from April 2019 onwards, there are some things that should not be affected.

This guide looks at what we currently know about the key concerns for expatriates in Europe, as well as steps you can take to prepare for Brexit.

Posted 03 January 2018

Prime Minister Theresa May publishes message to UK nationals living in Europe

Following the agreement on citizens’ rights reached between the UK and EU in December 2017 (which will be included in the overall withdrawal agreement), the UK Government published a letter the Prime Minister wrote to UK British expatriates living in Europe. Read more


Posted 09 December 2017

Brexit breakthrough on citizens' rights - what it means for you

A landmark agreement has been reached in Brexit talks which should cement the rights of UK citizens resident in other EU countries.

The key for UK nationals living abroad is that for those with permanent residence status it preserves the rights of residence locally in that EU country, including health benefits.

Prime Minister Theresa May and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker presented a joint “progress report” on 8th December outlining the key areas of agreement. Focusing on the three priority issues – citizens’ rights, the Irish border and financial settlement – it paves the way for the EU27 to unlock the next phase of negotiations. The the key aspect we feel is the implications for citizens’ rights and particularly UK nationals living in – or planning to move to – other EU countries.

What does this mean for you?

Three key points noted in the joint UK-EU statement are that:

UK nationals…who are legally resident in the host State by the specified date, fall within the scope of the Withdrawal Agreement’


…those already holding a permanent residence document issued under Union law at the specified date will have that document converted into the new document free of charge.’


…Rules for healthcare… will follow Regulation (EC) No 883/2004. Persons whose competent state is the UK and are in the EU27 on the specified date (and vice versa) … continue to be eligible for healthcare reimbursement, as long as that stay, residence or treatment continues.

We consider below the implications for UK citizens who are:

1)  Registered as permanently resident in another EU country

Our clients who already have official permanent residence status in their country of residence, such as Spain, France, Portugal, Cyprus or Malta, can look forward to a secure future in their chosen country of residence.

The confirmation that the rules for healthcare will continue for those who are resident in an EU27 country on the specified date is particularly welcome. It means that those who qualify for healthcare under current rules will continue to do so as long as they remain resident in countries such as those noted above.

2)  Have a home in an EU country – but are not registered as tax resident

If you wish to become permanently resident in an EU country, the clock is ticking.

You need to start looking at obtaining official permanent residence status ahead of the UK’s withdrawal date (currently scheduled for 29th March 2019). We would encourage you to start that process now as there are likely to be lots of others applying to the authorities.

We can advise you how to benefit from the local tax rules to ensure you are in the best financial situation to enjoy life in your chosen country.

3)  Living in the UK and considering moving to another EU country

The joint statement serves as a call to action to accelerate your plans so that you can become a permanent resident in your country of choice ahead of the withdrawal date in March 2019.

We can advise you on local rules, laws and taxation. Talk to us as soon as possible, however, as the steps you take in the UK in this tax year can have a positive impact on your situation, compared with delaying them until you have changed your residence.

To let us help guide you on the implications for your situation please contact your Partner or Private Client Manager if you are an existing client, or contact us here if you are new to Blevins Franks.

The points above are based on the Joint UK-EU Joint report from the negotiators of the European Union and the United Kingdom Government on progress during phase 1 of negotiations under Article 50 TEU on the United Kingdom's orderly withdrawal from the European Union put to the meeting of the European Council (Article 50) of 14-15 December 2017, and which it is planned will subsequently be incorporated into the overall withdrawal agreement


Other Brexit news 

Keep checking this page for the latest news and opinion on how Brexit may affect expatriates living in or planning to move to France, Spain, Portugal, Cyprus, Malta, Monaco or Gibraltar. You can also sign up for our email newsletters for regular updates on Brexit and other relevant news.


Posted 08 December 2017

Expatriates’ rights safeguarded with Brexit breakthrough 

A landmark agreement has been reached in Brexit talks to cement citizens’ rights on both sides. What does this mean for expatiates in the EU? Read more

Posted 30 November 2017

Crunch-time for Brexit talks - can we move on? 

After six official rounds of Brexit talks, December is the crucial month when the EU27 decides whether “sufficient progress” has been made to move Brexit negotiations to the next phase. We explore the remaining sticking points and implications for expatriates... Read more

Posted 23 October 2017

Spain welcomes British expatriates, deal or no deal  

The Spanish foreign minister, Alfonso Dastis, has reassured UK nationals living in Spain that they are welcome to stay, whatever happens with Brexit. 

With Brexit negotiations considered to be behind schedule – and deadlocked in some key areas, including the ‘divorce bill’ – there is much speculation about a ‘no deal’ scenario. If Britain is unable to secure a withdrawal agreement in time for the day the UK leaves the EU, this could potentially leave citizens on both sides in limbo regarding their rights. 

The commitment from Spain

Spain has been the first country to offer British expatriates the right to remain – in any event. “If there is no deal”, Dastis stated, “we will make sure that the lives of ordinary people who are in Spain – the UK people – are not disrupted.” 

Over 17 million Brits come to Spain every year and many of them live here or retire here and we want to keep it that way as much as possible”, he added.

While other member states have not yet offered such a public commitment, this is encouraging for expatriates elsewhere, as countries enjoying a similarly close relationship with the UK may follow Spain’s lead.

Theresa May’s call for urgency on citizens’ rights

However, for British Prime Minister Theresa May, a no-deal outcome on citizens’ rights is not an option. Having vowed to “put people first”, she stated that she was looking to secure reciprocal expatriate rights with “an urgency”.

In an open letter to EU citizens posted on her Facebook page, she claimed that they are "in touching distance" of finding an agreement on rights for citizens on both sides.

I have been clear throughout this process that citizens’ rights are my first priority”, she continued, “and I know my fellow leaders have the same objective: to safeguard the rights of EU nationals living in the UK and UK nationals living in the EU.”

Next steps

On completion of a two-day summit on 20th October, the EU27 agreed to start internal discussions about the next phase of negotiations, which would move beyond divorce-related topics to explore the future relationship. This includes considering Theresa May’s proposed two-year transition period (potentially delaying Brexit until 2021) as well as trade arrangements. However, before official talks can begin, the UK is expected to provide a clearer financial commitment and more concrete proposals on citizens’ rights and the Irish border. The EU27 is set to decide on 14th December whether “sufficient progress” has been made to move onto this next phase.

The Prime Minister has stated that they are examining the divorce bill “line by line” to reach an agreeable settlement and shift negotiations onto the next stage as soon as possible.

See our latest news articles on Brexit 


Posted 03 October 2017

Brexit talks offer more certainty on citizens' rights 

The fourth round of Brexit talks ended with the UK and the EU reaching more agreement on some key areas affecting expatriates... Read more


Posted 27 September 2017

Freedom of movement could stay until 2021 

Britain has entered the fourth round of Brexit talks in the wake of a high-profile request for a two-year transition period from the Prime Minister. 

Speaking in Florence on 22 September, Theresa May pledged that Britain would continue to follow EU rules until 2021 – including freedom of movement for EU citizens in Britain – in return for uninterrupted access to the single market. 

This offer is widely seen as an attempt to break a deadlock in Brexit negotiations and avoid a potential ‘cliff-edge’ for citizens and businesses on both sides in March 2019. 

How did the EU respond?

While this was “a step forward” according to EU chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, he stressed that the “concrete implications” needed to be laid out in the formal negotiations. In the past, he has made it clear that a transition deal is possible only if the UK meets three key conditions: 

  • accepting free movement of EU citizens 
  • paying its share of EU bills 
  • maintaining the authority of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) over legal matters.

Is this achievable?

In her speech, the Prime Minister agreed that Britain could not expect to continue receiving EU benefits without meeting its obligations. However, her proposals dampen free movement by requiring all new arrivals into Britain after 29 March 2019 to be registered. 

Also, so far, she has only agreed to pay a divorce bill of around €20 billion up to 2020, falling short of the estimated €50-€100 billion payment expected by the EU. Another issue that may threaten a transition deal is Britain’s reluctance to allow the ECJ to override British courts. However, the Prime Minister has now offered more flexibility by signalling a future role for the ECJ in settling disputes on British soil. 

Theresa May also offered to incorporate legal protections for EU citizens into UK law to address concerns that “over time, the rights of EU citizens in the UK and UK citizens overseas will diverge”. This offers more certainty than previous proposals, which would have allowed MPs to alter EU citizens’ rights.

While everything still depends on how negotiations develop, European Council president, Donald Tusk, welcomed Britain’s “constructive and more realistic” tone. Following a meeting with the Prime Minister in Downing Street while negotiations took place in Brussels, he regarded the end of Britain’s initial “having a cake and eating it” approach as a positive step towards securing mutual agreement. 

See our latest news articles on Brexit 


Posted 29 August 2017

Britain spells out its position prior to third round of Brexit talks 

By releasing seven policy papers in as many days, the UK has gone into the latest round of Brexit negotiations with some of its cards laid on the table. So what more do we know as the latest discussions get underway? 

UK pushes for earlier trade talks

The UK’s series of policy papers was published in the third week of August to “inform discussion” with the EU27 in the next round of negotiations. These outline how it wants to progress in certain areas, with a particular focus on trade and customs. 

However, before discussing how the future relationship with Britain would work post-Brexit, the EU27 want to stick to the original timetable by focusing on immediate issues to do with Britain leaving the EU – including citizens’ rights. Chief EU negotiator, Michel Barnier, stated that trade talks could only begin after “sufficient progress” has been made to agree reciprocal residency rights, the border with Ireland and the UK’s divorce bill.

Onward freedom of movement

One key area that is still unclear is whether Britons living in an EU country after Brexit would be able to move freely to another country within the bloc. In a letter to the House of Lords, Brexit minister David Davis claimed that the EU27 will only agree to lock residency rights for UK nationals in their country of residence at the point of Brexit. So if, for example, a Briton resident in Portugal wanted to relocate to Spain after April 2019, they would be unable to do so without having to apply for visas and permits as a non-EU citizen.

"We have questioned whether this is consistent with the principle of reciprocity” said Davis, “and also with the Commission's desire to protect rights currently enjoyed under EU law. This will be the subject of further discussion in due course."

As with most issues, much depends on citizens’ rights being mirrored on both sides. Whether Britain can secure more flexible terms for existing expatriates in Europe depends on the concessions agreed for EU citizens living in the UK. As it stands, Theresa May’s government is reluctant to extend the automatic right to return to EU citizens who leave Britain for more than two years, unless they can prove strong ties to the UK. 

Britain relaxes stance on European court

One of the policy papers suggested a potential softening of the government’s position on how much power the European courts should have on UK law after Brexit. 

The EU have maintained that EU citizens must continue to be protected by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) while living in the UK post-Brexit. But the Prime Minister has insisted that with Brexit the UK would "take back control of our laws" and have authority over disputes within its borders. 

Although the position paper indicates the UK still wants to sever the “direct jurisdiction” of the ECJ in March 2019, it suggests European courts may have a role in resolving future disputes. While it is not clear what form ‘indirect’ involvement would take, for disputes concerning citizens’ rights, for example, this might mean an independent tribunal made up of both UK and EU judges.

As this issue has been such a ‘red line’ for both sides in negotiations so far, this could be an indication that a compromise could be reached in this area. And as the ECJ permeates many different aspects of Britain’s relationship with the EU including trade and citizens’ rights, agreement here could smooth the path for other issues on the table.   


Posted 21 July 2017

Citizens’ rights still a priority but agreement yet to be reached 

The second round of Brexit talks has uncovered a “fundamental divergence” between Britain and the EU on how to protect citizens’ rights. While both sides have reiterated that providing certainty for expatriates is still a shared priority, they have different views on how this should be achieved. 

What do they agree on?

Following four days of discussions, Chief EU negotiator, Michel Barnier, and UK Brexit minister, David Davis, confirmed there were several points of agreement. “We have looked at each other’s proposals in depth and identified many concrete areas where we agree as well as areas where there will be further discussion, which will be a priority for the next round” said Mr Davis. 

A joint policy paper summarising the UK and EU positions on citizens’ rights shows that areas where both sides have reached agreement include:

  • Maintaining existing conditions for acquiring residency
  • Providing permanent residents with the same social security, healthcare, education, training and employment opportunities as citizens
  • Continuing lifetime State Pension payments to eligible expatriates 

What do they disagree about?

The main disagreement concerns how citizens’ rights would be guaranteed. “Citizens must be able to find the legal certainty which they need for their day-to-day lives”, Mr Barnier explained, arguing that this could only be achieved through protection from the European Court of Justice. Prime Minister Theresa May has ruled this out, insisting that any dispute over EU citizens’ rights in the UK post-Brexit should be a matter for British courts.

Barnier stated that their views on expatriate rights also differed when it came to guaranteeing “the rights of future family members or the exports of certain social benefits.” 

Other areas of disagreement – which are tabled for the next round of discussions – include:

  • Ongoing freedom of movement for expatriates – the UK wants its nationals to be able to change their country of residence within the EU post-Brexit. The EU will only agree if there are similar arrangements for EU citizens who temporarily leave the UK: “in order to maintain the right of UK citizens to move around the EU27 this would require the UK to reciprocate by allowing EU citizens to continue to moving around freely” said a senior EU official.

  • Evidence of permanent residence – the UK wants EU nationals currently in Britain to reapply for residency documentation, with similar proof of residency available for British expatriates in the EU. The EU does not see this as a priority and is prepared to recognise residency without requiring legal documentation.

  • Voting rights – the UK wants to protect existing rights of UK/EU citizens to vote and/or stand in local elections in their host state. The EU see this as a privilege of EU membership that should not continue post-Brexit. 

  • Healthcare – the UK wants to keep the European health insurance card (EHIC) offering British nationals free or low-cost state-provided healthcare in Europe. The EU’s position on this is currently unclear.

What happens next?

Mr Davis said talks had been “robust but constructive” and that “getting to a solution will require flexibility from both sides". As well as focusing on citizens’ rights, the next round of discussions – due in August – aim to agree the value of the ‘divorce bill’ payable by Britain, alongside other separation issues. After another two rounds of talks, Barnier is due to make recommendations to EU leaders at a summit in October.

Meanwhile, in September the ‘Great Repeal Bill’ will be debated in Parliament. This sets out how the UK government will convert all EU laws – including around 12,000 EU regulations – into British laws on the day after Brexit, from which point it may “amend, repeal and improve” each law as required. The Bill also aims to sever Britain's bond with the European Court of Justice.

See our latest news articles on Brexit     


Posted 28 June 2017

Proposed post-Brexit deal maintains pension and healthcare rights

British Prime Minister Theresa May has published the details of her “fair and serious offer” on the rights of EU citizens in the UK after Brexit. The 15-page proposal sets the challenge for the EU27 to match two key elements of the deal:

“Firstly, UK nationals in the EU must be able to attain a right equivalent to settled status in the country in which they reside. Secondly, they must be able to continue to access benefits and services across the member states akin to the way in which they do now.”

It also includes a commitment from the government to protect existing pension and healthcare provision to British expatriates living in Europe. Theresa May stated in her speech to Parliament that, so long as mutual agreements were in place, “the UK will continue to export and uprate the UK State Pension and provide associated healthcare cover within the EU”

This is reassuring for expatriates concerned that State Pension payments would be frozen post-Brexit, as they are currently for UK nationals living outside the European Economic Area (EEA). Now, so long as Theresa May can secure a reciprocal deal with the EU27, British pensioners living in the EU can expect to continue receiving annual increases in the State Pension. 

It also provides some comfort that existing entitlements to free healthcare may continue for Britons in Europe after Brexit. The proposal states the government will “seek to protect” current healthcare arrangements. For expatriates, this means healthcare costs would continue to be reimbursed by the UK through the S1 system (or similar), and that holders of the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) would remain eligible for free or reduced healthcare when visiting another EU country. 

Other key points in the document, focusing on proposed rights for EU citizens in the UK, include: 

  • The ‘settled status’ available to EU citizens with five years’ continuous residence in Britain will offer the same treatment as UK citizens for healthcare, education, benefits and pensions. 
  • The cut-off date for eligibility will be negotiated but will fall between 29th March 2017 and 29th March 2019.
  • After the cut-off date, a ‘grace period’ of two years will avoid a “cliff edge” by allowing EU citizens to remain in Britain temporarily as they apply for settled status. Post-Brexit, EU citizens with settled status can bring over family members on the same terms as British nationals.
  • The residency registration process will be “as streamlined and light touch as possible”. Some technical requirements currently needed under EU rules will be removed, like having to demonstrate comprehensive sickness insurance.
  • The deal applies to all of the UK as well as Gibraltar, and will be extended on a reciprocal basis to nationals of Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland. Irish citizens will not be required to apply for permanent UK residence. 

In her speech to Parliament, Theresa May reiterated that any agreement must be reciprocal “because we must protect the rights of UK citizens living in EU member states too”

In a tweeted response to the proposal, Chief EU negotiator, Michel Barnier, agreed with the goal for continued reciprocal rights, but added: "More ambition, clarity and guarantees needed than in today's UK position".

Posted 23 June 2017

May reveals her “fair and serious offer” for EU citizens in the UK

In her first move following the onset of Brexit negotiations, Prime Minister Theresa May has committed to let EU citizens stay in the UK – so long as a reciprocal agreement is in place for Britons living in the EU.

“I want to give those EU citizens in the UK certainty about the future of their lives” she stated, “but I also want to see that certainty given to UK citizens who are living in the EU.”

Addressing the EU27 in Brussels at the European Council Summit, she outlined plans to offer a “settled status” to those who have lived in the UK for five years. This would allow them access to healthcare, education, pensions and similar benefits to those available today. 

Although she gave no details on the cut-off date for eligibility, she said there could be a two-year grace period to allow people to “regularise” their residency status. There would also be a simpler application process than the current 85-page residence form.

Both sides have made it clear that locking in reciprocal rights for citizens is a top priority, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel calling Mrs May’s offer "a good start". However, one sticking point on securing agreement could be who has the authority to guarantee the rights of EU citizens in Britain. Theresa May has stated that anyone resident in the UK should be governed by British law, not the European Court of Justice (ECJ).

Mrs May is due to provide more details on the offer on Monday 26th June.

 Posted 20th June 2017

Citizens’ rights stay top of the list as Brexit timetable is laid out

Official Brexit talks began on Monday 19th June. The UK Brexit Minister, David Davis, met with chief EU negotiator, Michel Barnier, to discuss the timetable and priorities for the negotiations ahead. In an official press conference following the day’s discussions, both men confirmed that securing reciprocal rights for citizens remains at the top of the agenda. 

Davis revealed the government plans to set out the UK’s “offer” for guaranteeing the rights of EU citizens on Monday 26th June. The next stage of talks – set to focus on this issue – are then due to begin in the week beginning 17th July. 

Following citizens’ rights, the next priority will be Britain’s ‘divorce bill’ before moving on to other issues to establish a “fair deal” on a new “strong and special partnership”. One week per month has been earmarked until October for subsequent discussions in what Davis claims is an “eminently achievable” timetable, especially with regards to agreeing the rights of citizens. 

Davis also indicated that there has been no change in the government’s intention to pursue a form of ‘hard Brexit’ by removing the UK from the single market and seeking a unique customs arrangement.

See our latest news articles on Brexit 


Posted 12 June 2017

The UK general elections and Brexit

The UK election produced a surprise result with no single party having the overall majority, but Theresa May soon announced she will run her government with support from the Democratic Unionist Party which (just) gives her an overall majority... Read more


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