Brexit: The Challenges for British Retirees in Europe

British Retirees

According to data from a 2017 UN report, around 1.3 million people who were born in the UK now live in other EU countries. Of these, around 900,000 were long-term residents of those EU countries in 2011, when the census was last conducted. The former figure is actually an extrapolation of the first one, so while the 2011 data might seem outdated, the 2017 numbers is far from perfect. Moreover, some countries define an immigrant differently to others, which means complicates things even further.

For the UK-born people living in the EU, Spain is the most popular destination, with France, Ireland and Germany following just behind. But after Brexit happens (if, indeed, it does happen) these people will certainly face challenges. Even three years after the referendum, it’s difficult to be certain what form these challenges might take. Let’s look at a few scenarios.

No Deal

It might be that, after the election, the government decides to abandon its withdrawal agreement and head for no deal. The European Commission has advised that the twenty-seven member states make life easier for British expats, provided that the UK government does the same thing for EU citizens settled here. Freedom of movement between the UK and the rest of the EU would immediately end, and the UK would immediately become a ‘third’ country, no different than any other non-member state. 

Will I be thrown out?

Many will understandably be concerned about the prospect of being forcibly evicted from the land they’ve called home for years. But action to remove British citizens en masse from EU states would be at odds with article 19 of the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights, as well as article four of the ECHR, which prohibits ‘collective expulsion of aliens’. Sudden changes to your situation, then, are protected against.

Given the uncertain nature of Brexit, and the varied nature of the EU member states and their immigration laws, you might find that you encounter legal difficulties at some point along the way. In such a case, it’s vital that you have expert representation to fight your corner; a specialised immigration lawyers like Withers will provide advice that’s tailored to your case.

The Period Immediately After Brexit

Many of the states in which UK-born citizens are living will provide a small window of leeway, in order that the stranded citizens have time to apply for long-term residence. If you’ve been settled in Germany for more than five years, for example, you’ll hold onto all of your rights for a transition period of nine months. In Spain, you are protected for a very generous 21-month grace period. During this window, you’ll need to settle for a new residence permit, and you’ll keep all of the rights you had as a full EU citizen. 

In almost every case, it’s advisable that this process be started as soon as possible. You can find a full list of EU states and the citizen’s rights associated with them over on the EU commission’s website.