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Consular team holds "useful and worthwhile" Brexit meeting in Ourique

BritishEmbassyLogoOn Wednesday, December 12th, against the back-drop of political upheaval over Brexit in Westminster, the Consular Outreach team came to Ourique to explain just how Brexit is going to affect our Expat lives here in Portugal.

The team was headed by the Brisith Consul, Simona Demuro and Regional Consular Policy Officer, Lorna Geddie who both gave presentations in their individual areas of expertise.

 

Before Simona and Lorna gave their presentations, Marcelo Guerreiro, the Presidente da Câmara of Ourique, gave a short speech saying how much the Brits are valued by Ourique. He said that we bring fresh ideas and wisdom to the wonderful rural way of life we have here in the Baixo Alentejo and we would be greatly missed if we were to go.

Guerreiro said that not only does Ourique want us to stay but Portugal wants us to stay and that any problems thrown up be Brexit can be overcome. His door is always open. He received a rousing and appreciative round of applause.

The topics under discussion boiled down to four main topics, namely:

The need for residency status
Driving after Brexit
Our EU citizen’s rights after Brexit
‘Swallows’

At this moment in time the biggest problem with Brexit is the unknown. If the Withdrawal Agreement is voted through by the UK Parliament we will leave the EU on 29th March 2019 but with a transition period up to the end of 2020 during which our lives and rights remain exactly as they are today.

If there’s no agreement and we leave the EU on 29th March 2019 there will be no transition period and we will become third country nationals overnight.

Currently, there’s been no word from the Portuguese government about how exactly what rights we will retain after Brexit because they are waiting to see what the UK government will do. Therefore, some of our questions cannot be answered at the moment.

A useful website for up-to-date information is:

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/living-in-portugal

You can sign up for email alerts which is a useful way to remain up-to-date

Also this paper explains the policy on EU rights in the case of a No-deal Brexit: click HERE for the .pdf

To be fully protected you will need to have residency if you are here for longer than 90 days. That was stressed repeatedly by both Simona and Lorna. If you are a UK state pensioner you should have an S1 health form lodged with the Portuguese health authorities as this will enable you to have treatment here paid for by the UK government.

The topic of state pensions was raised several times. State pensions will be paid anywhere in the world, but the UK government choose not to give some Expat pensioners the annual raise.

Although the UK government has undertaken to raise pensions annually there’s a worrying phrase in the latest preparedness notice that puts that in question.

‘Subject to reciprocity’ is the phrase and I have asked the Embassy to get a definitive meaning of it for us. I will let you know. There is also another question over pension uprating that as yet, has no answer.

Under the Withdrawal Agreement, as legal residents we retain almost all our EU citizen’s rights in our host country after Brexit. However, we lose the right of free movement into the rest of the EU and this could potentially mean that we will not carry our benefit rights with us if we choose to live in another EU country as third country nationals.

One right we will lose in our host country is the right to vote in local elections and EU elections. However, there may be bilateral arrangements made, but that’s in the gift of the Portuguese government.

There’s also another complication, that of the Schengen area. The Schengen Area is separate from the EU and the UK is not in Schengen, but we are allowed free movement within Schengen as EU citizens.

It’s been agreed that UK citizens will not need a Schengen visa but we can only spend 90 days in any 180 in the entire Schengen area. Even with permanent residency of an EU state, the right to free movement has been withdrawn from us. When Leavers voted to take away free movement for EU nationals moving to the UK they also took away the freedom of movement of all British Citizens. The only way to regain freedom of movement is to take on another EU nationality. Check out your ancestry to see if you have an Irish Granny!

Driving licenses led to a lively discussion and the advice is to follow Portuguese law and register your UK licence with IMT. You will be able to drive on that licence until it expires, which in the case of UK licenses is 70 years of age. If you swap to a Portuguese licence but return to the UK in the future, you will be able to swap back without the need to do another UK driving test.

Below is a link to a preparedness notice on driving after Brexit:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/driving-in-the-eu-if-theres-no-brexit-deal/driving-in-the-eu-if-theres-no-brexit-deal

For those trying to get an appointment with SEF either to apply for their permanent residency or renew an expired permanent residency, contacting SEF is a nightmare. You can book an appointment online to attend any SEF office in the country, but you have to be prepared to travel.

The online booking system only works for in-date residencies so be sure to do this before it runs out. Failing that, try by telephone, with an ample supply of coffee and sandwiches.

https://www.sef.pt/en/Pages/pre-marcacao-online.aspx

Access to UK banks also came up as a question, because there’s some doubt if pensions from UK banks and insurance companies will have passporting rights to pay the money into the EU. Lorna said that there is currently a lot of back ground work going into this area but the advice was for everyone that could be affected to contact their bank or pension provider and ask what provisions were being made.

Lastly we came to ‘Swallows’, the affectionate term used by the Embassy, to describe those that spend 6 months in the UK and 6 months here. All were advised to get temporary residency as the law states that it is required after being 90 days here.

In the audience we had a lawyer that specialises in immigration matters and she was able to reassure everyone that temporary residency is different from fiscal residency, so unless someone trips the 183 day rule when tax registration becomes due, there’s no ‘risk’ in having temporary residency. Without temporary residency, after Brexit no UK national can spend more than 90 days in Schengen which of course includes Portugal.

At the end of the meeting the feeling was genuinely that everyone had learnt something and that it had been useful and worthwhile.

If anyone has any questions regarding the above feel free to email me: brexit@algarvedailynews.com

If I don’t have the information we can always ask the Embassy.

Finally, a huge thank you to Vice Consul Clive Jewell for setting it all up.

Sue Fletcher

 

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