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Keep checking here 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 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 13 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.

Mrs May and her government now face a lot of debate and political challenges, given that her party no longer has an overall majority by itself, but importantly in her statement in Downing Street on 9th June she stressed that Brexit negotiations will continue as planned.

On Monday 12th June, Brexit Minister David Davies said that the first Brexit discussions should start next week, though this may not be on Monday 19th June as planned. The Prime Minister then confirmed this at her meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron the following evening, telling a press conference that “the timetable for the Brexit negotiations remains on course and will begin next week”.

The big question now is whether the Prime Minister will be able to go ahead with a 'hard Brexit', or whether ministers will now demand a softer Brexit policy. This could mean that Britain keeps access to Europe’s single market and so remains part of the European Economic Area (EEA).

Either way, the important issue of citizens’ rights is expected to be tackled early in the talks and Theresa May and her ministers have been consistent in saying that they will seek to protect the rights of UK nationals living in the EU. Specifically, they have stated that they are in favour of allowing EU nationals already living in the UK to remain, provided they receive the same guarantees for UK citizens living in Europe, which we see as important.

On 12th June, Mr Davies said he hoped a deal regarding this issue could be swiftly reached once the talks start. He told BBC radio:

"You have people worrying here in Britain that they can't stay here, you have Brits living in Spain worrying they will not be able to stay there. The worries are unnecessary and they shouldn't have them but we want to make sure they are dealt with as soon as possible.

The EU has also made clear that this should be a priority due to the number of people affected and how serious the consequences of the withdrawal could be for them.

Both sides appear to broadly agree that Britons living in the EU and EU citizens living in the UK should keep their rights to residence, work and health care after Brexit.

A European Council press release on 22nd May stated:

The first priority for the negotiations is to agree on guarantees to protect the rights of EU and UK citizens, and their family members, that are affected by Brexit. The EU27 insist that such guarantees should be reciprocal and based on equal treatment among EU27 citizens and compared to UK citizens. This should cover, among others, the right to permanent residence after five years of legal residence, including if this period is incomplete on the date of withdrawal but is completed afterwards.

It may be some time before something tangible is formally agreed but we will continue to monitor events, and it is worth bearing in mind that key points we have previously highlighted still apply:

  • Double taxation treaties are bilateral agreements between specific countries (e.g. the UK and France, Spain, Portugal, Cyprus and Malta). They are independent of the EU and typically govern most of the taxation aspects affecting UK nationals living in the EU.
  • For many expatriates considering taking action on estate planning, investments, pensions or general tax planning, it may well be worth acting now, under rules that are known, rather than waiting to see if new EU rules apply after Brexit.
  • The 25% charge the UK Chancellor announced in the spring budget to apply to transferring UK based pension funds overseas currently does not affect transfers within the EU, but may be a sign of steps the UK government could take post-Brexit that would have implications for UK nationals living in EU/EEA countries.


Blevins Franks is keeping a close eye on the Brexit negotiations, and will update this page with any key developments and the implications for expatriates and those planning to move to EU countries. Sign up for our newsletters

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