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BREXIT

‘Plans ruined and job opportunities lost’: Freedom of movement ends as Brexit reality dawns for Britons across Europe

From January 1st 2021, Britons can no longer take advantage of the EU's right to freedom of movement, which means lost job opportunities, complications, visas, house sales and health issues as these Britons living in Europe testify.

'Plans ruined and job opportunities lost': Freedom of movement ends as Brexit reality dawns for Britons across Europe
AFP

EU membership and freedom of movement has allowed tens of thousands of Britons to move abroad to live, work, fall in love and retire without the need for visas.

But British PM Boris Johnson and his government have decided to end freedom of movement, much to the regret of EU leaders.

Until now, mastering the local language was a bigger hurdle for settling in an EU country than the paperwork, but from 2021 things change.

No visa will be needed to stay in EU or the wider Schengen zone for under 90 days in every 180 day period, but anyone who plans longer stays or to work or retire will have to apply for one.

With the UK government deciding to end freedom of movement Brits won't be able to move freely to EU countries and importantly those Britons who did take advantage of freedom of movement to move abroad find themselves “landlocked”.

So for example someone now resident in France would not be able to move to Germany without going through the process for visas.

That means the freedom they used to leave the UK in the first place does not continue, much to the dismay and anger of many.

“UK citizens living in EU made a commitment to the EU and should retain Freedom of Movement. The UK government should be negotiating this on our behalf,” said one reader of The Local.

Unfortunately the British government chose to end freedom of movement for EU citizens wanting to move to the UK, and as a result its own citizens lost their right to live in the EU's 27 member states.

When The Local asked its British readers in Europe to explain how their future plans would be affected by the loss of freedom of movement the responses were clear.

“Plans are ruined”, “impossible”, “not going to happen”, “we'll need visas”, “everything will become more complicated and more expensive” were just a few of the responses from people who had plans to either move to another EU country or to continue residing between two of them as many have done up to now.

Many spoke of the difficulties for partners, children and parents all now facing obstacles to reunite with their family who had moved to another country.

But undoubtedly the main impact will be felt by those whose career opportunities are now hampered.

Freedom of movement has enabled Britons and Europeans to pursue career opportunities abroad without the need for visas and bureaucratic hurdles.

Those opportunities are vow vastly reduced.

Kirstie, 38, a classical musician based in Germany who works across Europe intended to move to other countries in Europe depending on professional opportunities. But they not arrive after January.

“With the end of freedom of movement and the lack of onward movement rights for those already living in the EU, it's very likely that many professional opportunities will become unavailable to me,” she said.

“Or at least, I'm much less likely to be offered them, as that will require the organisations involved to get permission and a visa for me, when many other performers do not require any formal paperwork beyond a contract and maybe an A1 form.”

Matthew, 40, a reader in France  who would like to move to Germany explained the future complications of moving to another country in Europe.

“This means that I'll be more likely to stay in France, and not pursue other career options – even moving back to the UK would mean losing what residency rights I have here,” said the reader.

“And even if my company sponsored a visa in another country such as Germany, the situation with pensions means that it would make less sense for me to accept. It's a real narrowing of future options.”

Matt, 29 a pilot based in Spain has had to put on hold a future job opportunity in Portugal.

“I applied for a transfer to Portugal where my company offers a full time contract. Now I will not have the automatic right to live and work in Portugal.

“I have had to postpone the transfer indefinitely and remain on a part time contract which is not where I wish to be. I must consider myself lucky though to still have a job under these circumstances but it is hard to adjust to losing a freedom many of us took for granted. “

A Spain-based English teacher added: “I'm a freelance teacher with my own company in Spain. I can theoretically still work in other EU states but it's much more complicated now.”

Another France-based reader who would like to move to Germany or Finland explained how the need to obtain post-Brexit residency in France to secure their future meant a narrowing of career opportunities.

“I have had to decline significant career progression job opportunities across the EU to remain in France, in order to establish my 5-year residency in order to apply for French (and thus EU) citizenship.”

Ben Robson, a 36-year-old mechanic said: “I will need to stay in France now and be less flexible to explore employment opportunities in Switzerland. I'll also not be able to consider moving to Italy where land prices are more realistic. I've lost my choice.”

Many of those affected by the loss of freedom of movement and the subsequent 90 day rule are second home owners, who bought properties in other EU countries and spend lengthy periods of time there each year.

That will now be impossible.

One second home owner named Daniella, a 57-year-old midwife said: “The 90-days rules will stop me from going to my French property which I will own from January 12th, 2021 and I will need to renovate significantly – that will take longer than 90 days. Once completed it will stop me from accessing my home in France even though I own it.”

Kevin McGovern, 62-year-old Business consultant, who owns a summer house in Sweden said: “We have had the house in Sweden for 18 years. We have 'come and gone' as we pleased over that time. 

“The result is that we spend most of the summer in Sweden and have occasional visits in winter. We have more than 90 days in Sweden over summer. We have checked with immigration authorities and we will have to apply for a Visitors Extended Stay Visa each year.

“Since the summer house has always been the 'house' we will never sell – we will have to jump through all the necessary hoops just to keep doing what we have done for 18 years!”

But it's not just about homes, the end of freedom of movement makes health matters all the more complicated.

Kevin adds: “Our biggest issue is healthcare. My wife has Secondary Breast Cancer. Getting travel insurance with healthcare is proving tricky. In the end it will possible but expensive.”

Other home owners spoke of the reality that they will have to sell their properties.

“We own an apartment in Mallorca for our own use and are very worried that it's going to be financially difficult to keep it,” said one reader.

What's clear is that even though it's over four years since the shock referendum result, the anger felt by many at the loss of EU citizenship and the rights and freedoms that went with it is still raw.

“I am still furious we are throwing away this extraordinary privilege,” said one reader.

 

 

 

 

Member comments

  1. Hello,
    As a family we are resident in western France. I work in many EU countries for a Spanish company. My children have been educated in France, Italy and the UK.
    What an appalling loss to the future for our children. The ‘ little Englanders ‘ who voted for #stupidBrexit will not be held accountable for this. The Conservative party and Farage should be.
    I would like European status to be a right. I don’t really want to take French nationality just to keep free movement for me and our children.
    Thank you

  2. I fully agree, as UK and an EU citizen I have given money, work and support to my local Italian community, I have committed myself and my wife to be citizens of the EU and under these circumstances we should af least have the right to freedom of movement among EU member states.

  3. This is a shity titl,frankly. EU is a co cept as any other, it also is a habit, like smoking for instance. One smokes today, one quits tommorow. Once one gets rid of the habit, one is free. It takes a bit of time, but, yes, one is free. There are lots of opportunities out there. It’s a big world.

  4. A Frenchman resident in the UK will retain onward movement rights. A Brit resident in France won’t. It was always within the gift of the EU to equalise those rights but they chose not to. Nothing to do with Brexit.

  5. I don’t think someone’s read the article.
    “Unfortunately the British government chose to end freedom of movement for EU citizens wanting to move to the UK, and as a result its own citizens lost their right to live in the EU’s 27 member states.”
    The ‘gift of the EU to equalise those rights’ was always there prior to the UK taking away the same from the former EU citizens not born in Britain. It has everything to do with Brexit.

  6. Yes, this retrenchment into nationalism and bureaucracy is a pitiful step backwards by Britain. But the fact is that those who will suffer most, those upset at losing their EU citizenship, mutter a lot and express their entirely understandable resentment. However, they must to some extent take the blame along with all remainers because at the end of the day they didn’t do enough to stop Brexit.
    The fact is that only 38% of the British electorate voted leave at the referendum in 2016, ie 62% did NOT vote for Brexit, and even at the Dec 2019 when Johnson got his landslide victory on the basis of “let’s get Brexit done”, only 13m out of a population of 67m voted Tory. So why are we where we are? Because the minority Brexiteers not only lied but spoke with real passion about their beliefs. Meanwhile remainers almost never made their case loudly. They were too polite and too reserved. Indeed they seemed almost embarrassed to make the obvious clear… . that citizens of the 27 countries value their sovereignty every bit as preciously as British leavers, that 93% of EU law was voted for by British leaders at the European Council, that only by being together can Europe stand up to bullying by Russia, China, the USA and by big tech.
    Remain supporters should have been proclaiming the advantages of Europe from the rooftops. They didn’t. Now, it’s too late to whinge. Indeed leavers in Britain are STILL hoodwinking us with their lies whilst remainers just take it on the chin. If ever there were a Greek tragedy, it is this situation we have allowed to happen. ‘The route to evil is for good men to say nothing’.

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READER QUESTIONS

Why some Brits in France are facing bigger tax bills since Brexit

Over the summer people living in France have received their tax bills, and some Brits who are residents here will have noticed that their bill is larger than usual - here's why.

Why some Brits in France are facing bigger tax bills since Brexit

Brits who live in France and make a tax declaration here, but have income from the UK, may have noticed that their tax bill has increased this year – here’s why and whether you can challenge the increase. 

Brexit

Yes, this is Brexit related and it refers to social charges on non-French income. The standard rate for these charges are 7.5 percent for income from an EU country and 17.2 percent for income from a non-EU country.

The tax bills received over the summer relate to the annual French tax declaration filed in April 2022, covering the 2021 tax year. In other words, the first year after the end of the Brexit transition period.

Social charges

Social charges are levies with a social purpose introduced in France in the 1990s to finance the country’s complex social security system.

If you have a French payslip you will already be familiar with them, and they actually make up the bulk of deductions from salaries, significantly more than income tax.

READ ALSO How to understand your French payslip

One of the big questions is whether France’s social charges are actually a ‘tax’ – the government repeatedly insists they’re not, for all that they look like a tax and are paid like a tax. 

The position on French social charges has changed several times in recent years, sometimes in response to court action all centred on whether this money that government deducts from your income can be called a ‘tax’ or not.

Katey Murray, at The Spectrum IFA Group, explained: “Article 29 of the amended Finance law of 2012 extended social charges to rental income from French properties and capital gains on properties for people who are not French tax resident.

“In 2015, a Dutch national challenged the fact that he was paying social charges in France and social security contributions in the Netherlands. The case went before the ECJ, which ruled these levies were similar to social security contributions and therefore contrary to European law.”

France’s highest administrative court, the Conseil d’Etat, confirmed the ECJ’s ruling. “French tax offices then, if a claim was made to them, reimbursed undue social charges,” Murray said.

“However, the French Government stated that these claims could only be made by someone covered for their healthcare by the system of another European country (EU, EEA or Switzerland) and not someone covered by a non-European health system. 

“This was confirmed by the ECJ for a French national living in China in a case in January 2018.”

Foreigners in France

And it’s this ‘healthcare system’ distinction that has become the key detail for Brits in France, clarified by a court ruling from March 2022 on the details of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement. 

Social charges are currently set at 7.5 percent for income from an EU country, or 17.2 percent for income from a non-EU country. So income from the UK jumped to the higher rate at the end of the Brexit transition period.

However the ECJ ruling on healthcare cover is the key bit – essentially if you are already contributing to another European country’s social security system, you benefit from the lower rate.

This mainly affects two groups – Brits living in the UK (and therefore covered by the NHS) who have income in France, and Brits who are living in France and who have an S1, which states that their healthcare costs are covered by the NHS.

S1 holders are mainly British pensioners living in France, but the scheme can also apply to other groups including students and posted workers. 

Brits who are living in France and are covered by the French health system pay the higher rate on income from the UK. 

Technically the 7.5 percent rate is a ‘social levy’ rather than the prélèvements sociaux.

The ‘social levy’ is not charged on pensions, so if you are an S1 holder who receives a British pension, you will not have to pay any social charges at all, while certain types of property income may also be exempt from social charges.

Tax

As we stated above, social charges are not a tax (although they are deducted from your income by the tax office).

Taxes on income from the UK is covered by the bilateral dual-taxation treaty between France and the UK, which states that you don’t have to pay tax in France on income that you have already paid tax on in the UK. 

So the first thing to check on your tax bill is whether deductions relate to impôt (tax) or prélèvements sociaux (social charges).

Challenge your tax bill

So what to do if you think you have been incorrectly charged on income from the UK?

If you are an S1 holder, it’s a case of telling the tax office that you benefit from the lower 7.5 percent social levy, rather than the 17.2 percent social charge.

Murray said: “You can state that you are not subject to social charges by ticking boxes 8SH/8SI on your tax form (2042 form) or, if you have been charged at the higher rate, you can claim them back on your personal page on the impots.gouv.fr website.”

If the over-charge relates to a different issue – for example you have been charged both tax and the social charge or charged on exempt income – your first step is talking to the tax office, either in person or over the phone.

READ ALSO How to challenge your French tax bill

This article is a general overview of the tax rules and is not intended as a substitute for financial advice, if your financial affairs are complicated you are always better off getting professional help from an accountant who specialises in international taxation.

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