By Adrian Bishop
There are now only six months left until Britain is due to leave the European Union at 11pm on Friday 29th March 2019. New developments and theories emerge every day concerning the terms, conditions and consequences of Brexit. But time is so short now
that it may not be possible to complete some options, including a second referendum.
“Short term disruption” a given
UK Prime Minister, Theresa May, is clear that there will be disruption at the outset, however, she says she intends to make whatever option is reached work. She says, “Let’s be clear about this, under 'no-deal' there would be some short-term disruption. It's our job as the government to make sure we make a success of no-deal, just as we make a success of getting a good deal.”
No-deal looks increasingly likely
But European Union leaders have just rejected UK Prime Minister’s Chequers proposals and a no-deal scenario looks increasingly likely. That would mean there would be no transition period once the UK left the European Union on 29th March.
But what does no-deal mean?
There is still tremendous confusion over what is proposed for UK citizens travelling and working in Europe, British expats living abroad and owners, and buyers and sellers of UK property. Halo Financial provides a round-up of the main issues and what they might mean.
Sterling weakness damaging UK economy more than immigration
Surprisingly, the value of Sterling may be even more important to the UK economy than any loss caused by European migration issues. One of the major Brexit debates is over the impact of migration on the UK economy, but actually that has been minimal, says the UK government’s Migration Advisory Committee (MAC).
Weak Sterling lowering living standards
Since Britain voted to leave the European Union, the value of the Pound has fallen by around 15% against the Euro and 10% against the United States Dollar. Markets are often wary of uncertainty, so the constant twists and turns of Brexit has not helped. Keep an eye on the latest currency news and speak to an expert for guidance.
A weakening in the value of Sterling has been far more crucial in damaging living standards, argues the new MAC report.
“The fall in the value of the Pound after the referendum vote to leave the EU probably raised prices by 1.7 per cent – this is almost certainly a larger impact than the effect on wages and employment opportunities of residents from all the EEA migration since 2004, although over a different time period.”
UK home prices to fall 35%?
One man who knows all about the value of the Pound – and whose comments can have a dramatic effect on the strength of Sterling – is Bank of England Governor, Mark Carney. He has warned that if no deal is reached with the European Union that UK house prices could fall by up to 35% in three years.
Worries for property owners
For anyone owning UK property – particularly those relying on equity to fund a new life overseas or retirement to a sunny destination – that is very worrying, but for rising numbers of international property investors, it provides them with more opportunities to buy into the UK market.
Already, with the weakening British Pound, sales of luxury property worth £10 million or more to international buyers are growing.
Opportunities for property investors
Liam Bailey, Global Head of Research at international real estate specialist, Knight Frank, explains, “Prices have fallen by between 10% and 20% over the past three years, and for foreign purchasers the weaker pound means effective discounts for dollar or similarly denominated buyers are equivalent to 30% or more.”
Sales of properties worth £10 million or more in the three months to the end of July were 28% higher than in the same period in 2017. This was boosted by a remarkable rise in the number of £20 million-plus transactions, which more than doubled over the same period.
Find out more about the wealthiest places in the world and the growth of international investors in the luxury London property market.
UK mortgages could rise
The Bank of England governor reportedly also warned Downing Street officials that in the event of no deal, UK mortgage rates could spiral, the pound could fall and inflation rise. That could leave many homeowners in negative equity.
Ministers say they are confident of reaching a Brexit deal, but are also "ramping up” no-deal plans. "The Cabinet agreed that no-deal remains an unlikely but possible scenario in six months' time," a spokesperson says.
A no-deal Brexit will bring major chaos to travel arrangements between the UK and Europe, industry insiders have warned. Journeys by air, sea road and rail would all be likely to create long customs delays, as border officials would need to check travellers and collect tariffs and VAT.
It is possible that UK citizens flying into Europe at 11pm GMT on 29th March 2019, the date of Brexit, could start the journey as part of Europe on intra-EU flights under the open skies agreement and end it as a flight categorised as being from outside the EU, which could provide problems if no aviation and safety agreements are in place as European Union aviation licenses might have to be reissued.
The UK and European Union have been aiming to pass fresh transport legislation to take account of post-Brexit realities, but so far, the European Aviation Safety Industry and the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority are yet to reach agreement.
A fresh Open Sky Policy would cover right of aircraft to fly in the UK after it leaves the European single aviation market. A new single aviation area agreement would also need to be struck. The Airports Council International is concerned that EU airports are not ready for major changes in security arrangements, and would need to hire extra equipment and security staff. It wants the UK to remain part of the “one-stop security” programme.
Permits for EU driving
UK drivers may need international permits to drive in some European countries if there is a no-deal Brexit, says the government. After March 2019 "your driving licence may no longer be valid by itself" in the European Union, the National Audit Office has warned UK licence holders.
Anywhere from 100,000-7 million International Driving Permits (IDPs) may need to be issued in 2019-2020, it has been estimated. To confuse matters further, there are two different types of IDPs in the European Union, and a driver with a British licence would need both travelling through France into Spain.
New blue passports
Those with fewer than six months on their UK passports may need to renew them to travel in Europe after Brexit. Many countries require at least six months to enter; and post-Brexit, Britons may be treated like non-EU travellers. Applicants are being warned to apply early, in case there is a flood of applications and backlogs. From late 2019, traditional blue British passports will take over from the current burgundy versions.
Britain and Ireland
As yet, no workable solution has been found to how the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland will operate. In the event of no-deal, the EU is likely to enforce customs and immigration controls between the two.
Brexit could even limit the effectiveness of UK police in fighting crime and terrorism. Contingency plans are being drawn up in case the British police lose access to EU intelligence systems, including Europol and the European Arrest Warrant. However, any new systems are likely to be slower than at present, says the head of the National Police Chiefs’ Council, Sara Thornton. “Existing EU tools allow us to respond quickly and intelligently to crime and terrorism in the UK and the EU – they make us better at protecting the public.”
EU health cards
Once Britain leaves the European Union, it is unclear what will happen regarding European Health Cards (EHIC). No agreement has yet been reached on whether medical coverage for UK citizens in Europe or European citizens in Britain will continue, although the UK government has said they would like it to continue. Its prime aim is the safety of UK and EU patients should be ensured, it states.
Rising cost of living?
Following a no-deal Brexit, the UK would revert to World Trade Organisation rules over trade. Tariffs will be placed on goods imported from the European Union, which is likely to push up prices and the cost of living. There may also be short-term food shortages.
Britain would be free to set up trade agreements with other countries, but these will take time to negotiate.
Manufacturers currently based in the UK may switch to site their headquarters in Europe, to make it cheaper and easier to trade.
Mobile phone charges
European networks could ramp up roaming charges after Brexit, but the government aims to legislate to limit the rises, says Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab. They want Britons to pay no more than £45 a month for data usage when in Europe.
Since June 2017, Britons abroad have enjoyed the “Roam Like from Home” agreement secured by EU legislation, which means roaming within the EU comes at no extra cost.
Britons wanting to work in European Union countries may find that their qualifications are no longer recognised. If the UK leaves with no agreement, it is viewed as a third country.
How can Halo help?
There is still so much uncertainty, it can be difficult to know what to do for the best. Speak to a Currency Consultant about what all this means for your personal circumstances.
We can also recommend a range of other experienced, professional advisors who can support you along the way, including immigration experts, lawyers, financial advisors, tax experts, accountants and property specialists. Ask your currency consultant to be put in touch with a trusted partner.
Read more about what Brexit means for international property buyers and expert tips from emigration specialists for emigrating after Brexit.