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Brexit, as the year comes to an end

While political leaders, macroeconomists and captains of industry are looking at the bigger picture impacted by Brexit, for many a ‘normal’ person the immediate concerns relate to practical matters such as the right to continue to travel unhindered through Europe, work here, own property abroad and, when living in places such as Spain, continue to use the medical and other public services through your British insurance coverage. Although the UK will leave the European Union in a few years, the draft being studied right now looks promising indeed.

In essence, it looks to create a reciprocal agreement whereby the existing status quo relating to health and pension rights is upheld. In practical terms this means that the rights and privileges acquired by EU citizens in the UK and British citizens in countries such as Spain will not be turned upside down and lost. If approved, this will avoid a great deal of upheaval and allow an established system to continue to function for those who have been benefiting from it for some time now. However, it applies to existing arrangements, not new ones, so if you leave the EU after Brexit you break the chain and your current rights will no longer be upheld.

In principle, it is a welcome form of pragmatism that follows the spirit of the law to allow those already living and working in the UK (or Europeans in the UK) to continue to do so with a minimum of chaos and disruption. From here on out, however, new rules will apply, so the old arrangement will cease to be in effect for future generations. Whether or not this really leads to less interaction between the EU and UK remains to be seen, but it will certainly not be as easy to live and work in all parts of Europe as it has been.

The main impact for many relates to continued pension and healthcare rights, but it also extends to residence permits, the right to work and run businesses, education and the like. Social security status may be a little bit murky, but those who have paid into the broader European/UK system should find their rights upheld along with pension payments. What’s more, most countries within the EU are unlikely to turn British residents away, so the streamlined residency procedures are expected to remain in place. Greater checks and controls will apply to British citizens in the future, but for those already here the prospect of little practical change to their status is certainly heartening – and it’s a positive note on which to end 2017 and look towards 2018!