Get a Quote

What Does Brexit Mean for Expats in the UK and EU?

The end of the Brexit transition period brings some changes to the rights of expats. What does the exact impact of Brexit mean for ‘brexpats’ (British nationals living in the EU)? And what implications does it have for EU citizens living in the UK, including British expats in Spain and other popular destinations?

What does Brexit mean for expats?

It’s estimated that there are more than 850,000 UK nationals living in the EU, and 4 million EU citizens who have been granted residence status in the UK. We know that post-Brexit travelling between the UK and EU will no longer be as straightforward as it was. There are already healthcare implications to consider as well, including getting medical treatment when travelling between the EU and the UK and COVID-19 vaccine.

How does Brexit affect Britons living in the EU?

British expats in Spain after Brexit

Spain is home to 1/3 of British expats in the EU. The UK is currently added to the list of visa-exempt countries. This means that unless there is an alternative UK/Spain agreement, UK citizens will be limited to visiting Spain for up to 90 days within any 180-day period without a visa.

The 180-day clock would start when you first enter Spain on day 1, or any other European Schengen state, with each subsequent departure and entry recorded and counted at border control. Once you have been away from Spain for a full 90 days, everything resets and you will be allowed a new stay of up to 90 days.

However once you have used up your allowance you will not be permitted to enter another Schengen country without a visa.

There was also a deadline to register your residency in Spain in December 2020. Those who have failed to register their residency must now pay an extra 5% income tax – 24% to 19% – compared to EU nationals and have been told they must obey the ‘90 in 180’ rule. That means, like ordinary tourists, they can only stay in the country for 90 days within every 180-day period.

Can you get a covid vaccine as a British expat living in the European Union?

This will depend on your country of residence, but in most cases, yes, you can. You need to follow the vaccination schedule of your country of residence and sign up though your GP. You can read our full guide on vaccination for expats here.

Are British expats living in the European Union entitled to medical care?

If you are a Briton who was living in the EU before 1 January 2021 you will continue to be able to access healthcare abroad. Similarly, if your healthcare is paid for by the UK through the S1 scheme this hasn’t changed. However, it is important to have correct paperwork in place. It’s also worth checking what is covered as standard and whether you would like additional healthcare cover on top as sometimes even if you are resident, state-provided healthcare in many European countries isn’t entirely free.

If you move to the EU after the transition period, you will not be entitled to state-provided healthcare. You may therefore want to consider the benefits of international health insurance.

The difficulties facing some British expats in registering as being resident in Spain illustrates just how important it is for people to have their paperwork in order post-Brexit. Not being registered means being left without access to state healthcare, which is particularly worrying if people are unable to return home because of COVID-19 related mobility restrictions. UK citizens must register if they want to stay in Spain for more than 3 months.
Michael Lewars, director at William Russell,
told on 9 April 2021
Thinking of moving and living abroad?
Check out our ultimate guide for British expats

What about British expats who split their time between the EU and the UK?

If you spend part of your time in the EU, you will need a European Health Insurance Card, or EHIC. This gives visitors access to state-provided healthcare in the EU. However, it covers only ‘necessary healthcare’ – that is healthcare that can’t wait until you’re back in the UK such as A&E and emergency hospital treatment.

If you already have an EHIC card (which lasts for up to 5 years) it will be valid until its expiry date. However, the end of the Brexit transition period meant that (with a few exceptions), the UK is no longer issuing the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).

The EHIC is being phased out and replaced with a new card – the UK Global Health Insurance Card, or GHIC. that (with a few exceptions), the UK is no longer issuing the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).

Do expats need to apply for residency to have access to healthcare?

In most cases, you will need to register as a resident in the country in which you now live, if you haven’t already done so. This will help to secure your rights to healthcare.

See the UK government’s advice for expats on accessing state-provided healthcare in the EU.

Can I still retire to Spain after Brexit?

Yes, you can still retire to Spain after Brexit but the conditions are more stringent and complicated. They involve showing proof of income and savings to show that you can support yourself in Spain. Healthcare is also an issue and receiving your pension if you are not already a resident of Spain.

Top 10 reasons to become an expat
See the top 10 reasons here

What is the best country to live after Brexit?

2023 is a year of fresh beginnings, and what better way to start anew than to move to a new country?

If you and your family are planning to up sticks and pursue a whole new life, this could be the perfect year to do it. As the COVID-19 pandemic recedes in many countries, workers are finding new opportunities popping up around the world.

To help you, we have put together a list of best countries to live and work abroad:

  • Switzerland
  • Canada
  • Norway
  • Singapore
  • Australia

Will travel insurance cover any medical treatment I need abroad?

Travel insurance usually includes emergency medical treatment, but not other non-emergency appointments or procedures. It may also not be suitable for permanent residents of a country. As the name suggests, travel insurance covers you on your travels away from your usual place of residence.

Check your travel insurance policy before you travel. If you would like the peace of mind that comes with additional cover, you may want to consider international health insurance, which gives you access to private healthcare around the world.

What’s the difference between international health insurance and travel insurance?
Find out here

Can expats still move around the EU after Brexit?

Britons can still move around the EU but will be restricted to a total of 90 days within a 180-day period without a visa. It’s estimated this may affect over half a million people who own holiday homes in Europe.

Rules about expatriates owning and renting property have not changed. However, if you are buying somewhere new, check the property acquisition laws for the country you are buying in – they can vary according to whether you are an EU citizen or not. You also need to check you are paying the right amount of taxes.

What happens if I own a house in the EU after Brexit?

With the UK having left the European Union, some new rules will apply to British people moving to Spain, France and other EU countries. The good news is that property buyers will be completely unaffected by Brexit. It is only if you are moving permanently that new rules will apply.

How will EU citizens living in the UK be affected by Brexit?

William Russell - What does Brexit mean for expats in the UK and EU - couple in london

Can I get a vaccine in the UK as an expat?

Yes. According to British government, the vaccine is free on the NHS. You do not require an NHS number or GP registration to receive the COVID-19 vaccination and should not be denied vaccination on this basis. Individuals who do not have an NHS number or are not registered with a GP are still entitled to free COVID-19 vaccinations.

Will expats need COVID passports?
Find out more here

Will EU citizens living in the UK need to apply for residency to have access to healthcare?

If you’re an EU, EEA or Swiss citizen you’ll be able to stay in the UK for up to six months without a visa in most cases. In order to access healthcare in the UK, however, you will need to have UK residency or private medical insurance.

EU, EEA and Swiss citizens living in the UK can apply to the EU Settlement Scheme to continue living and working in the UK after 30 June 2021. By this date, all eligible applicants are supposed to have applied for pre-Settled Status or Settled Status.

According to BBC, immigration enforcement officials will begin giving EU citizens who live in the UK a 28-day warning to apply to remain, the government says.

Some 5.6 million European Economic Area (EEA) citizens and their dependents have applied for settled status. But there are around 400,000 cases outstanding, and the government’s helpline is receiving thousands of calls a day.

The countries whose nationals have made the highest numbers of applications are Poland (975,000) and Romania (918,000).

What is settled status?

EU nationals living in the UK had until 30 June 2021 to apply to stay in the UK.

They can apply for:

  • Settled status – on offer to anyone who can prove that they had been in the UK continuously for five years or more before 31 December 2020. As of 31 May, it has been granted to 2.75 million people.
  • Pre-settled status – on offer to anyone who had been in the UK for less than five years by the end of 2020. As of 31 May, it has been granted to 2.28 million. They can apply for settled status in future, but there is no guarantee they will get it.

Can EU expats in the UK claim state benefits post-Brexit?

Under the EU Withdrawal Agreement you can carry on receiving any UK benefits you already receive as long as you continue to meet eligibility requirements.

Whether you claim your benefits from the UK or another country varies by location. Read more guidance at

How many people from the EU are leaving the UK after Brexit?

Large numbers of EU nationals have left the UK in the last few years, a trend that began after the Brexit referendum and accelerated during the Covid pandemic. Both official statistics and anecdotal information acknowledge this trend.

And some economists warn it could have a significant impact on future growth.

Several sectors of the economy are reporting serious difficulties in finding new recruits, including drivers of HGV lorries, fruit pickers and people working in the hospitality industry.

It makes interpreting the data from the settlement scheme even more difficult.

William Russell after Brexit

William Russell members will continue to enjoy the same high-quality, personal service we always offer. There are no changes to the benefits or coverage provided by our insurance plans, or to our member experience.

For more information, see our guide on how we are dealing with Brexit.

Which is the best international health insurance after Brexit?

The best international health insurance for you will depend on your situation and the level of cover you want. At William Russell, we provide a truly personalised service for expats with a range of health insurance policies that allow you to choose options to suit your lifestyle. Find out more about how to choose the best international health insurance here.

Wherever you move, go with total peace of mind

At William Russell, we have 30 years experience of helping expatriates settle into their new lives overseas by providing world-class international health insurance. Plus, we produce lots of expert material to help you and your family adapt to life abroad.

Making the move to another country can be challenging. But no matter where you go, you can take one thing off your mind. William Russell offers global health insurance that covers you for everything from minor injuries to long hospital stays, and we can even offer medical evacuations to patients who require treatment in other countries.*

Looking for global health insurance for peace of mind after Brexit?

Get a Quote

* We cannot cover expats living and working in Switzerland.