Whether you voted to Leave or Remain, Britain’s recent decision to leave the European Union has left many unanswered questions. Many thousands of British citizen’s live and own property throughout the EU, and it’s still far from clear exactly how Brexit will affect them. With thousands of laws to be unpicked over the course of several years, it’s impossible to predict exactly what the outcome of Brexit will be, but there are going to be several likely results for expats living in the EU…
Brexit has had a negative impact on the value of sterling. Although the UK currency has regained ground, and many experts believe it should eventually recover, sterling is likely to remain shaky whilst negotiations are under way. This has some benefits for the UK of course, making it cheaper for overseas investors to spend in the UK and helping exporters, but it means that expats’ savings and pensions will be worth less as a result of the unfavourable exchange rate.
The UK’s Place In (or Out) of the EEA
During the course of Brexit negotiations, the UK may decide to remain within the European Economic Area rather than completely quit the EU. There are certain benefits to EU membership which are extended to EEA members as well, which will dramatically affect British expats if they’re lost:
- European Health Insurance Cards are currently available for expats, which entitle the bearer to the same standard and costs of healthcare as a citizen of the country they’re in. This benefits EEA citizens living abroad by reducing the amount of red tape they must cut through, and typically means they’ll receive much less expensive healthcare than citizens from non-EEA countries.
- Real estate investment is easier for citizens of the EEA, as many countries have established punitive tariffs on non-EU immigrants buying up housing stock. France, one of the most notoriously draconian nations, requires a whopping 50% deposit from any buyer whose country is not an EEA member.
- Taxes for EU and EEA citizens are typically more favourable than those for citizens of other countries. France, for example, levies a 49% capital gains tax on foreign residents, a strong discouragement to all but the most Francophile expats.
Though the impact of Brexit won’t be fully understood for several years, expats would do well to keep an ear to ground and stay updated on developments. If the UK remains a member of the EEA, it’s possible that many of the beneficial rules and regulations that make emigration to the EU so appealing will remain in place – however, we won’t know anything for sure until the Brexit negotiations begin in earnest.