We take a look at what leaving the European Union would mean for British expats living in Europe...
9 June 2016| Last updated on 22 October 2017
It's a big question and a popular concern for Britons heading for the polls this month to determine whether or not Britain will leave the EU. How will expats and people who own property in EU countries be affected? Will they be? How?
Of course, their concerns are understandable, and if you are one of them, you are not alone. Perhaps you're confused however throughout the ongoing leave/remain campaigns that you don't know what to vote.
So in an effort to help you make sense of it all, here's a quick guide as to how exactly leaving the EU may affect British expatriates living in EU countries.
How many British expats live in the EU, and where are they?
Firstly, lets see how many people are asking this question. Over 4.5 million Britons live abroad across the globe, with approximately a quarter of them in Europe alone, according to the United Nations in 2015.
Top countries for British expats in the EU to live in include Spain, Ireland and France. Of course, expats living abroad will be able to vote in the referendum, granted they registered in time and haven't lived abroad for over 15 years.
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What fears do expats have about Brexit?
It has been suggested that the withdrawal of Britain from the EU may see many citizens effectively becoming illegal citizens. This is an argument upheld by pro-EU campaigners, as they warn that thanks to the EU's right of free mvoement, EU members cannot expel citizens of other EU states.
If Brexit occurs, there is concerns that member states, angered by Britain's decision, may put pressure on British expats in revenge; for instance, retirees could be asked to pay their own healthcare, or access to healthcare services may be curbed completely.
Whether there are huge affects is unlikely however, as the UK itself hosts its own share of 3 million EU nationals and expats living in the country.
Will expats be deported by EU countries if Brexit occurs?
Highly unlikely, in fact, almost definitely not. Could you imagine if EU countries began to expel British nationals? They need to consider the treatment of their own nationals living in the UK. If expulsions began to occur, the potential for economic turmoil would most definitely occur.
Plus, the Vienna Convention of 1969 will be upheld, which states that individuals must keep their rights that they once exercised under a treaty, even if that treaty is later ended.
Of course, all rights for existing expats living in the EU would go unharmed. However, the fate of potential expatriates would depend on negotiations, because if Brexit happens, their rights may vary and be significantly different when it comes to living and working in EU nations.
What happens if I own property in France or Spain?
No matter what happens with Brexit, EU countries must continue to respect individual property rights as made clar by the United Nation's Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights.
That's not to say, however, that EU nations won't decide to make foreign homeowners pay more tax or the like...
What will happen to the rights of British expats?
If Brexit happens, there's nothing stopping any changes to rights of expats regarding healthcare and access to their host country's benefits systems. However, these are believed to be minute, as Britain may become part of the European Economic Area (EEA) like Switzerland and Norway.
Of course, it's understandable that whatever rights the UK seeks for its citizens abroad, it is only fair that EU citizens wishing to come or stay in the UK will also be granted the same privileges.