An article from Czech news server Týden described yesterday’s major Brexit announcement—the triggering of Article 50 which signified the UK’s formal intent to withdraw from the EU—as a “shuffling of the cards” for British expats who now face fears of deportation, loss of property, or restriction of travel freedoms.
According to the United Nations, just over 4.5 million Britons live abroad, with approximately 1.3 million of them residing in Europe.
The top destinations for British expats in the EU? Spain (319,000), Ireland (249,000) and France (171,000).
Relatively speaking, the number of Britons in the Czech Republic is low: statistics reflect a total of 4,795 British citizens who call Czechia home—eleven of which applied for Czech citizenship in 2015 (as of the publication of this 2016 article, that number was at six).
Can we expect citizenship applications to spike sharply in the coming years?
Possibly. Analysts are predicting the implementation of a visa system, similar to the one currently in place for non-EU nationals, in which British expats must apply for a residency visa in any EU state.
Another option for UK citizens who have been in the Czech Republic on a long-term basis might be to apply for Czech citizenship.
In terms of travel throughout the EU, a paid-for visa waiver scheme for UK nationals traveling the continent has been proposed.
The answers to these pressing questions, however, rest on the outcome of Brexit negotiations, a two-year period during which the UK must continue to abide by EU laws and treaties, but cannot take part in any decision-making.
Speaking to Týden, analyst Jana Reschová from the Charles University Law Faculty said that two years may not even be enough given the complex negotiations process.
Following last year’s referendum, British Ambassador to the Czech Republic Jan Thompson told Novinky.cz:
“It must be said that there will be no immediate changes for Czechs living in Britain, and likewise for Britons living in the Czech Republic.”
But for many British expats living in the Czech Republic, however, the issue is less about residency and more about principle.
One Englishman living in Prague we spoke to who wished not to be named said, “Clocks went forward one hour last weekend, but yesterday we went back 50 years.”
Others jokingly wondered if Britain will still be able to join Eurovision—while everything else may be up in the air for British citizens living in the EU, the answer to that question, is a resounding yes.
For more information about Britain leaving the EU and its impact on UK citizens in the Czech Republic, the British Embassy in Prague has posted some helpful resources.