Posted by Laura Parsons on February 24th, 2016.
Since the date for the UK’s EU referendum (23rd June 2016) was set last week the ‘Brexit’ debate has really picked up steam, with both sides of the camp vying to secure votes and put their point across.
But how is the referendum likely to impact UK expats? And what should you be aware of you’re living abroad or planning to make the move overseas?
The UK’s EU membership has long been a controversial issue, with calls for adjustments to the nature of Britain’s relationship with the institution growing ever louder. In response to public opinion, the Conservative Party vowed to hold an In-Out EU referendum (should they be voted into power) as part of their 2015 election campaign.
One landslide victory later, and the Conservatives are delivering on their promise.
After renegotiating some of the terms of the UK’s membership – to the satisfaction of some, the dissatisfaction of others and the scepticism of a sizeable contingent – PM David Cameron set the date of the referendum.
While the ‘Go’ camp is already generating some pretty notable support, the ‘Stay’ campaign is being backed by many UK expats.
According to recent estimates, over two million UK nationals are currently living in EU nations and enjoying the rights and benefits that being part of the EU affords.
Should the UK vote to leave the EU, these rights and the ability of expats to work and live in Europe in the same way would be called into question.
Healthcare is a particular area of concern. Currently, UK expats living in the EU are entitled for free NHS healthcare as long as they carry a European Health Insurance Card. A UK exit could see hundreds of thousands having to pay for treatment or enter costly private insurance schemes.
UK expats may also find their pensions, right to purchase European property and access to social security benefits compromised by a UK departure.
With so much at stake, a number of UK expats are flying the flag for EU membership and adding their voices to the ‘Stay’ campaign.
While speaking to The Telegraph, pensioner Brian Cave asserted; ‘If health care support ceased, some would find paying for full health insurance impossible. For those of working age, the need for work permits could crumble their careers. A number work across borders.’
Clearly, the referendum has significant consequences for those living outside the UK and we can expect expats to take a prominent role as the campaigns continue.
The news that the referendum would be held this summer briefly caused a calming in financial markets as PM David Cameron’s initial pledge to hold the vote sometime before the end of 2017 would have caused months of uncertainty, but London Mayor Boris Johnson set a large and angry cat among the pigeons by unexpectedly pledging his support for the ‘Leave’ campaign.
Given Johnson’s influence on the political stage and the sway he holds with voters, the move intensified concerns that the UK will vote to exit the European Union and the panic generated by this turn of events was reflected in the performance of Pound Sterling (GBP) exchange rates.
The Pound plummeted across the board, falling dramatically against its fellow major currencies. While GBP/USD dropped to a 7-year low, both GBP/AUD and GBP/NZD slumped to 9-month lows while the GBP/EUR currency pair drifted all the way to 1.26.
At the start of the year the Pound Sterling to Euro (GBP/EUR) exchange rate was trending in the region of 1.36. This ten cents per Pound disparity would mean the difference of €10,000 on a £100,000 currency transfer.
If you’re moving money to Europe on a regular basis you could find that you’re worse off as a result of this slump in the GBP/EUR exchange rate. Some industry experts are forecasting that the pair could have even further to fall, so you may wish to look into risk-management options to safeguard future transactions from additional negative shifts.
Conversely, anyone transferring money from Eurozone nations to the UK will be able to achieve more for their money in the months leading up to June 23rd. Even if the European Central Bank (ECB) rolls out additional stimulus in March, as it is currently expected to do, the uptrend in the EUR/GBP exchange rate is liable to continue with Pound sentiment so soured by ‘Brexit’ fears.
If you’re a UK expat you are eligible to vote in the EU referendum if you were registered to vote prior to leaving the UK and have lived abroad for less than 15 years.
As the decision has the potential to have a massive impact on UK expats living in EU nations, make sure you have your say and register to vote well in advance of June 23rd.
In order to vote in the upcoming EU referendum you must be registered. If you aren’t currently registered you can complete the process online or by post.
When registering make sure you have your National Insurance Number and passport to hand so you’re able to supply the required information.
Once registered you can opt to vote by post or by proxy. Should you wish to vote by post, you will need to apply for a postal vote. If choosing to go down this route, remember to bear in mind delivery times and send your vote to arrive in the UK before 10pm on polling day.
Voting by proxy, meanwhile, gives you the option to appoint someone to vote on your behalf at a UK polling station. Follow this link if you’d like to find out more about voting by proxy: www.gov.uk/apply-vote-proxy.
The furore surrounding the EU referendum is only likely to intensify in the months leading up to the vote.
If you live overseas or are in the process of planning a move abroad and are concerned about the impact speculation could have on your international money transfers, staying up-to-date with the latest currency news can help you plan your exchange more effectively.
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