The Aftermath Of Brexit: What It Means For Expats

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Introducing Guest Writer Rebecca Clarke

Since the UK voted to leave the EU in 2016, the Brexit movement has divided opinion across Britain and Europe, as well as the rest of the world. And while there has been much debate over the terms of the agreement over the course of the last five years, many of us hope that the end of the transition will usher in a period of clarity and perhaps increased stability, as British and EU expats adjust to the new rules and determine how their lives will be affected in both the long and short term.

This post is from our Expatriate Life series


With the Brexit transition period having ended on 31st December 2020, new laws have since taken effect surrounding the freedom of movement for British and EU citizens alike. With so much confusion over the negotiations of the past year, it can be easy to become overwhelmed by new information from the government as well as the conflicting reports coming from the UK media on a sometimes-daily basis.

This guide will attempt to clear up exactly what the Brexit agreement means for expats living in the UK and abroad.

BREXIT – Withdrawal Agreement

A withdrawal agreement between the UK and the EU came into effect on 1st February 2020 to protect the rights of expats living in foreign countries before the end of the transition period. This agreement means that British citizens who were residents of EU countries before 31st December 2020 would be allowed to continue to live and work in that country with the same rights as before.

British expats have been advised to apply for long term residency with the government of the country in which they are residing to ensure that their rights remain protected under the agreement, with most EU nations guaranteeing a post-Brexit ‘grace period’.

As a British expat, your partner, spouse or family members may be able to join you in your country of residence under the agreement, while your healthcare rights will also remain the same. It is, however, important to do your research on the rules concerning the withdrawal agreement in your country of residence, with each of the 27 EU member states having their own approach to Brexit.

BREXIT – International Students

If you’re an international student, you’ve likely been following the Brexit transition very closely, whether you’re a British or EU citizen. Those already studying in Europe or the UK, though, will still be entitled to the same funding as other nationals of the country in which they’re studying.

If you’re moving to the EU to start a course after 1st January 2021, however, you may be required to pay different fee rates than you might’ve before the transition and should contact your HE provider in the country you’re moving to for more information. Similarly, access to student finance for EU expats who are looking to study in the UK will change after January 2021. Visit Gov.uk for more information on studying in the UK post-Brexit.

BREXIT – Freedom of Movement

Brexit has made moving in and out of the UK a lot more difficult for both British and EU citizens. Before the transition, EU citizens were free to move in and out of the UK as they pleased, but new laws mean that they are now subject to the same immigration rules as citizens from the rest of the world. Equally, British citizens are no longer able to move freely and settle abroad in the EU as they were before the transition.

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This means that for EU citizens looking to relocate to the UK, there are now a number of additional tax and financial considerations to be aware of before making the move, either permanently or temporarily. Check out this guide to moving to the UK for more information on what the new relocation rules could mean for you financially.

BREXIT – EU Settlement Scheme

EU expats can apply to continue living in the UK beyond June 2021 under the EU Settlement Scheme. The scheme, which is free to apply for, allows expats to be granted ‘settled’ or ‘pre-settled’ status depending on how long you have previously resided in the UK, and your spouse, civil partner, unmarried partner or family members can also apply to join you providing that they meet the criteria. In most cases, to be eligible for the scheme you must have moved to the UK before 31st December 2020 and applications should be submitted by 31st June 2021.

Hopefully, this guide will have given you a clearer idea of what to expect as an expat in the aftermath of Brexit negotiations.

With thanks to Rebecca for contributing this article for our expat community.


Rebecca Clarke Writers Guild

Rebecca Clarke is a UK-based freelance writer with a passion for travel, arts and culture. When she is not writing, she can usually be found baking or watching true crime documentaries with her cat, Oliver. 


More Expat stories and advice

As long term expats we’ve been covering expat stories and issues over the last decade, why not check out:

  • Expat Money Matters – everything you need to know about living and working as an expat from a financial viewpoint.
  • Family Remuneration Packages – be on the front foot with your expat salary package negotiations, our detailed guide takes you through a long list of matters to consider in addition to just money.
  • Expat Entrepreneurs – meet the expat parents who have inspired us during our time abroad.
  • Global Parenting Interviews – meet mamas from around the globe who have been giving birth and raising their families away from home, inspirational, encouraging and honest truths on life abroad with kids.

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