Expat Essentials

Domino Effect (updated): How a no-deal Brexit could affect all expats across Europe

(Editor’s note: On 12 December 2019, Boris Johnson and the Conservative Party won a resounding victory, insuring the United Kingdom left the European Union. Meanwhile, officials in EU countries including France and Spain are struggling to develop coherent no-deal Brexit policies for their British citizens. See our post here with a complete list of which European countries have guaranteed British expats a transitional period in the event of a “hard” Brexit pos- 31 December.  Also, see our running account of Brexit developments here. Laura Kaye in Berlin contributed to this post.)

In June 2016, Britain voted to leave the European Union after a small group of nationalists sold British voters a simple message: Brexit will be a quick and easy return to greatness.

It wasn’t.

Former Prime Minister Theresa May repeatedly tried – and failed – to renegotiate leave terms acceptable to the European Research Group, the far-right block of Tory MPs who demand a hard Brexit.

With the third Brexit deadline now 31 January 2020, and after Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s thrashing of the opposition in the 12 December general election, it is finally certain the UK will completely part ways with the EU under one of three scenarios:

  1. Boris Johnson’s terms if he can work out trade details and other treaties by 31 December.
  2. No deal if he can’t, which means the UK gets incredibly unfavorable trade terms with the EU and its 27 remaining members.
  3. Another extension.

Or as the New York Times phrases it:

Mr. Johnson’s victory extinguishes the possibility of Britain’s reversing that decision, a dream that has been nurtured by millions who believe that the referendum was a catastrophic error and should be rerun.

If there’s a lesson here for all nations, it’s the power of simple populist messaging combined with the appeal of demagoguery.

In this case, former United Kingdom Independence Party leader Nigel Farage, Dominic ummings, Johnson and Michael Gove made promises no one could keep, from Brexit diverting 350 million pounds per week to the National Health Service instead of the E.U. to new and better trade agreements negotiated with individual E.U. countries via the World Trade Organization.

Quotes such as “easiest negotiations in human history,” “Britain holds all the cards” and “take back our country” tripped off the tongues of Eurosceptics, who described a brave new world of rainbows and unicorns.

Unfortunately, May’s Conservative government proved incompetent at bargaining from a position of weakness, the interests of one country against those of a union of 27.

Instead of improving its relationship with the E.U.,  after three years, multiple rounds of negotiations and finally a deal that never had a chance of making it through Parliament, May warned as she departed 10 Downing Street that a no-deal Brexit will mean catastrophe.

And that, as our Nina Avramovic put it all those months ago in her prescient post “Dear Brits; This is what it’s like to be a non-EU citizen,” means living in a whole new world of uncertainty, with limitations on travel, work and education.

The bottom line, and there’s always a bottom line: A country outside the customs union cannot have the same rights and benefits as an E.U. member state.

With a “soft” Brexit, the trade agreements, customs agreements and rules regarding the right of free movement between the U.K. and the E.U. remain in place during a transition period to new agreements. But should the transition period pass without new agreements, the United Kingdom starts at zero on the same level as North Korea.

If you’re an expat – especially a British expat – what does all this mean?

Here’s how Brexit is impacting expats across Europe:

• The COVID-19 pandemic is a preview to what the United Kingdom can expect after 31 December if it doesn’t get a deal with the European Union. As the spring planting season begins all over Europe, a lot of farmland is sitting  fallow because labor is scarce. While E.U. countries are jockeying for migrant laborers as borders close, the Daily Mail has its predictable “the future has never been brighter” fantasy post about how the Brits are just going to substitute robots for those annoying Poles. 

Unfortunately, there’s no such thing as a robot that can pick crops quickly in a field. That would require geo-location technology and ultra-fine motor skills no one has developed, or at least can build into an autonomous robot farmers can afford. Just one of the many, many things Boris, Nigel et al forgot to mention during the Brexit debate, which is a real problem. Because as we’re all about to find out, if there’s no one to work the fields, then there’s no food.

• Talk about unintended consequences … if Brexit has accomplished anything quantifiable, it is redistributing financial talent from London to the Continent. The little Netherlands is the big winner so far after usually reticent Dutch policy makers at the Netherlands Foreign Investment Agency saying out loud they intend to use Brexit to strip London clean of financial firms and their high-paying jobs.

Now Reuters, Bloomberg and other financial outlets have headlines such as this one from Bloomberg: “Netherlands Lures Its Biggest Brexit-Linked Wave of Businesses.”

The payoff? The Netherlands captured 140 businesses, with 4,200 jobs and 375 million euros (311 million pounds) in investments, according to the NFIA. NFIA officials currently are talking to 425 companies about a move or expansion in the Netherlands, up from 175 in 2018, according to media reports.

Since the 2016 Brexit referendum, 140 companies have relocated operations – mostly to Amsterdam – from London, with 78 in 2019 alone. So, when will Boris put this on the side of a big red bus?

• We saw this coming from a mile (1.61 kilometers) away. Boris Johnson will announce new laws that would ban about 70 percent of European Union workers who’d previously worked in the United Kingdom. The proposal would require anyone applying to work in the U.K. to have a job offer paying at least 25,600 pounds per year. That they would speak English is assumed. “Businesses can no longer rely on cheap migrant labour to do low-skill work as has been the case for the last 20 to 30 years,” a “government source” (Boris) told the Telegraph. “They need to invest in British workers.”

So, from 31 December on, that Starbucks barista, hotel chambermaid, plumber, carwash attendant and caregiver looking after your elderly parents at the nursing home will not be from Poland, Romania or Bulgaria, but will be straight from Harrow. Making Britain great again … though if you read the Guardian, you’ll know business leaders have slightly different take:

Industry leaders immediately accused the government of an assault on the economy warning of “disastrous” consequences with job losses and closures in factories and the high street.

• Speaking of workers, advanced industrial nations are fighting a war for talent. The Brits are surrendering. The economies of France, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Germany, Scandinavia and the Baltics rise or fall on their ability to attract top engineers, physicists and scientists. But post-Brexit, the United Kingdom already is seeing a drop in the number of highly skilled internationals applying for jobs.

A New Economy Report from global business consultants BDO found a 9-per cent drop in applicants at private companies since the Brexit vote. And that’s while E.U. talent still has the right through 31 December to work in the U.K. The report raises the specter of  a severe talent shortage after the end of the transition period as Europe’s best and brightest gravitate toward more open economies from Portugal to Estonia.

• At Dispatches, we tend to focus on highly skilled internationals moving to opportunities in Europe’s largest and most vibrant economies. Before Brexit, when we thought of British expats, it was the global executives and the retirees looking for a quiet life in the sun in Spain or Greece. But with a no-deal Brexit back on the table, we’re rethinking that. Because a lot of Brits are showing up in our host country of the Netherlands, then going Dutch. Even in our headquarters city of Eindhoven.

From the Eindhoven Dagblad, our local newspaper:

47 Britons became Dutchmen this year in Eindhoven in the stormy Brexit year. That is four times as many as in 2018. The United Kingdom is in fifth place with the contribution to the new Eindhoven residents, after Syria, India, Turkey and Iran. In total, Eindhoven had 745 new Dutch nationals in 2019.

So Brits are in the same migrant category with people from Syria, India and Iran, fleeing what promises to be an even bigger mess. Of course, the Netherlands is not the only place this is happening.  In the Republic of Ireland, the number of Brits taking Irish citizenship rose to about 1,200 in 2018 from 73 in 2015.

Brits taking German citizenship jumped 1,100 percent the year after Brexit – to about 7,500 in 2017 from 622 in 2015.

The number of Brits getting the new passports only tells part of the story. The more interesting part is the number of U.K. citizens who applied for passports. And this is where it gets murky because some countries allow dual citizenship – you get to keep your original citizenship when obtaining their passport – including all the countries that issue Golden Visas/Golden Passports such as Greece and Portugal. But many E.U. countries such as the Netherlands generally don’t. Still, about 1,200 Brits have surrendered their passports to become Dutch in 2017 and 2018, up from less than 200 in 2015.

By comparison, Quartz reports that first-time applicants for Irish passports from the U.K. spiked in February, March, and October, right before Brexit deadlines. More than 94,000 applicants born in U.K. submitted their applications for the first time.

About 4,400 British citizens applied for Swedish passports as of the end of November, 2019, twice as many as in 2018.

Of course, there’s more to the surge in the change of status than Brexit including international marriages, though clearly, Brexit is a trigger. History is full of these sorts of population movements including during and World War II, when displaced people migrated to better opportunities and something like security. While Boris & Co. are selling visions of a small but great England, a whole lot of British citizens see a brighter future in the larger European community.

• The Guardian has a long but compelling post about Britain’s best and brightest teachers voting with their feet and leaving the dysfunctional public school system for Switzerland and other destinations.

A call-out to Guardian readers elicited more than 300 responses from teachers across the globe who left the public school system for more money, more freedom and more respect at private schools from Switzerland to Borneo. With Brexit looming, look for this trend to accelerate.

• Brexit is having a dramatic macroeconomic impact on Europe. First and foremost, it’s pushing people out of London and into other European financial capitals, which is exacerbating already rising housing costs in Frankfurt, Amsterdam and  Paris.

National Public Radio’s Paris correspondent Eleanor Beardsley reports that France is “putting out the welcome mat”; that the French government has cut red tape and taxes, and that new international schools are opening in Paris for the Brits and European Union citizens displaced by Brexit.

The downside is that most of the people arriving are high-income wage earners or just plain rich, and that’s making Paris unaffordable for the less rich, not to mention the middle-class and poor.

The price of real estate in the French capital has risen 248 percent in the last two decades, with that trend line headed straight up for 2020.

• Media outlets have multiple stories about the rapidly increasing number of Brits abandoning Blighty for the Continent.

A study by Oxford University and the Berlin Social Science Centre – using OECD data – indicates emigration from Britain to the E.U. is now at a 10-year high. An estimated 84,000 Brits will migrate to the E.U. this year, up from 58,000 the year before the Brexit vote in 2015, and 46,000 back in 2012, according to the Independent.

All the figures we’ve seen indicate that in aggregate, about 1.5 million British citizens live in the E.U., Switzerland, the Baltics and the Scandinavian countries, with the majority in sunny climes such as Spain, Portugal, Greece and Greek Cyprus.

• Someone is finally saying out loud what we’ve been thinking since 2016 – if this all goes wrong, there could be a mass population exchange between the E.U. and the U.K. Because at the end of the day, Brexit is about reciprocity.

The Independent has a post examining how hardline anti-EU migrant positions and “domestic grandstanding” by the Johnson government could lead to EU countries retaliating against British expats.

Earlier in 2019, Brandon Lewis, Home Secretary Priti Patel’s deputy, told Die Welt that E.U. citizens who fail to apply by 2020 for settled status in the U.K. would be deported.

From the Independent post:

Botched announcements by Boris Johnson’s government are putting over a million British citizens living on the continent at the risk of “retaliatory deportations” and other consequences after Brexit, the prime minister has been warned.

Over the past few weeks, we’ve seen Spain, the Netherlands  and other E.U. countries have warned Britain they could reassess the measures they’re taking to keep British expats in place should Johnson go full Moggsy on EU citizens.

• Doing business for Brits is about to get a lot more challenging, according to the Luxembourg Times. The Times has an in-depth post taken from a Brexit advice session with New York-based immigration law firm Fragomen.

Fragomen advisers told the crowd UK citizens and businesses in Luxembourg working cross-border might not be eligible to work in other areas of the Schengen Zone without permits.

British workers and businesses in Luxembourg who also work in France, for example, must make sure they abide by French rules and regulations for British workers post-Brexit, the post quotes Christine Sullivan, who works in the firm’s Belgium office, as saying.

• Long before Brexit, there were visible fissures between England and Scotland. With Brexit, the “united” in “United Kingdom” has become increasingly tenuous. On 6 October, Scotland’s Migration Minister Ben Macpherson called on the British Home Office to remove the 5-year rule for settled status.

Scotland notes that EU citizens who want to remain legally resident in the UK after Brexit have to apply through the UK Government’s convoluted EU Settlement Scheme, which requires Europeans who’ve lived in the UK for decades to jump through multiple hoops.

But those who have lived in the UK for less than five years are eligible only for pre-settled status, which doesn’t give them or their children a guaranteed permanent right to remain.

This is not entirely an altruistic gesture. Over the next 25 years, any population growth in Scotland is projected to come from migration because of falling birth rates and an aging population. So basically, it’s on the list of European lands to literally run out of people along with Croatia, Bulgaria and Italy.

• Spain increasingly is the Brexit flashpoint (see item below) with increasing uncertainty for British citizens living there. This week, EuroCitizen, a group defending the rights of Brits in Spain and Spanish citizens in the U.K., released a report that finds it is incredibly slow going for British expats applying for Spanish citizenship.

The Spanish process requires two exams including a language fluency exam, on the way to getting the right to even make the official application. Once you get to that point, “approvals appear to be random and have no relation to the date of application,” states the report. About 77 percent of applicants – even some who applied just after Brexit in 2016 – are still in limbo.

This all appears to be due to a rush to apply for Spanish citizenship by expats wishing to remain in the European Union.

• For all expats, Brexit has been about reciprocity. European Union countries are only willing to make special provisions to keep Brits in place if the United Kingdom does the same for their citizens.

It was just assumed everyone would play nice. Then on 23 September, Spain dropped a bombshell: Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Borrell told the British government that if he doesn’t see evidence the U.K. will assure the rights of 180,000 Spanish expats, the deal in place to protect more the 365,000 Brits will get far less generous.

In March, Spain approved no-Brexit rules regulating all aspects of daily life including pensions, university degrees, driving licenses, healthcare coverage and work permits. But that decree gives the Brits two months post-Brexit to reciprocate.

If they don’t? We don’t know. But the implication is a lot of old Brits getting on slow boats back to Blighty.

El Pais in English has the best post.

• Ah, reality raises its ugly head again. Brexit is all about excluding “The Other” whether the other is from Poland, the Caribbean or India. But the reality of the Global War for Talent has the Tory government reversing its decision to yank the 2-year post-graduation grace period for students.

On 11 September, the British government announced a “new” two-year post-study work visa for international students.

Home Secretary Priti Patel stated:

The new Graduate Route will mean talented international students, whether in science and maths or technology and engineering, can study in the UK and then gain valuable work experience as they go on to build successful careers.

The inconvenient truth is, the post-grad visa was abolished by then-Home Secretary Theresa May as she introduced her policy of creating  a “hostile environment” for immigrants even from Commonwealth Countries, which have the right to vote, but not immigrate.

Give Boris Johnson credit for realizing Britain doesn’t produce sufficient home-grown talent to compete with the United States, China and European Union countries.

• Remember when Home Secretary Priti Patel said freedom of movement for E.U. nationals would end at the stroke of midnight on 31 October?

Just kidding.

Turns out the Boris Bunch couldn’t do that even if they wanted to because – shocker – they can’t get it together enough to institute an actual immigration system anywhere near that date.

Which does not bode well for the U.K.’s post-Brexit future.

So, they’ve added a temporary immigration status:

“After careful consideration, myself, the Prime Minister and Cabinet have therefore agreed that EU citizens moving here after a no deal Brexit will be able to access a temporary immigration status, until the new skills-based immigration system goes live at the start of 2021,” Politico quotes Patel as telling parliament on Wednesday.

And for the record, Patel uses the reflexive (and incorrect word order), which drives us crazy. Using the reflexive pronoun, you can love yourself, beat yourself or embarrass yourself, but it’s, “The prime minister, cabinet and I agree that E.U. citizens moving here …”, not “Myself agrees that E.U. citizens moving here ….”

Jeez, they can’t even get that right.

• In August, Home Secretary Priti Patel stated freedom of movement for European Union nationals trying to enter the United Kingdom will end immediately on 31 October in the event of a no-deal Brexit rather than in 2020 under Theresa May’s dead-as-a-door-mouse transition deal. Which begs a goodly number of questions such as, “What will be the policy for people trying to enter the U.K. for business or pleasure? Will British policy makers have one set of visa requirement for all 27 E.U. member countries, or will they work up separate requirements for each country?”

What about EU nationals living in the U.K. trying to return home from vacation or business trips?

As the Atlantic magazine notes, currently, EU nationals living and working in the UK don’t require any documentation apart from their passport. “So, there’s no formal government registry of those who have exercised their free-movement rights to live and work in Britain. The estimated figure of 3.5 million EU nationals in Britain is just that—an estimate,” according to Atlantic reporter Yasmeen Serhan.

In the event of a no-deal Brexit, will each British customs official be left to make it up as they go? And how will officials know who’s who … who has a job and home in the U.K. and who doesn’t?

• If you want to see how Brexit – deal or no-deal – might work out for unskilled European expats in the U.K., look at the Windrush Scandal, and now the deportation of the Chagos people. The British government is in the process of forcing the Chagos to go back to … well, no one knows where because their island, Diego Garcia, is now a top-secret American military base.

In Windrush, first Theresa May, then Amber Rudd, oversaw an official policy to create a “hostile environment” meant to pressure people who’d been recruited to England in the 1950s from Jamaica and other former British holdings to supply low-paid labor.

Even though they’d been born in the United Kingdom or lived there legally for generations, some Windrush families were pressured to leave, deported or denied re-entry.

Now, British passport holders from the Chagos Islands in the Indian Ocean are being systematically targeted in an attempt to convince them to leave the UK. Imagine what will happen to the Poles who run so many of Britain’s carwashes, work in heavy industry and take care of older Brits at nursing homes.

To be clear, the UK has agreed to allow the 3.5 million E.U. citizens in the U.K. to remain. But they’re required to apply to continue living in the UK after 30 June 2021. Permanent residence document will not be valid after 31 December 2020, but EU expats will be allowed to stay in the U.K. until 30 June 2021.

To continue living in the UK, they’ll be required to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme or apply for British citizenship.

• Brexit is already a dream come true for hard-line Brexiteers … fewer skilled workers from the European Union are considering the United Kingdom for executive positions. Which suits England Firsters just fine. But less access to highly skilled internationals is a nightmare for employers already finding it difficult to recruit top talent in a white-hot global economy.

Britain remains the first choice border-crossing talent from the EU, but its lead over the Netherlands, Germany and even Spain and France is narrowing, according to the Financial Times.

• One of the most baffling failures of Brexit is a failure after three years to get any real clarity about what happens to all the expats – British and European – spread out across Europe and the United Kingdom in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

European Union, U.K. officials and governments in expat centers such as Spain and Portugal have all said the right things. But codifying those pledges into law means E.U. countries and Boris Johnson must agree on reciprocity after three years of failing to agree on anything.

In mid-June, Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay asked EU officials to “ring-fence” British expats, yet another baffling term to go with the Irish border “backstop.”

What ring-fence means is a guarantee Brits in all 27 E.U. countries would have the same post-Brexit rights to remain, deal or no-deal.

Michel Barnier, the E.U.’s Brexit negotiator, said, “Sure … if you pass the plan we negotiated with (former) Prime Minister May.” Which the U.K. will never do.

Now what? Again, in the increasingly likely event of a no-deal Brexit, no one really knows because it could get ugly fast.

As Conservative MP Roberto Costa put it:

It is inconceivable that that British government, let alone a Conservative government, could allow the rights of British nationals, living, working, studying in the EU to vaporise on the 31 October.

Or is it?

•  After three years, the ramification of a no-deal Brexit for expats is becoming clearer because more and more European Union members states have laid out in detail how they’ll treat British citizens in the event of a deal, or a no deal.

Nowhere is that difference more stark than Germany where in the event of a hard Brexit, British expats will have only an initial three-month period to apply for a residency permit. Even trickier, the grace-period offers of countries such as Poland and Spain are based on reciprocity.

Should a hard-line, far-right figure such as Nigel Farage or Jacob Rees-Mogg ultimately ascend to No. 10, it’s unlikely they would extend to foreign-nationals from the E.U. the right to remain in place.

Such a scenario could set off a wild scramble, with tens of thousands of people repatriating, putting immense pressure on housing and job markets.

May’s International Trade Secretary Liam Fox, who opposes a hard Brexit, went further on 4 June, telling the BBC the prospect of a no-deal “might well be used by those who seek to break up the United Kingdom, to use that as a weapon in that particular battle, both I think in Northern Ireland and potentially in Scotland.”

Those forces unleashed could throw the Europe as a whole into economic and social chaos.

• With a hard Brexit increasingly likely, British schools are trying to figure out how to replace their foreign students, or about 18 percent of the total enrollment.

One answer is to expand to mainland Europe. The New York Times is reporting King’s College St. Michaels in Worcestershire has opened a primary school in Frankfurt, a city that a uni executive predicted “could be the biggest beneficiary of any exodus that takes place.”

Duh ….

• Though nothing happened on the Brexit front before May’s resignation announcement, the endless wrangling and uncertainty has started to reverse Eastern Europe’s brain drain. Bulgaria, Romania and other countries in Emerging Europe have seen huge population declines in the past decade as  the young and talented left. Now, one city is experiencing a renaissance. Plovdiv’s booming IT sector and laidback lifestyle is starting to look pretty good to Bulgarians who’d been working in the United Kingdom and elsewhere in Europe, according to The Guardian.

• As we noted earlier, Romanians see a silver lining in Brexit – they get their professionals back.

AFP has a post about health care workers returning from the United Kingdom, and fewer young doctors and nurses thinking about leaving.

“Lots of people from my generation have decided to come back to Romania,” the post quotes a the 23-year-old as saying, who added the outlook is improving at home.

About 4,500 Romanian doctors work in the UK.

• Once you’ve experienced freedom of movement, is there any going back? A lot of Brits are making the conscious decision to remain part of the EU and finding ingenious ways of doing it.

The Week/PRI has a post about Ana Silvera, who grew up in London, but has the right to Portuguese citizenship via her family’s roots in the Sephardic Jewish community that once thrived there.

Silvera has never been to Portugal nor does she intend to live there. But a Portuguese passport would assure her right to travel freely through the European Union.

• Poorly thought-out policies end up harming ordinary people. If there’s a hard Brexit, thousands of expats will see the lives they built end with the change of citizenship status.

There’s the Scottish mayor of a German community who’ll have to give up his post. There’s the German doctor practicing in Belfast whose uncertain post-Brexit status in the UK has him applying to practice in the Republic of Ireland.

And of course, there are the British farmers on the wrong side of the Irish border. They’ll instantly cut off from their markets in the Republic because post-Brexit, they’ll be required to take their products to new border inspection posts … at Dublin Airport, Dublin Port and Shannon Airport.

If you’re saying to yourself, “Wow, I never thought about any of that,” well neither did the “leaders” who thought up Brexit.

A new 34-page document obtained by the Guardian shows that individual countries across Europe vary wildly when it comes to embracing their British expats post-Brexit. Especially if it’s a no-deal Brexit.

The most generous countries including Denmark, Norway, Cyprus, Austria, Slovakia, Italy, Bulgaria, Malta, Croatia and Romania will automatically reclassify British expats in place as legal, long-term residents after they lose their EU citizen status. At the other extreme is Germany, which appears to be offering only a 3-month transition period.

• One of the odder Brexit phenomena is the pro-Brexit expat. If you’re a member of any of the Facebook expat communities, you know there are a lot more of them than one might suppose. They extoll the virtues of Blighty and the innately superior qualities of Englishness, but don’t want to – you know – actually live in the United Kingdom. Or as one person posted on British Expats in Spain, “I didnt abandon my country i just decided to live in a different place.” (Spellings are correct.)

Many are far-right white supremacists who left the UK for countries they see as more homogeneous and monocultural.

This is from another Expat in Spain member (unedited):

I used to be proud to be British but unfortunately am now ashamed our country is a dumping ground for immigration, our once calm streets are overrun by violent gangs and Islamic law is knocking at our door, the benefit system is out of control and the NHS is overburdened, that why I am in Spain. White flight is real. Australia must protect herself from the mess our leftist government has created.

That “leftist government” the poster refered to was Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservative Party. So, in the event of a hard Brexit and Rees-Mogg & Co. taking over, do they return to bask in the glory of a newly great Great Britain, or do they celebrate from afar? Or will they even have a choice if the EU and the UK come to a future showdown over immigration rules and freedom of travel?

• Brits working in the financial sector are pouring into Luxembourg as banks, hedge funds and investment houses leave London so they can continue doing business with the Continent in the event of a no-deal Brexit. But British employees at the European Union are finding themselves increasingly persona non grata – even those acquiring European citizenship to keep their positions, according to a Bloomberg post.

From the post:

“We are hearing that U.K. citizens who have changed nationality are being told informally that they will be regarded as British for promotion purposes, i.e. they will not be considered for further career advancement,” said Fiona Godfrey, co-chair of British in Europe, a coalition of British nationals in the EU.

By the way, the number of British citizens taking on dual nationality has more than quadrupled since 2015 to 435 people last year, according to Luxembourg government statistics. Apparently, the stain of Britishness endures at EU institutions … and the bitterness of divorce will linger long after the official termination of the union.

• As the Big Brexit Reality TV Show enters the “Anything Goes” segment, a new parliamentary report finds that Home Office legislation will strip 3 million EU citizens in the UK of their freedom of movement, housing and rights to social security even though they might have lived in Britain for years and paid into the British pension scheme.

The study by the Joint Committee on Human Rights found the May government’s proposed EU citizen registration plan post-Brexit does not provide physical proof of status.  Labour MP Harriet Harman, who chairs the JCHR, noted the legislation would end the rights of people who have lived in the UK for years and might even have been born there.

• We’ve tended to fixate on the down-side of Brexit. But there is an upside. A lot of British expats have done pret-ty well for themselves and have the assets to indulge their fantasies – that chateau or beach house somewhere warm and sunny. True, an apartment in Geneva, Rome, Frankfurt or Paris is going to run you millions. But you can live in some fabulous places for very little money, relatively speaking. Or to put it delicately, about the same amount of money you’d spend on a dump in Hull.

Our American expat friend Lisa Verberne bought a huge house in a French village for a few thousand euros, then joined locals (including Brits) in creating a destination for creative types.

Financial Times has a post about expats discovering that Florence (Firenze) has it all … low taxes, inexpensive properties and less chaos and better services than Southern Italy. The post notes that in Italy as a whole, the average house price has collapsed 35 percent since 2011! (Here’s our post on the best destinations for expats and their families.)

CNN has a post about an entire island for sale off Sicily, on the market for the low, low prices of $1.1 million … the price for a cozy apartment Amsterdam.

Finally, expats can invest as little as 250,000 euros – a bargain fixer-upper here in the Netherlands – on a property in Portugal, Greece or Malta and get a residence visa in the bargain ... a visa that allows you to work and travel in Schengen. Or you could stay in Hull.

A hard Brexit has already happened for many highly skilled internationals. Multiple sources say Brexit is driving top digital and tech talent to out of London, or dissuading them from ever considering the UK. Recently, an estimated 20 percent of tech workers came to the UK from EU countries. Now, Reuters has a new report that finds UK-based fintech companies are struggling to attract people with in-demand skills in coding, cloud computing, machine learning, software development, cyber, AI and blockchain.

The Financial Times quotes the heads of various business lobbies who are angry and panicky including Edwin Morgan of the Institute of Directors business, a lobby group. Morgan told FT his members are “fed up. They feel like they are watching multiple slow-motion car crashes again and again.”

An enduring mystery will be why the Tory Party, which claims to be pro-business, scorned CEOs’ deep skepticisms about Brexit. Or to quote one Boris Johnson, “F**k business.” (Okay, Boris used real letters, but you get the idea.)

• There’s a certain irony to Brexit in that so many Brits suddenly fancy themselves Irish.

A record 230,000 people have applied for Irish passports since the beginning of 2019, with 5,000 more expected to apply online just this weekend, according to Quartz.  Most are citizens of the Republic of Ireland. BUT a  large percentage of those applying are from Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom, doing whatever they can to maintain their freedom to work and travel in the European Union post-Brexit, one might conclude. You can check here to see if you’re eligible for a passport from the Republic of Ireland. The Republic – part of the EU – has seen an influx of jobs and capital fleeing the UK (see the following item). Which is great unless you’re trying to find affordable digs in Dublin.

Why is all this ironic? Well, the English and the Irish have been fighting at least since the War of the Roses in the 15th Century. What would be equally ironic? Brexit leads to a united Ireland.

• If Brexit has accomplished anything, it’s redistributing highly paid expats (particularly American bankers and hedge-fund executives) to other financial capitals from London.

A  March report from the New Financial think tank indicates that 275 banking and financial firms have relocated so far. The big winner is Dublin, with 100 relocations. In second place is Luxembourg City with 60. Paris( 41), Frankfurt (40), and Amsterdam (32) trail far behind the capital of the Irish Republic, according to the report. So far, about 5,000 positions and almost 1 trillion pounds will leave London for the aforementioned cities.

“This is not Project Fear; this has already happened,” stated William Wright, the managing director of New Financial and one of the authors of the report. “It has been apparent to everyone in the City ever since the referendum that they needed to prepare for a hard Brexit,” he added.

While London is expected to remain the dominant financial center in Europe (soon to be out of Europe), Brexit is making Europe’s financial matrix far more multi-polar. And if you add the non-financial companies moving such as Sony and others, the numbers and job transfers are much higher, with Amsterdam the overall winner. (See below.)

• As we predicted early on, Brexit is driving up housing costs for expats across Europe. So, if you’re planning to run away to Paris, think again. Radio France International has a post about the trickle of wealthy French Brexit refugees returning to the capital driving up housing costs, especially for 1 million euro-plus homes. Earlier this year, the most expensive apartment ever sold in France – 39 million euros worth – went to a French gazillionaire returning from London.


• We love cosmic irony as much as the next person, but this rich. Farage & Co. sold Brexit to British voters as an instant return to greatness. Instead, it’s been EU countries that have benefitted as hundreds of companies, with thousands of jobs, have left the UK.

Here’s a pan-European snapshot:

Amsterdam officials are abandoning Dutch humility, bragging about how well they’re making out with Brexit. Amsterdam alone had record 153 foreign companies arrive in 2018, bringing 7,200 jobs with them, according to Politico and Dutch news releases. Half of the 4,000 jobs that will be created over the next three years are directly due to Brexit, according to city officials. And Rotterdam and Den Haag are also benefitting from Brexit. The only downside is, the Dutch aren’t sure where they’re going to put everyone. Big gets include Panasonic and Sony.

Dublin (see below)

Frankfurt is getting top executives from global financial giants UBS, Goldman Saches, JP Morgan and Morgan Stanley.

Luxembourg is getting part of the JP Morgan Chase operations.

Paris is getting Blackrock, Bank of America Merrill Lynch and parts of Credit Suisse.

This is just a partial list. A full list would require a book.

Also see:

So, poorer Brexiters voted to be worse off? There’s nothing wrong in that (Guardian)

Brexit: Britain’s atavistic revolution (Salon)

The IMF is right: hard Brexit is an international threat (Guardian)

Brexit: What would ‘no deal” look like (BBC)

Goldman Sachs chief Lloyd Blankfein hints at Frankfurt move (BBC)

Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan say they’re assuming a hard Brexit (Bloomberg)

What the grim reality of a ‘bad-tempered’ Brexit means (Guardian)

London is right to prepare for no deal on Brexit (Financial Times)

‘Bitter, table for one’ : What will it be like to be British after Brexit? (Dispatches Europe)

To Top

Subscribe to our newsletter

Subscribe to our newsletter and receive the latest news and updates from Dispatches Europe. Get lifestyle & culture, startup & tech, jobs and travel news dispatched to your inbox each week. Keep up with what's going on in Europe. Everything Expat.

You have Successfully Subscribed!