Britain’s vote to leave the EU has resulted in a multitude of speculation and there is no doubt that the result will redefine British relationships with the rest of Europe for the foreseeable future. When the UK decides to implement Article 50, the arduous and difficult process will begin.
Negotiations are currently taking place on both sides of the Channel, and many are beginning to conjure their own decisions as to the protocol that should be followed when Britain is no longer a member of the EU.
Brexit will not only affect British expats, but also members of the EU living in the UK. The British government recently expressed that Brexpats would need to apply for long-term visas in order to live in countries of the EU.
Visa Application Process
Initially, Brits living or wanting to live in EU countries would simply follow the same visa application process as non-Europeans applying to live in the EU countries. The term ‘British expats’ would be extinct and ‘British immigrants’ would be the favoured phrasing.
Understandably, EU immigrants will need to go through a very similar process to gain access to the UK. However, due to Britain’s relationship with some countries, private negotiations may take place.
With a high number of British expats in Spain, and equally as many Spaniards living in the UK, it is most likely that bilateral negotiations will take place with the Spanish government to secure privileges between the two countries for the benefit of all immigrants involved. However, this one-to-one negotiation process cannot happen with every country.
There are rumours that British expats will forfeit their right to work in the EU automatically, where a process similar to the US Green Card will be adopted.
Those Already Living Abroad
Many have commented that a two-tiered negotiation would be the best approach. This would entail the current multilateral structure with all EU countries, and a bilateral approach on a country-to-country basis to ensure reciprocal privileges are maintained for existing expats. There are currently 1.2 million British expats residing in EU countries and this structure would prevent the introduction of barriers.
With uncertainty still rife, the issue of visas and permits will be one of the most important issues that will be negotiated over the coming months.
Currently, UK pensions are being used to fund older British expats lives abroad and the UK government will need to decide whether state pensions will be frozen, or remain protected from price or wage inflation.
The Future for Expats
The Brexit negotiations are not expected to be activated until January 2017, so present and future expats can legally move throughout the EU as easily as they have done so before. However, many are worried and fear the next steps, with a vast majority having happy and successful lives abroad.
Many are urging the British government to engage in bilateral negotiations as soon as possible, to ensure that the futures of British expats are protected.