What Brexit Means for Expat Retirees

The long, messy divorce between Britain and the EU has yet to unravel itself. While it could take years before we know the full ramifications of the split, some of them are already coming to light.

For British expats who are close to retirement or already there, here’s what may be in store.

Some Experts Think UK Retirees will be Kicked Out of the EU

One very welcome result of joining the EU has been the ease of free movement and employment between member countries. At present, around 1.3 million Britons have taken advantage of this right, and many are retirees.

What will become of those expats living in EU countries like sunny Spain, long a popular retirement destination for Britons? You may have heard extremist rumors, such as that British expats will be considered illegal the instant Brexit becomes settled and complete. And some even fear that EU countries angered by Brexit may try and take revenge by putting pressure on British expats.

While that is possible, it’s not likely. Remember the Vienna Convention of 1969? It guarantees that people’s rights are protected even when a treaty expires. Unless Britain starts kicking out EU citizens after Brexit, UK retirees shouldn’t fear being expelled from their homes in Costa del Sol or wherever they’ve settled.

Brits May Face Stricter Rules for Retiring in the EU

For anyone considering retiring in the EU, however, the obstacles will probably start mounting. New conditions are likely. For example, Brits may have to prove financial independence beyond former EU-era levels. In addition, reciprocal health care is in jeopardy, so private insurance may be a reality for expats. Setting up a business may become more difficult, too. There may no longer be an automatic right to work in the EU.

The EU made retiring abroad in Europe relatively easy. Now, with everything that facilitated a smooth retirement in EU countries in a state of flux and likely to go away, the US is looking good once again.

Many Considering America (Again)

Brits retiring in sunnier European climes is nothing new. In the 1990s, for example, British retirees flocked in droves to Spain. Places like Costa del Sol and Malaga became packed with expats seeking sun and warmth.

But world events seem to cause a swing every decade or so.

The financial crisis that struck the United States ten years ago also hit Europe. And it hit Spain, Italy, Ireland, Greece, and Portugal especially hard.

That drove many Brits right out of those countries, to the tune of 90,000 a year exiting Spain alone. Where did they go? Back to the UK in many instances, but many ‘discovered America’ in the meantime. As a result, Spain lost its position as a top retirement destination after the global financial crisis of 2008. The top three retirement destinations for Brits became the US, Australia, and Canada.

But then came the European Union, making it easier to retire in Europe, and many retiress headed back to Spain and other Mediterranean countries again.

And so the pendulum swings. Now, with looming Brexit consequences for retired UK expats in Europe, many are looking at the United States (again!).

What about the Stock Market and My Pension?

While it’s true that the FTSE does exhibit volatility whenever a Brexit announcement is made, financial experts are advising small investors to hold tight. Those who have a ‘defined contribution’ pension fund will be hardest hit. Keep in mind that pensions are different these days, with only about 50% put into shares and the rest in bonds. That means the impact of market fluctuations will be less severe in the short term.

We will have to keep our eyes on upcoming decisions pertaining to pension deals, however. Protections for expat pensioners in the EU are completely up in the air at this moment in time.

If you have questions or concerns about your UK pension and transferring it to the US, we can help. We offer free UK pension reviews without obligation for expats living the United States.