After Brexit occurred in June 2016, there has been a considerable amount of debate regarding the aftermath and what is going to happen to those living in Britain and those living in other countries. One of the most popular topics for queries has been how expats and people who own property in EU countries might be affected.
In terms of the number of people living abroad who are expats, it is a considerable amount. Over 4.5 millions Britons live abroad and about 1.3 million of them live in Europe, according to the UN.
From the pie chart it is easy to see that the most populated areas for British expats are in Spain, France and Ireland with France holding around 171,000 British expats and Ireland holding 249,000. A lot of people are unaware, but British expats were allowed to vote in the EU referendum as long as they hadn’t lived abroad for more than 15 years. However it has been noted, such as in the video above, that had these people been allowed to vote, the vote itself could have been significantly different and a lot of people feel like it would have been a stronger remain vote.
However, the result was Brexit, so how does this affect expats living abroad in other EU countries? There are a number of different worries, as are highlighted in the video that makes some of the points a bit easier to understand. But the main concern is the freedom of movement. Brexit has mean that although it will take time for Article 50 to be triggered (about 2 years) this means that we cannot know for sure what will happen to anyone. If the freedom of movement is limited it means that British expats would have to apply for visas to live and work in other countries, may potentially struggle for health care as this will no longer be covered by an European health card, their pensions will change, costs of education may go up, plus the time it would take to acquire an educational visa amongst many other things.
However the concern is that as expats, many of them want negotiations to take place which secure their continued right to work, reside and own property in other EU states, and to access public services such as medical treatment in those states. However we cannot assume these rights will be guaranteed, especially not for those who are moving to other countries post Brexit. The Vienna convention may offer some security for those who have already been living abroad pre Brexit, but it doesn’t secure much, just some basic rights.
Granted some British expats welcomed the leave vote, whilst others were shocked and had hoped it wouldn’t happen because a lot of their jobs would be at risk.
The arguments that are circling around Brexit concern pensions, jobs and the understanding that expats would require visas. Despite living abroad, some people still feel more British than the country they are living in and Brexit could have strong implications for them and their welfare. But the opinions are very mixed with some saying Brexit will be good for Britain and others in shock at the results.
However the general consensus for those expats living abroad, is that they are uncertain about what the future holds for them in a post Brexit world. It is an interesting topic and one that I would like to explore further, also looking at how expats are viewed by citizens in the EU now after Brexit. There is such a stigmatization about the British and our values and culture that I feel it would be prudent to explore this much further, especially in regards to this project, because there are a significant number of expats living abroad that it would be ridiculous to not broach the subject.