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hundreds of thousands Brits abroad affected

Written by Kaspar Huijsman | 5 minutes
WED 13-02-2019

What is Brexit?
Brexit is short for British exit. It is shorthand for the UK’s exit from the EU following the referendum result on 23rd June 2016.

What will Brexit mean for British expats?
Since June 2016, one of the most popular topics being discussed has been centred around how expats and property owners in EU countries could be affected by Brexit.

Now that article 50 has been triggered, here is everything we know so far about how Brexit will affect expats.

How many British expats are there in the EU?
Just over 4.5 million Britons live abroad, with approximately 1.3 million of them in Europe. The top destinations for British expats living in the EU are Spain (330,000), France (175,000) and Ireland (250,000). Expats were able to vote in the EU referendum.

What are the main concerns of expats about the impact of Brexit?
British expats residing in other European countries are able to do this as a result of the EEU’s freedom of movement act, which means EU members cannot bar or expel citizens from other European states. The fear exists that British citizens could become illegal immigrants overnight if Britain does not maintain some form of free movement after Brexit.

For example, Spain could ask British retirees to pay for their own healthcare or move to curb access to healthcare. In a paper outlining the risks of Brexit prior to the June 2016 vote, the Government stated that: UK citizens would want any negotiations to secure their continued right to work, reside and own property in other EU states, as well as having access to public services such as medical treatment in those states. UK citizens residing abroad, including those who have retired to Spain, cannot assume that these rights will be guaranteed.

Could expats be barred from EU benefits and Healthcare?
This is possible, but very unlikely, not least given that it would open the door to retaliatory measures from the UK, which hosts its own share of expats from European nations. There are as many as 3 million EU nationals living in Britain.

Could expats be deported by EU members?
Certainly not! First, there are numerous political reasons for EU states not to do such a thing, including the treatment of their own, numerous, nationals living in the UK.

Mass expulsions of citizens from another developed economy would also startle foreign investors and potentially cause economic turmoil in the expelling country.

Expats would also enjoy significant legal protection that would apply after Brexit.

Many lawyers argue that British expats living elsewhere in the EU at the time of Brexit would have individual "acquired rights" under international law.

Could my second home in Spain be seized?
No matter how hostile European nations become, they still have to respect individual property rights. Both the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights make this clear. However, EU nations could consider a variety of measures such as higher taxes.


Kaspar Huijsman

Kaspar Huijsman is the director of BinckBank in Spain & Portugal. He has been working for BinckBank for over 20 years now and founded the office in Marbella in 2006. A seasoned expert in investment, he offers seminars throughout Spain and Portugal.

The information in this article should not be interpreted as individual investment advice.  Although BinckBank compiles and maintains these pages from reliable sources, BinckBank cannot guarantee that the information is accurate, complete and up-to-date. Any information used from this article without prior verification or advice, is at your own risk.  We advise that you only invest in products that fit your knowledge and experience and do not invest in financial instruments where you do not understand the risks. 

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