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What Would a Brexit Mean For Expats?

April 25, 2016 Brexit / expats / GBP


Brexit for Expats

A “Brexit” is, depending on which newspaper you read, the most dangerous idea to ever be suggested in Britain – or the last chance to affirm independence and break away from a dysfunctional and failing union.

It’s getting increasingly difficult to find an unbiased and calm view of the pros and cons as the referendum approaches (June 23rd). What would a Brexit mean for British expats living abroad though? Would it affect the quality of life beyond exchange rates and visas alone? We’ve scoured the internet to find the most likely scenarios and how that might impact on expat life. We’ll also be taking a daily look at media headlines in the run up to the vote -check out the CurrencyFair Brexit Watch.



Goldman Sachs warn that a Brexit could weaken the pound against the euro. According to, “Multinational investment bank Goldman Sachs warned its clients of a possible 15-20% drop if foreign investors shy away from investing in the UK because of the uncertain economic outlook that would result.”

With the majority of British expats in the residing in Spain, Ireland, France and Germany, GBP-EUR exchange rates will have an immediate affect on their spending ability, and therefore the general quality of life. These fluctuations have been a common theme for anyone familiar with currency exchange, and of course – any losses can be mitigated by using a reputable, honest and fair currency exchange company (that’s us!).


Access for Brits to the European Health Card may have to be renegotiated between individual states, but it’s unlikely to be culled immediately, as that would in reality force the UK’s hand in terms of providing free access to healthcare for EU citizens within the UK.

In France, for example, the current situation allows British citizens to avail of the French healthcare system, but the UK pay the bill. This might be in danger after a Brexit, but there’s very little to suggest such deals can’t be simply revived under a different name. After all, France and Britain have centuries of negotiating experience between them. Furthermore, any French citizens residing in the UK have the same deal – use the Brits system, but France pays the bills. It works, so why change it?


While the worth of a Brits’ pension (when it’s sent from the UK) is mostly affected by the exchange rates themselves, there are some major concerns elsewhere too.

Expatica claims that pensioners “might have their pensions frozen unless there is a reciprocal agreement made between the UK government and the governments of these nations“. Scary talk indeed, but definitely one of the less likely scenarios we could imagine.


Visas & Work

Getting a visa to move anywhere can be daunting, but even more of a worry for British expats is the danger of becoming illegal immigrants overnight. Alarming stuff, but could it really happen?


While the possibility can’t be fully ruled out, it would be in nobodies best interests to immediately declare half a million plus people illegal with the stroke of a pen. Countries have long had mutually beneficial treaties and agreements with neighbours, and the UK has accepted hundreds of thousands of Europeans inside her borders with open arms, so a tit-for-tat “let’s make everyone illegal” scenario simply won’t happen.

There may be slightly more passport requests at borders and airports, but those who already have visas or residency permits are protected by the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties (1969), which maintains the rights already acquired in the face of future amended treaties.

In, EU Law expert George Peretz QC claims, rather dramatically, that: “UK citizens would lose their EU law rights to work, to set up a business, to buy property, to bring family to live with them, not to be deported for trivial offences and so on“, before calmly following up with the more likely scenario:

France might let them do all those things. But that would be entirely up to France.


Worried about your overseas investment, or having second thoughts about moving abroad? A recent survey by A Place In The Sun shows that 90% of British owners of property abroad have no idea exactly how a Brexit might affect them. Not surprising, given the complicated labyrinth of trade and travel arrangements in place, but all experts seem to agree – British citizens won’t be punished by the acts of their home country.

In a recent Telegraph article, Richard Way of said “British expats, including pensioners who receive a UK income, provide a massive contribution to the local economies of their chosen countries and generate considerable tax revenues“.

Expats in Britain

Let’s not forget all the EU citizens currently living in the UK – this affects them just as much.

Expat statistics for the UK - infographic

From the same expat survey as the above graphic, we learn that the UK comes 59th out of 64 countries in the “Personal Finance Index”, meaning it’s an expensive place to live. With a lot of talk of the impact on businesses, particularly the lucrative Tech sector, of a Brexit, this may mean some tough decisions for expats. While it won’t be the government revoking visas, economic pressure alone might force some to rethink their residency in Britain.


We’ve no idea.

The people of Britain will decide on June 23rd, which is three days after their final group game in Euro 2016. Could that affect the national mood? It usually does. However, contrary to The Telegraph’s April 1st article, no – England (and Wales & NI) won’t be booted out of the competition!!

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