The impacts of Brexit have loomed large since the 2016 referendum. From immigration to travel and business, uncertainty remains rife over what the future holds, while it’s been reported that the UK economy has been held back as organisations put their plans on hold

But what does Britain leaving the EU mean for the estimated 784,900 British citizens currently living in EU countries? The word ex-pat may conjure images of retirees in search of sun in Spain, Greece or Portugal, yet the majority are workers – many of them young – seeking better pay, freedom and life experiences.

And with the UK government’s threats to tighten immigration laws so prominent in the news and public discourse, many may be concerned over how their host nations will react. Here are some of the key topics for British ex-pats to consider based on what we know so far. 


The fate of British ex-pats had been largely left in limbo, but while the process has been pushed back time after time many EU countries have been able to lay out how they plan to treat British citizens in the event of a deal or no-deal Brexit.

Existing rights of residency will be protected until the end of the transition period on December 31st 2020. After this cut-off our ex-pats will be required to apply for permanent residence, the success of which will depend on how long they have lived or plan to live in their host country.

Those planning to stay put can contact the immigration experts at Withers to get the legal support they need. 

Work opportunities

Though rights to work should remain intact for most, it could get more complicated for those on fixed-term contracts that come to an end before they qualify for permanent legal status. Problems could also arise for Brits that need to travel to more than one country as part of their job.

Both issues are a particular concern for academic researchers that frequently take up two- or three-year positions. Workers in hospitality and tourism may also find it difficult to prove permanent residence.  

Rising living costs  

Yet despite the uncertainty, British emigration to Europe is at a 10-year high and could be set to increase further once the deal gets over the line.

Such an exodus is having a dramatic effect on living costs in popular destinations such as Paris, Frankfurt and Amsterdam. Rocketing housing prices are already pushing out middle-class and poorer residents, and could make it unfeasible for less high-flying ex-pats to settle.  

If you’re a British ex-pat living in the EU, are you clear on where you stand after Brexit?