Brits in Europe – get ready for Brexit

Brexit EU flag without Britain

Essential Brexit planning for Brits living in the EU

If you’ve moved to live in Europe, whether for work or retirement, you’ll be wondering how life will change from 1st January 2021.

While everything is still ‘subject to change’, we’ve considered some important steps you should take now, in order to be best prepared for Brexit.   

Living in the EU as a British national

Make sure you apply to be a resident where you live

Ensure you’re a tax and ordinary resident in the country where you live. While the UK were in the European Union, you were eligible to live anywhere within EU. Things have changed; in order to ensure you have legal rights to stay, follow the steps in the link above.

Apply for a nil-tax (NT) code from HMRC

If you draw pension or other income from the UK, but are not a UK tax resident, you can apply for this to be recognised under your tax code. Make sure you’ve told HMRC you’re no longer a UK tax resident.

Present your new tax code to receive income gross (without deduction of tax). It will be your responsibility to declare and pay tax in your country of residence.

Explore local healthcare provision

Check your access and eligibility to healthcare services in the country you live.

Doctors replace NHS in Brexit planning

Some countries offer free healthcare to residents, while others must subscribe or take on private policies.

Your eligibility to UK NHS services will be dependent on your UK record and residence. Don’t rely on the ability to fly home; make sure you can see a good doctor where you live, and not be surprised by unexpected costs.

Exchange your UK driving licence


If you’re still driving in the EU on your UK licence, you will need to act as soon as possible. Exchange your UK licence for an EU-issued licence. Whether you can switch your British licence without a driving or conversion test will depend on the rules in the country where you live.

A ‘local’ licence may not be necessary for driving, but could be a requirement to register a vehicle correctly or gain insurance.

Visiting the UK as an EU resident post-Brexit

Post-Brexit, you will need to think ahead before visiting the UK. Brits in Europe are used to popping their dog in the car and driving home for the weekend. Post-Brexit, make sure you’ve planned your trip.

Get proof of insurance

While non-UK driving licences are recognised for use in the UK, Brexit presents a motor insurance risk. Take out insurance to cover you for travel within the UK, or obtain a motor insurance green card. You will be fined and your car could be seized if you’re found driving in the UK without valid insurance.

Visit the vets 4 months in advance

Even pets need Brexit planning!

Animal passports could be back, so make sure you contact the vet where you live to get the latest rules. It’s been a long time since month-long pet quarantines for travel in and out of Europe.

dog traveling to UK post Brexit

If you’re traveling with a pet (cat, dog or ferret!) you should contact your vet before setting off.

Your vet will be able to tell you about any necessary vaccines or travel preparation needs. Without correct documentation, pets may be stopped at the border, or subject to upsetting quarantine processes.  

UK and Ireland – the Common Travel Area (CTA)

The points discussed above cover mainland EU. For Brits in Ireland and Irish in the UK, the Common Travel Area ensures minimal changes.

The CTA ensures British and Irish citizens can move freely between the two countries and enjoy associated rights and privileges.

irish flag brexit

This includes rights to:

  • Work
  • Study
  • Voting rights in certain elections
  • Social welfare benefits
  • Healthcare services

The CTA pre-dates the European Union. With Brexit looming, the CTA was reaffirmed in May 2019. The CTA ensures protection of UK and Irish citizens from the impact of Brexit.

Financial Planning & Brexit

If you’ve moved out of the UK for good, you may want to take your pension wealth with you. Qualifying Recognised Overseas Pension Schemes (QROPS) are private non-UK pensions which can accept pension transfer funds. QROPS are best suited to those retiring outside of the UK. Our guide to QROPS and international pensions can help you plan for retirement wherever you live.

When considering retiring abroad, think about changing your pension cash and investments to Euros. Learn about any tax treaty between the UK and the country where you live, and understand how your estate would be treated upon death.


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