After four and a half years of uncertainty, negotiations and false starts since the 2016 Brexit referendum, the UK has now fully left the EU. A trade deal agreed at the eleventh hour offered very little time for people and businesses to digest how things will work for Britons in the EU from 2021.
So what does the post-Brexit landscape look like for UK nationals who live or enjoy spending time in the EU? Here are four key things that changed on 1 January.
- Britons are ‘third country’ nationals
When the Brexit transition period ended on 31 December 2020, the UK joined the likes of Australia and the USA in becoming a ‘third country’, with UK nationals losing the automatic right to study, work and live in the EU.
Fortunately, Britons who can prove they were legally settled in an EU country as at 31 December 2020 can maintain citizens’ rights protections under the Withdrawal Agreement.
“These rights will only apply to your country of residence,” said Jason Porter, Director of specialist expat tax and financial management firm Blevins Franks. “To gain full EU citizenship as a UK national – unlocking the freedom to live and work in any EU country – you need to become a full citizen of your resident country, possible after ten years’ residence.”
- UK nationals are restricted in how long they can stay in the EU
Coronavirus restrictions aside, UK nationals who don’t have EU residence or citizenship can currently still travel to the EU without a visa – but there are new limitations. Now, non-residents will only be allowed to spend 90 days in any 180-day period there. This affects Britons with holiday homes in the EU.
“Note that this restriction covers the entire Schengen zone – which includes most EU countries (excluding Cyprus) plus some EEA states – so you would not be able to, say, leave Spain and enter Portugal to gain more time or restart the 90-day clock,” said Porter.
- Applying for EU residence is more difficult
With freedom of movement pre-Brexit, Britons did not always need to meet stringent requirements to become EU resident and could apply once already there. Now, those wanting to live in an EU country have to meet the common, legal immigration requirements required of all third states and provide the correct documentation in advance of arriving.
“To apply successfully,” said Porter, “you will need to demonstrate you have ‘sufficient’ annual income to support yourself and any dependents without relying on the state, as well medical insurance with the required minimum coverage.”
- UK money plans may no longer work
Unless they already have arrangements in place to work in the relevant EU country, UK banks, advisers and other financial providers may no longer be able to legally service EU residents. This is because Brexit dissolved automatic ‘passporting’ rights for UK financial services in the EU.
“So if you live in the EU and have a UK-based adviser,” said Porter, “check they can still support you. If you have UK bank accounts or other investments, you may be restricted from making changes, such as moving funds or applying for new services, or they may be closed altogether. And in some cases, you may find that UK assets and investments attract a higher tax bill in your country of residence now they are non-EU/EEA assets.”