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ECREU - Expat Citizen Rights in EU

Fighting for the rights of UK citizens in the EU
and EU citizens in the UK


So where do we stand right now?...

Certain rights have been written in draft agreements, while the continuation of others remains uncertain. In fact, with the outcome of Brexit still up in the air, the warning 'nothing is agreed until everything is agreed' rings very true.

Should the UK 'crash out' as some now fear, then all agreements so far count for nothing. But if there is a successful outcome, then what has and has not been agreed will shape all our futures.

We must emphasise that what we say on this page is based on knowledge so far. If there is no agreement to date on a particular aspect of Brexit, then we can only say what is most likely to apply based on our knowledge and that of our legal experts.

Whatever the final outcome of Brexit, we can neither assume the worst, nor that everything will turn out right in the end. The truth is, we simply do not know. But these are the facts as they stand:

Citizenship and Residency
All UK citizens without dual nationality (where permitted), could become foreigners in the EU State in which they live. Any protection as an EU citizen enjoyed under EU law could cease.

ECREU, along with other groups in EU countries, is working with the EU and individual governments to find the means to preserve our status after Brexit. Those already holding residency status may be asked to complete new documentation. Of course, things will be different for anyone seeking to live in another EU state after Brexit.

You might need some form of residency card and newly arrived citizens may need to prove they have sufficient finances to qualify for one.  Qualifications for residency could mirror those imposed by the UK on EU nationals living there.

Freedom of Movement
Freedom of movement - the freedom to travel at will between all EU states or between the EU and UK for work or pleasure - has not been agreed to date.

From the beginning of negotiations, the UK has rejected freedom of movement as part of its aim to limit immigration. The EU has reciprocated resulting in the possibility that UK citizens in employment or running businesses will no longer be able to work cross border. UK citizens may also be time limited when visiting other EU states for pleasure.

This is a major issue which is in conflict with the EU's own stated freedoms and is being actively pursued.

Pensions and benefits
The existing EU regulation which protects receipt of UK State pensions and benefits could cease to have effect. The UK would have the power to modify the issue of State pensions in Europe and even stop annual increments. Clause 20 of The Pension Act 2014 specifically allows for annual increases to be stopped for pensioners resident abroad.

Stopping the Winter Fuel Payment, an old age benefit under EU law, is currently being challenged legally. Following Brexit, this challenge would no longer be possible. The same could apply to potential receipts of attendance allowances or any other social benefits from the UK.

At the time of writing, no provision has been agreed for financial 'passporting' - the mechanism which permits financial institutions to trade between the UK and other EU countries. This places the administrators of private pension funds in a legal dilemma: they are bound to serve their pension holders, but would be banned by law from doing so if they live outside the UK.

There is nothing to say these issues won't be resolved, and we are working to impress on MPs the consequences of any failure to do so.

States have the power to impose any law of their own on 'foreigners'. For example, before the EU, France taxed capital being brought into the country.  The current challenge brought about by Dutch national M. de Ruyter which challenged the imposition of CSG (social taxes) might not apply to non-EU citizens post Brexit. 

EU countries could impose any law they wished on non-EU citizen-held bank accounts, for example, there was a time when one could transfer only small sums of money from the UK.  After Brexit, current EU regulations might no longer apply to UK citizens.

Existing UK law prevents many expat citizens voting in British elections if they have lived in another country for more than 15 years. ECREU is campaigning for 'Votes for Life' for all UK expat citizens.

After Brexit, you may not be able to vote for local Commune Councillors in your EU country of choice, or become a commune councillor. The current system whereby one cannot vote for any other level of the legislature, might never be changed. Within the EU, perhaps such changes could have been achieved - but not once the UK leaves.

Once again, if there is a snap UK election or even a second referendum, thousands of us will not be able to take part.

NOTE: Don't confuse right to vote with MP representation. Every citizen is represented by the current MP for the constituency where they last lived, no matter how long they have lived outside the UK.

Double Taxation treaties exist to ensure that citizens do not have their incomes or pensions taxed in the UK and again in the country where they choose to live. Our colleague in Spain has been inundated with cases of Expats living there who are finding that local Spanish Tax Officials are already refusing to honour the UK/Spanish Convention on Double Taxation.

There are no answers yet on what may happen if UK crashes out.

Buying goods 
The freedom to buy items from outside your country of residence could be limited. Even now, some organisations in the UK put difficulties in the way by, for example, refusing to honour credit cards. This is contrary to the spirit of EU regulation, but after Brexit, would probably never be changed.

We cannot say if any import duties might be imposed on items bought from the UK.

Again the UK financial institutions are not always honouring the EU regulations on freedom of movement of capital and services by not allowing one to open a UK onshore bank account or investing in certain accounts and savings opportunities. This really is due the UK dragging its heels on EU matters, but is not likely to be fixed from outside the EU.

Inheritance law changes which have come about under EU rulings, allow nationals to organise their inheritance according to the rules of their Nation State. We do not know if this will apply after Brexit.

Continuing healthcare under the SI system for retired people from the UK has been agreed in a draft Brexit agreement, but again, 'nothing is agreed until everything is agreed'. So until we have a final agreement this is not guaranteed.

At the moment, medical treatment for an SI holder which is normally paid, for example, by France for its citizens, is sent to the NHS for reimbursement. Similar rules apply in other EU States.

If the UK crashes out, then we have no idea if this arrangement will continue.

Those in work or spending part of their time living in another EU country usually rely on the EHIC scheme. There is no agreement yet on the future of this. It is possible they may need full health insurance cover.
Some form of work permits would probably be needed for people who seek work or wish to set up their own businesses. Remember they could be viewed as foreigners.

Professional qualifications gained in an EU country language are recognised throughout all member countries. Although our Government maintains this will continue, it is not confirmed and may not apply if the UK crashes out.

Within the EU, British Students can get support to study in EU universities (The Erasmus Scheme). Again our Government maintains this will continue, but it is not confirmed and may not apply if the UK crashes out.

The EU stamp on the front of UK passports is just branding, but it would be dropped on new UK passports or renewals. Border controls between the UK and Europe could well be tightened in both directions. There is bound to be some impact on EU passport holders entering the UK and UK citizens travelling between EU countries.

The Future
The EU surely needs to change, but it is up to us to help it evolve. This won't be possible after Brexit. 

Some claim that under the terms of the Vienna Convention on International Treaties between States concerning 'Acquired Rights', that all European expats would be protected. However, France - for one - has not signed to the treaty, and neither it seems has the EU. 

Also, The Vienna Convention is only concerned with rights acquired under treaties, while the EU regulations are not treaties but co-ordinating measures between States.

Others say that if we become foreigners, then we should be treated the same as an immigrant from any other country.

But that raises the fundamental argument ECREU is fighting for - the fact that unlike people from other countries, we are living in our country of choice because we were entitled to and even encouraged to as a citizen of another EU state. We should not lose the rights that made that possible simply because of a referendum in which many of us were not permitted to take part, and because our own Government has been focused on internal differences rather than negotiating with the EU and prioritising the well being of its own citizens.

If some 450,000 UK citizens who reside in all EU States were to return, it would have a major impact on the UK economy - you can imagine the difficult situation both for the returnees and certain public services, especially the NHS.

It could actually be in the best interests of the UK economy to encourage more retired people to leave for Europe, and to actively foster their support. 

Two Years Grace?
There should be at least two years after the Brexit negotiations are concluded for any re-organisation to be achieved, suggesting that nothing much would change in that period. The UK will still be part of the EU throughout the process. Unless, of course, if UK crashes out.

After two years of negotiating, and particularly if the UK walks away, we do not know what our future holds. We can only fight for our rights and remain alert to potential changes to our lives during and after Brexit negotiations. To have your say and influence your future, join ECREU free HERE