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The Shift Towards a Soft Brexit – Everything Expats Need to Know

Last week the UK saw the resignation of a number of cabinet ministers, including Brexit Secretary David Davis and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson. This action came as a protest against decisions made by Prime Minister Theresa May that saw the UK moving towards a ‘soft Brexit’. These plans were outlined in a long-awaited white paper released by Britain.

This event has taken place just nine months before the UK leaves and only three before the European Union has scheduled the deadline for negotiations to conclude and a deal to be reached.

What does this mean for expatriates? While the actions taken by those in charge have left openings for a power struggle that could drastically impact Brexit negotiations, currently the UK is on course to reach a soft Brexit agreement with the EU.

A soft Brexit strategy is a concept that despite leaving the EU, the UK would maintain a close relationship with the European Union. This is favoured by many of those who voted ‘remain’ in the 2016 referendum and depending on the outcome of negotiations, the best outcome for European expatriates.

This white paper still outlines the fact that British expats living in EEA (European Economic Areas) will face numerous issues when accessing personal pensions. This is not unexpected and has appeared to be an inevitable problem even in the best of outcomes for Brexit negotiations if the government chose not to prioritise passport rights.

However, despite this, the document still outlines the UK government hopes to maintain pension uprating and pensioners’ healthcare abroad for Britons who choose to move to EU countries post-Brexit.

The benefits of avoiding a hard Brexit would also mean that expats living in the UK would likely have their rights protected as Britain seeks to defend the 1.2 million expats currently living throughout the EU. It is important to the UK that they maintain their right to continue working and living in EEA countries.

Home secretary Sajid Javid revealed that if everything goes to plan EU citizens who currently live in the UK will be allowed to stay providing they undergo criminal checks, answer some simple questions and pay £65. This information came as part of an attack on the European Union in which Mr Javid accused the EU of failing to reveal precisely how it will protect the rights of British expats.

The overall conclusions that can be drawn from recent events and Theresa May’s push for a soft Brexit are that – if successful in negotiations – Expats might enjoy further rights than previously expected but, it will still be hard for them to move about. Free movement for Britons is almost certainly going to come under increased restrictions.

These are mixed messages and uncertain times for British expatriates but, things are starting to look more positive and it seems unlikely that expats residing in the UK will experience the backlash previously anticipated.

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