The effects of Brexit for expats and students

Posted by:
Lab team
April 14, 2019
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On Thursday 23rd June 2016, the UK voted to leave the European Union. Almost three years have gone by and the future is still unclear for students and expats.


According to Eurostat statistics, approximately 3.6 million citizens from 27 EU countries live in the UK, whilst around 850,000 British citizens live elsewhere in the EU. The UK government and the EU have yet to provide any clear solution over Brexit, causing a wave of global uncertainty for expats. Whether there’s a deal or no deal, priorities should be making sure Brexit has little or no impact on the lives of these people.284,988 British expats currently reside in Spain. People will have made decisions to relocate to Spain whether it’s for retirement, work placement or studying.

Whatever the reasons, it cannot be ignored that Spain has the highest number of British expats living in the country. This is followed by other EU countries such as France (145,091), Ireland (109,303), Germany (92,846) and the Netherlands (46,013).The real question is, what happens to those 284,988 expats? Are they forgotten? Do they need to relocate back to the UK? Is it a case of applying for a new visa?All these questions remain unanswered. Our government needs to do more in order to reassure expats that the impact of Brexit will be minimal.In the much bigger picture, there are around 3.6 million citizens living in the UK who come from other EU countries. What happens to them?

There has been a lot of uncertainty surrounding what actually happens to these expats once Brexit is implemented. The Spanish government have recently urged British expats living in Spain not to panic and have guaranteed a 21-month period of grace.This website outlines some of the possibilities of the UK leaving the EU and what it means for expats living in Spain. There is a breakdown of four possible scenarios, which all depend on which type of residency level you hold.We recommend all UK citizens residing in Spain to read this and ensure you’re regularly checking back for updates. Once there is more clarity on the outcome of Brexit, the Spanish government will provide more information. For now, the Spanish government have approved a Spanish Contingency Plan should a no deal scenario occur - this is welcoming as it shows the government are thinking about Spanish and UK citizens living within the country or abroad.


What happens to the UK students who want to study abroad in the future?In the scenario of a “hard-Brexit”, European students wishing to study in the UK could be treated as non-European international students. What does this mean? Potentially higher tuition fees for education abroad, student grants and loans could be at risk of cancellation and students may have to apply for student visas in order to enrol at UK universities. This would most certainly be the same case for British students wishing to study in another EU country.Unless an agreement is put in place, all of the above is still a possibility, which could completely transform how students study in the UK and abroad.

In another recent blog, we discussed in more detail the Erasmus student exchange programme, the benefits of studying abroad and how Erasmus will change when Brexit is implemented. Do you think you’ll be affected? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.