How will British citizens across Europe live after Brexit?

Employment and Social Affairs
What will be the consequences in terms of Freedom of movement for British citizens, now that a majority of them have voted in favour of Brexit?

Yesterday on 23 June 2016, Britons went to the polls and 51.9% of them voted for the exit of  the United Kingdom from the European Union, while 48.1% voted against it.

These results show how deeply divided society is  in the United Kingdom. Economically speaking, the reactions are quite clear, since the pound is already depreciating and stock exchanges are enduring severe reductions in share prices.

But what will be the consequences for those British citizens that frequently travel, work or merely live across the European Union?

A reduced freedom of movement for UK citizens

Freedom of movement for British citizens in other European countries is compromised. Although the United Kingdom was not a member of the Schengen area, just an identity document was so far necessary for British citizens to travel across the European Union. After Brexit,  probably British citizens will probably have to apply for a visa to travel throughout continental Europe.

Besides legal constrictions preventing UK citizens to travel across the EU, it will also be a matter of economics. The fall of the pound against the euro will reduce inevitably the purchasing power of Britons whenever they would go on holiday in the rest of Europe. In particular, pensions of British Expat will melt like butter because of the sharp depreciation of pound.

Besides, prices of flight tickets will also increase, considering that European airline are allowed to operate without limits of frequency, capacity or price over the continent’s airspace thanks to EU regulations.

What will happen to those British citizens working in other European countries?

It is still unclear, though, what will happen to those 1.3 million British citizens living in other European countries – at least 319,000 lives in Spain, 171,000 in France, 100,000 in Germany and more than 25,000 in Italy.

Among those who would suffer the most the negative effects of Brexit, there are also those UK citizens living in Spain. Now that the UK exit is about to leave the European Union, their purchasing power will be reduced due to the the pound devaluation. As a consequence, Spanish real estate and tourism market would probably suffer, because fewer Britons would invest abroad.

As for healthcare – just to provide an example – it will depend on the rules of the country where UK expats are currently living. In some of them, such as France, a bilateral agreement already exists. British expats can benefit from French National healthcare system, but expenses are covered by the British  National Health Service (NHS).

The positions of many British officials working for the European institutions, especially those working in Brussels, are really at stake, since their condition is now more uncertain than ever. Some of them have decided to acquire a second European nationality, such as the Belgian one for those working in Brussels.

But the situation could be problematic for workers in the UK too. Many activities, especially large banks operating in the City, will likely relocate elsewhere in Europe and whoever UK citizen eager to work in continental Europe will need a work permit, like all others non-European citizens.

For more information on the Brexit consequences, read NEU’s selection of articles here.

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