How to prepare for an unknown future
With March 29, 2019 fast approaching — the day on which the UK leaves the bloc — the image of a post-brexit world has not yet come into focus. That may be about to change given news that negotiators from both sides have managed to finalize a draft agreement and receive support from Prime Minister Theresa May’s cabinet.
In the coming weeks, as the tentative deal is brought to light, government members will begin their campaigns for or against it. Its fate will eventually be decided by parliament. The border between Ireland and Northern Ireland remains a contentious issue that is expected to divide the votes.
As of yet, Brexit proceedings raise far more questions than answers. One pain point is the fate of expats living in the EU and UK. As of 2017, 3.8 million EU citizens lived in the UK and 1.3 million UK expats lived in the EU.
Despite the uncertainty, there are steps that these communities can take now to potentially aid their case for residency later, post brexit.
The right to reside & work in the EU Post Brexit
Regardless of what is decided, existing residency rights for British citizens will likely remain relevant until December 2020, assuming some sort of agreement is reached…and that is a large assumption.
Currently, all EU citizens have freedom of movement rights that allow them to work and live in any other country in the bloc. However, when moving among these countries, new residents are required to register in their new home nation.
Because this formality has no direct impact in many countries, it is common for British expats to forego the step of informing local authorities. For example, over 320,000 of them officially live in Spain, but the actual number is estimated to be double. Now, the British government is openly encouraging this community to go through the official registration steps. The reason? Brexit.
Brexit’s impact on freedom of movement
Brexit will end or severely limit the current free movement enjoyed by British citizens living abroad. By registering before Brexit, they have the chance to qualify for “settled status.” This approach is still being tested and monitored by MPs.
In the past, May has stated that foreigners residing in the UK before March 29 could remain there. If so, that action would likely be reciprocated, assuming all member states agree.
Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel has emphasized the fact that visa policies are determined at the European level, so individual nations will not be able to negotiate reciprocity agreements on an individual bases post brexit. British workers and travelers will face the same fate wherever they are in the EU.
Embassies, particularly in Spain and Greece, have ramped up efforts to get British nationals to register — from information sessions to news flashes.
A previous UK proposal stated that EU immigrants who have lived in the UK for five years by 2021 can qualify for “settled status,” making them permanent residents.
This host of potential realities is contingent on a Brexit deal. Governments on all sides agree that if you are a UK citizen in the EU or vice versa, check with your local authorities to ensure that you are properly registered — or you might regret it after the split.
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