Brexit & You will be your weekly guide to how the 27 remaining member states of the EU are preparing for the exit of one of the union's largest and most recalcitrant members.
Every Tuesday, multilingual correspondent Alex Macbeth will bring you weekly news and reflections from around Europe.
What we won't do is give you yet another take on the Brexit negotiations in Brussels (the latest round ended on Thursday, and was 'constructive' according to EU negotiator Michel Barnier), Theresa May's rows with her colleagues or Labour's attempts to paper over the cracks in its Brexit policy. What we will do is tell you how the rest of Europe is dealing with a situation that it didn't ask for, but is having to confront – and how Brits on the continent are managing.
And we're going to strive to make it constructive: Brexit might be bad news for many of us, but we're going to keep this practical and (mostly) non-whiny.
Below you can read the first edition. If you like what you read, sign up here to get it in your inbox every Tuesday.
The rights of British citizens in the EU and vice-versa are at stake in the Brexit negotiations. But how can Brits continue to live and do business in the EU after Brexit, regardless of the outcome?
Brits who didn’t know what the European Union was before Brexit are going to find it much harder to discover the continent after.
Brexit melts away the privilege of moving seamlessly to and between Britain’s estranged EU cousins.
If the awkward compound noun wasn’t a term used to describe Britain’s self-imposed European exile it could easily be the name of a toilet bowl cleaner or a Brazilian mining company.
Whatever it turns out to be, it will throw a spanner in the plans of 1.2 million or so Brits living in 25 Schengen states.
While nobody is getting kicked out of anywhere until at least 2019, Brits may well find they need to fulfil several conditions to haggle an invite to the European Union’s free-for-all house party – the Schengen Zone – thereafter.
Phrasebooks, a taste for strange cheeses and basic differentiation of euro coins are enough to surf Europe now, but Brits are going to find their access to the continent heavily restricted after Brexit.
The worst news is it may yet take both sides of politicians in the Brexit negotiations another 18 months to decide who can live where and how.
Britain has suggested two-to-five-year residency terms for EU residents in the UK after Brexit; voices in the EU have said Brits may be able to obtain residency in one EU country but without the Schengen privileges of moving without a visa or a passport to another.
Some EU countries however are already actively recruiting British citizens. Estonia has launched How To Stay In, a website geared towards Brits with information on how to establish an EU company through the country’s e-residence programme.
“The Brexit referendum led to a sharp increase in applications for e-Residency from the UK, with twice as much demand as before the referendum,” Arnaud Castaignet, head of Estonia’s E-Residency Programme, told The Local. “We currently have 1,307 e-residents from the UK,” adds Castaignet. “We surpassed 1,000 in the week that Article 50 was triggered.”
The British e-residents have so far established 103 companies in Estonia without having to relocate from the UK. Estonia’s e-residency programme offers global citizens the opportunity to set up a company online for €100 and benefit from being able to trade as an EU company.
Online residency will help your goods reach Europe, but you yourself will only be there virtually as the program does not entail the right to actually live in Estonia.
Malta will however actually let you move to its warm Mediterranean shores, albeit for an annual fee of €15,000, or just over €41 per day.
Anybody wanting to move to the archipelago will need to either rent a place for a minimal annual value of €8,750 or buy an outright property at no less than €220,000, according to Zentura Ltd, a consultancy firm that facilitates applications for Maltese residency and citizenship.
If you have the money and are willing to spend it, most countries will offer residency, or even citizenship, as part of an investor program. Cyprus has allegedly been selling passports to pretty much anyone who can afford one, reported the Guardian, while Greece, Bulgaria, Croatia and Romania will all be happy to play host if you buy a house worth at least €250,000.
Or you could make a hefty investment; buy a second division football club or fund an innovative chain of hairdressers in your country of choice.
Don’t fancy the hefty price tag or the bad hair days? Germany will give you a passport for a mere €255. But only once you’ve lived in the country for eight years.
Can Brexit help Sweden discover the next PayPal or TransferWise?
Sweden hopes to cash in on the fintech exodus from London.
One country’s loss is another’s gain. Stockholm has set its sights on picking up some of the fintech business that experts predict London is set to lose.
Cobcoe’s report outlines several ‘services’ sectors threatened by Brexit. Financial services, as well as back office data, call centres and data storage are key areas where the UK will have to realign fast or risk seeing key companies relocate to Europe from hubs such as London and Cambridge.
Fintech, or technology and software used to enable banking and financial services, is another. The UK is still the leader in the sector in 2017, according a report by CBS Insights. But the same report warns that “fintech insurgents” could cash in on the UK’s loss, with Sweden and France most poised to inherit sections of the financial technology market.
The Stockholm Fintech Hub is one such nascent player looking to wrestle business away from the UK in the highly-profitable start up sector. The 226 organizations in the Swedish fintech sector have attracted more than €750 million in funding already and employ more than 3,000 people, according to a recent post by Matthew Argent, founder of the Stockholm Fintech Hub.
“I have witnessed a seismic shift in activity within fintech in Sweden since we launched in February 2017,” writes Argent. “The country’s tech unicorns are putting the country on the map as a viable destination for investment and this is influencing the fintech sector.”
Sum Up ready to pack up and leave London
Britain’s fintech sector is nervous and some of the leading figures have already decided to relocate.
Sum Up, which employs more than 500 people, creates technology to authenticate chip card transactions (Visa, Mastercard etc). The company is UK-based and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).
It operates in 31 countries and fears that with the UK out of the single market, it could lose its automatic access to many European markets and become a victim of regulatory divergence.
While London remains the fintech capital of Europe, with more than 1 billion invested into the sector alone in 2017, some of the 1600 or so companies that employ 60,000 people – according to the report – are beginning to fret about Brexit.
David Thomas of Cobcoe says talent must be protected in the Brexit negotiations because “if Europe loses this incredible pool of talent the damage to the economy is going to be immense.”
German trade guru: “I doubt Brexit will ever happen”
If a German business expert is to be believed, then there'll be no need to learn Maltese or file tax returns in Estonian to live on the Costa Brava.
“Agh, Brexit, it is all verbal so far; I doubt it will ever actually happen,” said Anton Börner, president of BGA, The Federation of German Wholesale, Foreign Trade and Services, calling a hard Brexit's bluff in an interview with German daily Die Welt.
Börner based his doubts on the endurance of the UK economy and the resistance of stock markets to Brexit speculation.
“Market leaders assume that Brexit takes place in politicians' speeches, but not in reality,” added Börner. “Whatever comes will be strongly cushioned in order not to overwhelm the economy.”
British Ambassador slammed by Brits in France over Brexit
The British Ambassador to France has been on the sharp end of criticism from UK citizens in the country, who aren't buying his reassurances over Brexit.
British envoy Edward Llewelyn posted a video on the embassy’s Facebook page in an attempt to update Brits in France on the ongoing Brexit negotiations and to stress there was good news to report back on the progress being made.
But the reaction was overwhelmingly hostile:
“The intransigence of the UK government is making people ill, we are being treated like bargaining chips,” one angry Brit commented, The Local France writes.
If you want to give your local British Ambassador a grilling, see the listings below for Embassy Brexit events (but before you get too angry, remember that diplomats are only doing the government's bidding!).
Brexit news on The Local this week:
France is cutting taxes on bankers to woo companies leaving the UK: France cuts taxes on bankers to woo Britain's Brexit leavers.
US bank Citi has applied for a licence in France for activities it plans to move out of the UK post-Brexit, according to an executive.
Anglo-Swedish drug maker AstraZeneca has started making preliminary preparations for moving some operations out of the UK in the event of a hard Brexit, chairman Leif Johansson said this week.
Frankfurt could be one of the big winners of Brexit. We've put together some interesting facts about Germany's financial capital:
Brexit events to watch
Wednesday 25 October at 18:00–21:30
Practical Brexit II. A meeting to enable individuals to obtain some guidance on aspects of Brexit . Speakers include UK Ambassador Alison Rose
Location: ING Auditorium, Avenue Marnixlaan 24, 1000 Brussels.
Organisers: Brussels British Community Association & British Chamber of Commerce in Belgium
Thursday 19 October at 18:30–22:00
Brexit – Ignorieren oder Reagieren (Brexit – Ignore or React?)
Organiser: Small businesses association of the CDU / CSU (political organisation – centre right).
Friday 17 November, 18:00
Europäische Außen- und Sicherheitspolitik – nach dem Brexit (European Foreign and Security Policy, after Brexit)
Location. Europäisches Dokumentationszentrum USB, Universitätsstr. 33, 50931 Köln
Organiser: Europe Direct, Köln.
12 October at 19:00–20:30
Brexit means Brexit, a lecture in cooperation with the association for the partnership between Königswinter and North-East Lincolnshire.
Location: VHS Siebengebirge (College), Königswinter
Organiser: VHS Siebengebirge
Wednesday 25 October 15:00
How you're affected by Brexit, a seminar on how companies with relations with the UK will be affected by Britain leaving the EU.
Organiser: PwC Örebro
Wednesday 4 October 18:30
Le Brexit et nous ('Brexit and us'). Ross McInnes, an Oxford-educated Franco-Australian and chairman of French engine-maker Safran, is the French government's 'ambassador' for welcoming companies wanting to relocate to the Paris region after Brexit. At this event he will give his perspective on Brexit and its implications for France.
Location: Sciences Po Campus de Reims, Ancien Collège des Jésuites, Salle I/302
Organiser: Sciences Po Campus de Reims
Open Forums for British nationals in the Netherlands, hosted by the British Embassy:
Organiser: British Embassy, The Hague.
Groningen – 3 October
Rotterdam – 5 October
Maastricht – 10 October
Eindhoven – 10 October
Arnhem/Oosterbeek – 19 October
Amsterdam – 24 October
Wednesday 15 November, 8:30am
Global morgen: Brexit. A talk by Espen Aas, NRK's London correspondent.
Location: Sølvberget, Stavanger kulturhus
Organiser: Internasjonalt Kulturnettverk, Sølvberget
23 November at 17:00
EU, Europa, Alternativet, UK Og Brexit (The EU, Europe, Alternativet, the UK and Brexit)
Organiser: Alternativet (The Alternative, a green political party)
Tuesday 5 December 19:00
Brexit v Casper Pedersen
Organiser: VU (Venstres Ungdom) Mariagerfjord (local youth section of the Danish Liberal Party)
Tuesday 3 October 16:30
Town Hall Meeting on Brexit for British Nationals, with British Ambassador Sarah Price.
Location: Helsinki Cathedral, crypt, Kirkkokatu 18, Helsinki.
Organiser: Anglican Church in Finland & Federation of Finnish-British societies.
Do you know of a Brexit related event in the EU 27 that The Local should know about? [email protected]
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