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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


What Brexit Could Mean For Us Expats

The truth is, no one knows – it all depends on the outcome of negotiations by our politicians.

What we do know, is that most of our rights and privileges as expat citizens living in the EU only exist by virtue of the UK's membership. The following is an outline of some rights you enjoy within the EU which many consider are now at risk.

It is very important to note that we are not suggesting that they will all automatically cease after Brexit.

It does depend on those negotiations, which is why ECREU was formed – to make sure your expat citizen rights are at the top of the negotiator's lists of priorities.

What could be at risk?

All citizens from one country without dual nationality could become foreigners in the EU State in which they live. Any protection enjoyed under EU law could cease.

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 receipt 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.

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, there could be no protection as EU regulations might no longer apply.

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

After Brexit, you may not be able to vote for your local Commune Councillors 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.

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 is 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.

Buying goods 
The freedom to buy items from outside your country of residence could be limited or even end. 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.

There would be nothing to prevent the imposition of duty on imported goods 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 saving opportunities. This really is due the UK dragging its heels on EU matters, but is not likely to be fixed from outside the EU.

The inheritance law changes which have come about under EU rulings, whereby nationals could have their inheritance following the rules of their Nation State, could be scrapped.

You might need some form of residency card and newly arrived citizens may need to prove they have sufficient finances to qualify for one.

The SI system of health support for retired people from the UK would cease after Brexit. At the moment every item of medical treatment for an SI holder which, for example, is normally paid by France for its citizens, is sent to the NHS for reimbursement.

Similar rules apply in other EU States. According to information from the UK, it is very likely that this health support would cease, so you might well need full health insurance cover. Without EU protection it is very uncertain.
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 are recognised throughout all member countries, but we do not know if this will apply after the UK leaves.

Within the EU, British Students can get support to study in EU universities (The Erasmus Scheme). That could cease.

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.

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.

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

If the 69,000 retired UK citizens in France alone (about 450,000 reside in all EU States) returned it would have a major effect on the UK economy - you can imagine the difficult situation both for the returnees and certain public services.

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 Article 50 is invoked 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.

But we remain concerned about all possible changes to our lives during and after Brexit negotiations. That is what ECREU is fighting for. To have your say and influence your future, join ECREU free HERE