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the brexit files

information and predictions for uk expats in europe

Whilst the 'B' word continues to dominate the UK media,  the implications arising from Britain leaving the EU,  either with or without a 'deal',  are arguably that much more important for UK expatriates living in Europe.

As you are undoubtably aware,  the political situation is extremely fluid,  and promises to remain so for some time to come,  so what follows is largely guesswork.   The guides below,  therefore,  are offered without prejudice and should not be relied upon as your sole source of information when making important decisions.   We will make every effort to update this page as new information becomes available.

Union flag and the European Union flag, showing a separation.

customs declarations

forwarding mail to addresses in the EU

At the moment,  a Customs Declaration  ( including a description of the contents,  their purpose and value )  is required whenever we send anything larger than the Royal Mail's 'Letter' format to a country outside of the EU.   This,  of course,  is primarily so that the destination country can levy whatever local Duty is payable on the goods.

Following Brexit we must assume that a similar declaration will be required when despatching to an address in an EU Member State.   Although we currently make no charge to complete a Customs Declaration on your behalf,  we may have to review this policy once the scale of the extra work required becomes apparent.

. . .transit time for forwarded mail

It seems inevitable that there will be a postal delay for mail forwarded to EU States in order to accommodate Customs clearance.   Our best guess is that transit time for Royal Mail International Standard post will increase by at least 24 hours,  and possibly more,  bringing it into line with the current 5 - 8 days for mail sent to countries outside of Europe.   Private couriers are likely to experience similar delays.

. . .postal and shipping costs

Again,  with the loss of reciprocal agreements between Royal Mail and various EU domestic postal carriers,  their charges will almost certainly increase.   However,  neither the Royal Mail nor any of the International Courier firms we have approached are willing,  at this stage,  to speculate on the extent of potential price rises.

. . .a quick word on the 'backstop'

There exists a scenario where,  in order to obviate the need for a hard border with the Republic  ( the so-called 'backstop' arrangement ),  Northern Ireland will tacitly remain in the European Customs Union and,  as a result,  mail  (including parcels )  forwarded to destinations within Europe from our Northern Ireland Mail Centre in County Down would be largely exempt from Customs checks and charges.   However,  because Northern Ireland would still be part of the UK,  goods bought on-line from Amazon,  EBAY etc.  should still be delivered to the Mail Centre as domestic mail.   It is this inherent contradiction that has held up negotiations for so long.

we are expanding into the republic!

In order to take advantage of the potential for businesses seeking to operate on both sides of the Irish border,  ( in whatever form that border may eventually take ) we are planning to open a Mail Centre in Dublin at the end of 2019.

UK driving licence, post Brexit changes.

driving in europe

post brexit licensing & insurance

Following the latest Commons defeat,  uncertainty remains over whether the UK will leave the EU with or without an agreed deal,  or indeed,  if we leave at all!   So what impact would a 'no-deal' Brexit have on driving abroad?

If the UK leaves without a deal,  it is likely that drivers with a vehicle still registered in the UK will need to obtain and carry a 'Green Card' with them when driving in the European Economic Area,  including Andorra, Serbia and Switzerland,  and the Republic of Ireland.   This card is an international certificate of insurance that guarantees a motorist has the necessary third-party insurance cover and is suitably insured to drive in EEA countries.

If the UK ceases to be part of the European Economic Area,  authorities in EEA countries will be allowed to stop UK registered vehicles at borders to check that they hold a Green Card.   In some of these countries it is a criminal offence not to carry a Green Card and motorists could be subject to a fine,  seizure of their vehicle,  or face prosecution.   It's also important to remember that a separate Green Card must be carried for a trailer or caravan as each card has a unique,  identifiable number.

If you have a local licence,  issued by your country of residence,  and your vehicle is registered in an EEA country,  then it is likely that a reciprocal arrangement would apply should you decide to drive in the UK.   We are awaiting a more definitive answer from the DVLA.

Partly drawn from the RAC advice to Members,  14 March 2019.


overseas voters

changes in voting regulations

As a British citizen living abroad,  in the European Union or further afield,  you currently only maintain your right to vote in Parliamentary Elections  ( or any future referendums! )  for fifteen years.   This is almost certainly about to change.

The private 'Overseas Electors Bill 2017-19',  sponsored by Glynn Davies MP,  has inevitably been held up by Parliament's preoccupation with Brexit,  but is expected to enter statute later in 2019.   It effectively removes this 15 year limitation and provides UK expatriates with a 'Vote for Life'.   It will also afford the children of expats,  even if they were born outside of the UK,  the right to vote in UK elections once they have reached the age of majority.

Although the bill does not directly bestow automatic voting rights in a future referendum,  Parliament could decide that British citizens living in the EU were so directly affected by Brexit that they should be given a vote.

However,  given that the Government's own estimates suggest that this bill could add up to 3.5 million new voters,  the electoral office would be unable to process so many registrations within the time available and implementation is likely to be deferred until the next [scheduled] general election in 2022.