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EUROPEAN UNION

Six burning questions for British expats about Brexit

We all knew that a win for Brexit would create some measure of uncertainty but for those expats who have chosen to take full advantage of the European Union freedom of movement and make their home in Italy, the questions just keep mounting

Six burning questions for British expats about Brexit
Photo: Philippe Hueguen/AFP

No-one will be asked to move home or even be made to apply for a visa or residency permit just yet.

While we can’t give you any answers – except wait and see – these are just some of the issues that could have profound consequences when Britain is no longer an EU member-state.

What about healthcare?

Health treatment is currently free for those travellers with a European health insurance card (EHIC) and for UK state pensioners living in the European Economic Area.

As a result British retirees currently enjoy free health care in Italy. That deal will automatically end when Britain pulls out of the EU and separate deals with European nations will have to be struck.

Before joining what was then the EEC, the UK had reciprocal health agreements with many European nations, including Spain, so a new deal is likely on the cards.

What will Brexit do to my pension?

Photo: Tommy Hemmert/Flickr

If British citizens are still permitted to retire in an EU state, they may find their pensions affected, not least because at present, anyone who retires within the European Economic Area, has their state pension increased every year under the “triple-lock” system.

This means that pensions rise by the higher of wage or price inflation, subject to a minimum of 2.5pc. With Brexit the UK will have to negotiate individual reciprocal agreements with EU countries if annual state pension increases for expats were to continue.

“My mum lives here too but kept all her money in the UK,” Ginny Bevan, a wedding planner in the Lake Garda, area told The Local.

“I’ll be OK as I can apply for Italian citizenship but we don’t know how it’s going to affect her.”

Will my driving license still be valid?

Just as in the case of UK passports, driving licences issued in the UK are EU-branded and will have to be phased out as people renew them. But post- Brexit will British driving licences be valid in Italy or will people living here have to apply for Italian ones? What about those expats who have already got themselves an Italian driving licence? Will they be valid if and when you return to post-Brexit Britain?

“My British driving license is due to expire and I don’t whether I should renew with the DVLA or start the Spanish application and if I do will have to reapply if I move back?” asked Samantha, an English teacher living in Oviedo.

Will Brexit bother my four-legged companion?

Remember those days when pets had to suffer six-months of quarantine to bring them into the UK? The EU pet passport scheme put an end to that but for the Brits who take their furry pals back and forth between Italy and the UK each year, Brexit could be a disaster.

What about the study abroad programme?

Photo: Andrey.mindryukov/Flickr

The Erasmus+ scheme is an EU programme open to education, training, youth and sports organizations. It offers opportunities for UK participants to study, work, volunteer, teach and train in Europe. And thousands of British students opt to study in Italy each year, while the UK is among the favoured destinations for Italian students.

Jo Johnson, Minister of State for Universities and Science, released this statement following the referendum result:

“The referendum result does not affect students studying in the EU, beneficiaries of Erasmus+ or those considering applying in 2017. The UK’s future access to the Erasmus+ programme will be determined as a part of wider discussions with the EU.

“More broadly, existing UK students studying in the EU, and those looking to start in the next academic year, will continue to be subject to current arrangements.”

But after Brexit, who knows?

What will happen to roaming?

Photo: AFP

Mobile phone users across Europe are looking forward to the complete removal of roaming charges between EU states in June 2017 but the controls were introduced under an EU regulation and are not incorporated into UK law.

So the UK will have to negotiate their own deal with mobile phone operators once Brexit occurs or we will all be looking at a hike in roaming charges on trips back to Blighty.

Don't Panic, Keep Calm and Wait and See

Photo: Leon Neal/AFP

Whatever is on the cards for the next few months and years, just remember that right now nothing has changed.

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BRITS IN EUROPE

Brits in Europe won right to vote for life in UK but questions remain

After years of campaigns and promises British citizens living abroad finally won the lifelong right to vote in UK general elections in April 2022. But campaigners say more needs to be done to allow all those Britons abroad to be able cast their votes easily.

Brits in Europe won right to vote for life in UK but questions remain

What’s in the law?

The Elections Act 2022 introduced several changes to the current legislation on electoral participation. Among these, it removed the rule by which British citizens lose their voting rights in the UK if they have lived abroad for more than 15 years

The new rules also abolished the requirement to have been previously registered in the UK electoral roll to become an overseas voter. In addition, the registration in the electoral roll will now last up to three years instead of only one year.

It is estimated that these changes could increase the number of overseas voter registrations by some 3 million. But the way new measures will be applied in practice is still to be defined.

READ ALSO: ‘Mixed feelings’ – British citizens in Europe finally get right to vote for life

Defining the practicalities

Under the new law, Britons living abroad will have to register to vote in the last place they were registered in the UK. This means that people who have never lived in the UK will be ineligible to vote, regardless of how long they have been overseas, while those who left when they were children will be able to use a parent or guardian’s address.

But given that the UK does not require residents to register with local councils, how to prove previous UK residence? “Typical documents accepted as a proof of residence are Council tax or utilities bills, but not everyone will have them or will have kept them in an international move,” says Fiona Godfrey, co-founder of the British in Europe coalition.

Ballot papers are pictured in stacks in a count centre as part of the 2019 UK general election. (Photo by ANDY BUCHANAN / AFP)

Other questions concern how people will effectively cast their ballot. UK citizens overseas will be able to vote by post or by proxy or in person at their polling station if they are in the UK at the time of the election. However, few people are likely to travel to the UK for an election and in the past there have problems and delays with postal voting.

The Electoral Commission has recommended that overseas electors appoint a proxy to vote on their behalf. But who could that be for people who have been away from their constituency for a long time?

New secondary legislation will have to answer these questions, defining how to be included in the electoral roll and how to exercise the voting right in practice.

According to British in Europe, the government should present draft legislation in the first half of the year so that the parliament can adopt it before summer and registrations of overseas voters can start in the autumn.

British in Europe survey

British in Europe are currently running a survey to understand the difficulties UK citizens abroad may face in the registration and voting process, as well as their intention to participate in elections.

The survey asks for instance which documents people can access to prove their previous residence in the UK, what problems they had voting in the past, and if and how they plan to vote in the future.

“We need to get an up-to-date picture of British citizens living around the world and have information to make recommendations to the government, as it prepares secondary legislation,” Godfrey said. “If millions of people will exercise their voting rights, there will be consequences for council registration offices, post office and authorities that will manage the process, among other things” she argued.

The right to vote concerns only UK parliamentary elections and national referendums, not elections in the devolved administrations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, or at local level.

The survey is open to UK citizens living anywhere in the world and is available at this link.

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