Sunday, August 07, 2022

Over the past few weeks (July 2017) the British Ambassador, Kirsty Hayes, has been travelling around Portugal to talk to expats about the Brexit.

At the meeting in Caldas da Rainha at the end of July, Kirsty explained that she did not have all the answers but that this series of meeting was as much about finding out the questions and concerns that the British Expats living in Portugal have.

Brexit ambassador brexit1

Just in case anyone is confused, we are talking about the result of the UK Referendum to leave the European Union, which took place on 23 June 2016 with the unexpected result of the majority voting to Leave the EU.

The next step is for the UK Government to make the decision that they will invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty on European Union. This allows a member state to notify the EU of its withdrawal and obliges the EU to try to negotiate a withdrawal agreement with that state. The negotiation will take 2 years from the date the article is invoked and that time can only be extended with unanimous agreement of all other member states.

Kirsty explained that in her experience of trade negotiations, 2 years is a short time, but it is not guaranteed that they would get an extension to the negotiations as some countries have already made it clear they expect the UK to leave as soon as possible.

The un-certainty about this and the unexpected result at the referendum pushed the UK into turmoil. First the Prime Minister announced his resignation and was replaced in a unanimous Conservative vote by Theresa May. There is also leadership challenges going on in the Labour party, after a vote of no-confidence in Jeremy Corbyn, and UKIP are also in the middle of a leadership vote as Nigel Farage resigned as Party Leader following the vote. 

The Pound took a hit immediately the results were announced and is still hovering around 1.19 Euro mark.

UK housing markets has been hit with a fall in prices over the past month of 1%, and the Bank of England announced fiscal measures last week to try to buoy up the British economy. 

So with all that said what does it mean for us in Portugal?

What Won't Change?

Some things that she could clarify was that the Brexit made no difference to the UK's position in NATO or in the Commonwealth, and it will of course remain in the European Continent. The vote is to leave the European Community (EC).

Also the Double Taxation Treaty is a bi-lateral agreement between the UK and Portugal, so that will not change.

The EU Law of Succession will not change. The UK opted out of this law originally so it does not apply to UK Nationals. Residents in Portugal can choose whether UK or Portuguese laws of succession apply in the event of a death. 

There will be no change in the right for Expats to receive a UK Pension, but specific pension rights will be decided as part of the exit negotiations.

What Next?

The UK Prime Minister,  Theresa May, has made it clear in a number of statements that  the rights of EU citizens to live and work in the UK will be protected as long as British citizens in EU countries are afforded the same rights and this will be a priority in the negotiations.

Nothing will actually change until the end of the 2 year negotiation period, although it is possible that some statements will be made before the end as agreements are made on specific points.

Most aspects of being a EU citizen relate to Residency and freedom of movements and these need to be negotiated. 

In Portugal, the right to Healthcare is based on residency.

Kirsty explained how there are already some models in place of non EU countries with agreements on trade and movement. The UK can negotiate to adopt one of those existing models which will make a much quicker agreement, these are the Norway model, the Free Trade agreement and the Switzerland Model.

The Unknowns?

Residency status will be decided in the negotiations with the EU. It is possible for British citizens to also hold a Portuguese passport.

Freedom of Movement is a big part of the issue as many people in the UK voted out because they want to stop immigration, but many of them did not think about the consequences to UK citizens travelling in Europe.

Driving Licences might have to be changed to Portuguese ones.

Current UK passports are also European Union passports and will need to be changed. It is most likely that they will decide to issue new passports as they become ready for renewal, rather than try to expedite the process over a shorter time.

Kirsty Hayes said that the British Embassy will send out further information thought their Facebook page, Brits in Portugal

Hey Portugal will also be posting all updates on our Facebook Page and letting you know when and where the next set of meetings will be held.