What Brexit Means For British Expats In Europe

Close to 1.2 million British expats in Europe are worried that a Brexit leave vote will lead to a huge upheaval in their lives.

The future for expats looks bleak on several fronts if Britain leaves the European Union, according to a respected European think-tank.

Expats on both sides of The Channel will be left marooned with uncertainty about their futures as Britain setting sail on a solo course changes every aspect of their lives.

The basic issue is freedom of movement within the EU for citizens of member states.

Leaving the EU rips the heart out of Britain’s relationship with Europe because the right to live, work and study within other member states is immediately lost.

The likelihood is the rights of existing expats will be maintained while the British government negotiates an exit – but at some time they will have to face up to the political changes.

The five big issues

The European Council on Foreign Relations ran a comparison to see how laws in each member state would affect expats if an expat vote prevails.

The survey revealed the five main issues that would impact on most expats:

  • Jobs – After a Brexit, expats would have to have a visa to work in Europe and employers would have to prove that no one with the EU closed shop had a better claim on their jobs before taking them on
  • Homes – No freedom of movement means expats need to qualify for residence permits which they may not get. Thousands may have problems with property ownership
  • Schooling – British students in Europe would have to pay higher tuition fees. Around 12,000 would be affected
  • Healthcare – Pensioners on a tight budget would lose free healthcare under EU rules and have to fund private healthcare on a limited income
  • State Pension – Expats working in Europe would lose any qualifying years of social security payments they earn towards the British State Pension. Depending on negotiations, they may also lose index-linking on the State Pension as well

“In a campaign where facts are in short supply, it is important to know what could change for Brits abroad if we leave the EU,” said the think tank’s Dina Pardijs.

“Long-time British expats cannot vote, but their lives may be radically altered.”