UK – BREXIT: Possible Outcomes for UK Nationals

What has changed

On January 15, 2019, the United Kingdom Parliament voted against (by 432 votes to 202 votes) the withdrawal deal negotiated between the UK government and the EU. On January 16, 2019, the UK Prime Minister survived a non-confidence vote. A debate and vote on the government’s “Plan B,” and its amendments were held on January 29, 2019, with no more clarity as a result.

The Article 50 process means that, as things stand, the UK will leave the EU on March 29, 2019, with or without a ratified deal. The following are several ways that no-deal Brexit may be averted before March 29, 2019.

  • The UK government can request for an extension of the Article 50 period which may be approved by the EU (e.g. to hold a general election, or second referendum to ratify the withdrawal agreement)
  • Parliament may approve a different withdrawal agreement, which would also need to be acceptable to the EU. The UK government would probably have to drop some of its “red lines” to achieve this, and the EU is only likely to agree to changes to the political declaration on a future relationship.
  • The government may unilaterally revoke Article 50, effectively canceling Brexit.
Below are possible outcomes for EU and UK nationals, in case of a no-deal Brexit.

Who is affected

Clients who have hired or intend to employ UK nationals and their family members within member states of the EU. Also, clients who hire or intend to employ EU citizens and their family members in the UK.

What to expect

Brexit with Withdrawal Agreement:
If the deal is eventually ratified:
  • Free movement will continue until the end of the transition period (December 31, 2020, unless extended).
  • All EU citizens in the UK before December 31, 2020 will have until June 30, 2021 to register through the EU Settlement Scheme.
  • Family members in a relationship with an EU citizen prior to the end of the transition period will be able to join those with settled status at any future date.
  • New immigration rules applying to EU nationals arriving after the transition should come into effect by January 2021. EEA workers will be treated the same as non-European nationals under the existing points-based system, but with some amendments to the system. An analysis of the government’s proposal can be found here.
  • The rights of UK national residents in the EU before the end of the transition period will be similarly protected, though registration schemes will vary between member states.
  • The UK has reached an agreement with the EEA EFTA states (Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway), as well as Switzerland, on protecting citizens’ rights after Brexit.
EU Citizens Arriving in the UK before Brexit:

On December 6, 2018, the government published a policy paper outlining the UK government’s proposals for protecting EU citizens’ rights in case the UK leaves the EU without an agreed and ratified withdrawal deal.

In a no-deal Brexit scenario, with no transition period, the EU Settlement Scheme will still operate, but the cut-off dates will be brought forward:

  • Only EU citizens already in the UK by Brexit day (March 29, 2019) will qualify and will have to apply by December 31, 2020.
  • Family members in a relationship with an EU citizen prior to Brexit day will be able to join those with settled status until March 29, 2022.
Other differences in case of no-deal include:
  • The Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) would not have jurisdiction regarding EU27 citizens in the UK. Under the withdrawal agreement, it would have residual jurisdiction for eight (8) years after the end of the transition period.
  • EU citizens would have no right to an appeal to an immigration judge.
EU Citizens Arriving in the UK after Brexit:

On January 28, 2019 the UK Home Office published a policy paper outlining its proposals for how it will treat EU citizens arriving in the UK after a no-deal Brexit. For more information on the policy paper please click here.

According to the proposals, subject to parliamentary approval of the necessary legislation, in the event that the UK leaves the EU without a ratified withdrawal agreement on March 29, 2019, temporary, transitional arrangements will apply from March 30, 2019 until December 31, 2020, after which a new immigration regime will be implemented. This means the UK would unilaterally grant EU citizens arriving after Brexit largely the same rights as entrants before Brexit until the new immigration rules take effect. This includes the right to enter, stay, work and study, bring family and access benefits, without the backing of the legal authority of the European Court of Justice. However, in a no-deal scenario, the EU Settlement Scheme would not apply to new arrivals; their long-term rights would depend on a further unilateral offer from the UK, bilateral agreements with individual member states or a future relationship agreement with the EU.

The analysis of the no-deal temporary transitional arrangements may be reviewed here.

UK Nationals in the EU:
If the UK leaves the EU on March 29, 2019, without a ratified withdrawal agreement, then UK nationals will immediately be classified as third-country nationals:
  • UK nationals wishing to visit the EU for up to ninety (90) days will likely to be able to do so without a visa, provided that the UK reciprocates for EU nationals (subject to the necessary legislation).
  • Falling under the visa-free regime means that after January 2021 UK nationals need to apply for ETIAS travel authorization before a trip to the EU.
  • UK nationals who wish to enter an EU member state for stays of more than ninety (90) days will require a visa.
  • UK nationals who wish to enter an EU member state for work will need to apply for work authorization, like other third-country nationals. They may qualify for short-term work permit exemptions where available.
  • UK nationals who are already residents in an EU member state by Brexit day will likely be able to stay and continue to work if they register before registration deadlines, although this will depend on unilateral arrangements made by individual member states, which in turn may depend on a reciprocal offer by the UK.
  • Note that, after Brexit, a residence status in one member state will not provide work or residence rights in any other member state.
EU member states are in the process of establishing emergency arrangements for British citizens in case of a no-deal Brexit, often with the proviso that a reciprocal offer by the UK is confirmed. The following are details of measures already proposed by member states.

The Austrian government announced that UK citizens who are residents in Austria would have their rights protected in the case of a no-deal Brexit; a law is being developed to implement this.

The Belgian government is preparing to draft a bill and has approved a draft royal decree which, in the event of a no-deal Brexit, would introduce a transitional period from March 30, 2019 to December 31, 2020. UK citizens already resident in Belgium can continue to live in Belgium. Family members who arrive after March 29 will be able to join these UK citizens, but new UK national arrivals would be treated as third-country nationals.

On January 30, 2019 the Bulgarian government approved an action plan in case of a no-deal Brexit, including a commitment that UK nationals residing in Bulgaria by Brexit day would be able to keep their existing rights and have a smoother registration process.

The government sent a letter to the UK government stating that in case of a no-deal Brexit, the rights of UK citizens currently residing in Cyprus will be protected.

Czech Republic:
The Czech government and lower house of parliament approved a draft law (“Lex Brexit”) which provides for a twenty-one (21) month transitional period (until the end of 2020) to allow UK citizens who have already applied for residence in the Czech Republic by Brexit day to legally stay in the Czech Republic. During this transitional period, UK nationals with a certificate of temporary residence must apply for a long-term or permanent residence permit for third-country nationals. UK nationals who already hold a permanent residence permit need to upgrade to a new biometric residence card.

The Danish government published details of a planned temporary transitional scheme extending, for an undetermined period, the rights of British citizens already resident in Denmark effective March 29, 2019, in the event of a no-deal Brexit.


The Finnish government decided that a special act extending the right of residence of UK citizens in Finland will be drafted for the eventuality of the UK leaving the EU without an agreement.

Under this special act, UK nationals who are living in Finland and have registered their EU right of residence by March 29, 2019, can continue to remain and reside in Finland without any separate measures for a fixed time period, which will be specified in the act.


The French parliament has passed legislation enabling the government to issue decrees rapidly in response to a no-deal Brexit situation. These decrees include one protecting the rights of UK nationals resident in France by Brexit day.

On February 7, 2019 the first order on the residence and employment of UK nationals in France in case of a no-deal Brexit was published in the official journal. According to this order, if the Withdrawal Agreement is not ratified, British citizens resident in France before Brexit will be able to remain in France for three (3) to twelve (12) months (to be decided by a future decree) without having to obtain residence authorization. If they wish to stay in France beyond this grace period, they will have to apply for the relevant residence permit within twelve (12) months of Brexit, but the exact procedure and deadlines will be established in a future decree. If working in France with a permanent or fixed-term employment contact before Brexit, they will not be required to obtain a work permit.

In case of a no-deal Brexit, UK citizens would have a grace period of between three (3) and twelve (12) months (to be decided by a future decree) to apply for the relevant residence permit. If UK citizens are working in France with a permanent or fixed-term employment contract before Brexit, they will not be required to obtain a work permit.


National residence and/or work permits will be required for UK nationals who wish to continue to reside and/or work in Germany after a no-deal Brexit, as they would be considered third-country nationals.

However, UK nationals will not need to leave Germany by March 29, 2019, and there will be three (3) month grace period in which to submit an application for a work and/or residence permit with the relevant local immigration office. If they have yet to do so, UK nationals will also need to register with the registration authority at their place of residence. After registration, they will be able to continue living and working in Germany (along with their family members) until their application has been decided.

In the event of a no-deal Brexit, UK nationals who are residents of Germany will have until June 30, 2019 to register via an online registration system.


In case of a no-deal, UK nationals and their family members permanently living in Greeceprior to March 29, 2019, already in possession of a registration certificate or a temporary or permanent residence document on the grounds of professional activity, study of vocational training, sufficient resources and/or health insurances will be asked to proceed, after January 1, 2020, to the municipal authorities and submit the relevant paperwork to exchange their certificates for new biometric resident cards.

UK nationals residing in Greece prior to March 29, 2019, who have not yet registered with the police authorities, may need to apply for a registration certificate before they can apply for a resident card.

A draft bill is currently being prepared on UK nationals’ rights in Greece.

The Italian government announced that it is preparing legislation which will allow UK nationals residing legally in Italy to remain resident in the event of a no-deal Brexit. UK nationals who are registered as residents in their local registry office (‘anagrafe’) at their town hall (‘commune’) by March 29, 2019, will be granted the rights and enough time to apply for the long-term resident status as per EU Directive 2003/109/EC.


After March 29, 2019, in a no-deal scenario, UK nationals residing in Luxembourg will need to apply for a residence permit as a third-country national.

UK nationals already living in Luxembourg on March 29, 2019 will be able to continue using their existing residence card as proof of residence until March 30, 2020. After March 30, 2020, UK nationals will need to have a residence permit as a third country national and will need to apply for the permit prior to December 31, 2019.

UK nationals who wish to begin residing in Luxembourg after March 29, 2019 will need to follow the existing third country national registration procedure. They will be required to apply for a residence permit before entering Luxembourg and can only reside in Luxembourg once their application has been approved.

The Maltese government stated that it intends to offer UK nationals ten (10) year residence visas.


If a withdrawal agreement is not reached, the Netherlands will introduce a transition period between March 29, 2019 and July 1, 2020. Prior to March 29, 2019, the Dutch Immigration Service (IND) will send all UK citizens and their non-EU family members living in the Netherlands a letter which will serve as their temporary residence permit during the transition period.

After the transition period, UK nationals and their family members who wish to stay, work, or study in the Netherlands will require a residence permit, which can be obtained if they meet the same residence requirements that apply to EU citizens. The IND will send invitation letters to apply for a residence permit no later than April 1, 2020.

On January 11, 2019 the Polish government announced draft legislation including a one (1) year transition period (i.e., until March 30, 2020) to allow UK nationals and their family members to secure their residence status in a no-deal situation. Temporary residence permits will be issued for a period of three (3) years under the same conditions as for all third-country nationals. Also, fingerprints of all applicants will have to be submitted. On the day of submission, the UK nationals who have already been in Poland for the last five (5) years will be able to apply for a permanent residence permit.

Without a withdrawal agreement, all UK nationals and their family members who already are in Portugal by Brexit day will have until December 31, 2020 to apply for a registration certificate. If the UK national has previously held a registration certificate for five (5) years, they can apply for a permanent residence card.

The Slovak government is working on all necessary legislative changes to ensure that as of March 29, 2019 the status of UK citizens living in Slovakia will be preserved even in the case of the UK leaving the EU without an agreement. These measures will only be put into place on the basis of a reciprocal offer from the UK to Slovakian nationals.


The Spanish government drafted contingency plans allowing UK nationals to maintain their rights and to change their status as EU citizens to legal residency status under Spanish law. For more information click here.

The Spanish government has published a decree adopting contingency measures in case of a no-deal Brexit. The decree includes measures to manage UK nationals and the dependants who are already resident in Spain by the date the UK exits the EU, in the absence of a ratified Withdrawal Agreement. Contingency measures include new time frames to apply for residency, obtain residence confirmation and a foreigner’s identity card; certain residence documents will need to be replaced with a long-term residence permit.


The government issued a memorandum proposing that UK nationals and their family members who lose their right to work and live in Sweden as a consequence of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU without an exit deal will be exempt from the work and residence permit requirements during a one (1) year transitional period, effective March 30, 2019.

Proposed legislative amendments, which would be effective from July 1, 2019 aim to facilitate work and residence permit applications for UK nationals and their family members.


The Swiss and UK government reached an agreement which protects the rights of Swiss nationals currently residing in the UK, and the reciprocal rights of UK nationals currently residing in Switzerland, after the UK leaves the EU, also covers a no-deal scenario.

After the transition period, the agreement will be effective on January 1, 2021 in a deal-scenario, or on March 30, 2019 in a no-deal scenario.

The Swiss Federal Council also decided that in the event of the UK’s disorderly exit from the EU (i.e., without a ratified Withdrawal Agreement), a separate quota of work permits will be made available from March 30, 2019 to UK nationals who wish to enter Switzerland to work.

EEA EFTA States:
The separation agreement reached between the UK, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway which protects citizens’ rights after Brexit, does not cover a no-deal scenario. However, the governments have also reached an EEA EFTA No-Deal Citizen’s Right Agreement to protect the rights of UK nationals living in the EEA EFTA States and EEA EFTA nationals in the UK, in a no-deal scenario.

What you need to do

Contact your Emigra Worldwide representative for further details on how these updates may impact you or your client.

This alert was prepared with information provided by Kan-Tor & AccoExpataxLege ArtisSagardoyMazzeschiLCA Studio LegaleExpat Management GroupAlfaHome Conseil RelocationExpat PartnersPeregrine Immigration, and Newland Chase.