How Brexit will affect British citizens in Europe after 2020
At the end of 2020, the United Kingdom will complete its transition period and leave the European Union (EU) as the Brexit saga comes to an end. This will spell a change in the rules for British citizens living in or travelling to Europe.
The changing face of Europe for British citizens
While the UK was part of the EU, its citizens have enjoyed the union’s policy of freedom of movement. British citizens have been able to travel to all EU member states visa-free and, until the end of the year, have the right to live and work in any of these countries. However, from 2021, the UK will have severed all ties to the union, which raises the questions of how this will affect the rights of British citizens in Europe.
In addition, the EU plans to implement a new travel authorisation system called ETIAS in 2022. Modelled on the US ESTA, it will be compulsory for travellers from visa waiver countries to register before entering any EU member country. This will most likely include British passport holders. See more information about ETIAS.
Brexit: the background
In 2016, the United Kingdom held a referendum in which a narrow majority voted to leave the European Union. Since then, the country has been in the process of leaving the EU. After a few years of negotiations, extensions, and controversy, this finally happened at the beginning of 2020, when the country officially ceased to be part of the bloc.
However, 2020 has been a transition period, in which the UK government has been negotiating the terms of the state’s departure with EU authorities. During this time, many EU policies, such as freedom of movement, continue to apply to the UK. At the end of 2020, the UK will have completely separated from the EU and will no longer share any of its laws or policies.
How will Brexit affect Brits living in the EU?
The Withdrawal Agreement between the EU and the UK guarantees that Brits who are legal residents of EU countries maintain the same rights to live and work in the European country in which they reside. British citizens will only lose these rights if they leave the EU for more than 5 years. Similar agreements have been reached with the non-EU Schengen Area countries (Norway, Iceland, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein).
British citizens currently living in the EU are advised to apply for residence status if they do not have this already. This should be done as soon as possible and certainly no later than the end of June 2021. The terms and means of obtaining residence vary between different countries.
Can I work in Europe after Brexit?
For British nationals who are not already living in the EU, moving to Europe after Brexit and finding employment will become more of a challenge. Although all EU member states share a visa policy for tourists and short-term visitors, each individual country has its own set of rules for immigration from outside the bloc.
Once the UK is out of the union, it will become a third country and its citizens will have to apply for the relevant residence permits and work visas for whichever country they plan to move to unless a deal is reached to avoid this scenario.
How will Brexit affect Brits travelling to the EU?
As it stands, it seems likely that the UK will be added to the European Union’s visa-waiver list. This means that British citizens will not require a visa to visit EU member countries, needing only their passports to travel.
Under this scheme, Brits would be able to stay in the EU for up to 90 days within any 180-day period for the purpose of leisure or tourism. This outcome is conditional on the UK reciprocating and granting EU nationals the same rights when visiting England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.
Under the visa waiver programme, the only immediate change for Brits travelling to European countries will be joining a different queue at passport control.
However, the EU plans to introduce the European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS) in 2022. All travellers from visa waiver countries will have to register with this system to enjoy visa-free entry to the EU and this will likely be the case for the UK.
It is unclear whether British residents of EU countries will continue to enjoy freedom of travel around the rest of the EU and Schengen Area or if they too will require travel authorisation from 2022. This will likely be determined in further negotiations between the UK and the EU.
Brits living in Ireland
British citizens will still be able to live and work in the Republic of Ireland, while Irish citizens will continue to enjoy the same right in the UK. A separate agreement under the Ireland Act 1949 will continue to ensure freedom of movement between the two countries after 2020.
ETIAS stands for European Travel Information and Authorization System. The European Union has created this visa waiver program to protect and strengthen its borders. Find out more about ETIAS.