EXPLAINER: Brexit ends Britons’ right to live and work in EU

Dec 29, 2020, 5:29 AM
FILE - In this file photo dated Thursday, Dec. 24, 2020, Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson spe...
FILE - In this file photo dated Thursday, Dec. 24, 2020, Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during a media briefing at Downing Street in London, backdropped by British Union flags. Britain's relationship with the European Union will change from Jan. 1 when Britain embarks on a more distant relationship with the EU and freedom of movement becomes the most tangible consequence of Brexit for people and businesses. (Paul Grover/Pool Photo via AP, FILE)
(Paul Grover/Pool Photo via AP, FILE)

LONDON (AP) — So far, the large majority of British and EU citizens have not felt the realities of Brexit. Though the U.K. left the European Union on Jan. 31, it follows the bloc’s rules until the end of this year as part of a transition period to the new economic relationship.

That’s all set to change.

On Jan. 1, Britain embarks on its new, more distant relationship with the EU after nearly five decades of closer economic, cultural and social integration.

The change for Britain’s economy and people is the most dramatic since World War II, certainly more so than when the country joined what was then the European Economic Community in 1973.

“It’s a far bigger shock to our economic system and it’s going to happen instantaneously,” said Anand Menon, director of The U.K. in a Changing Europe think tank and a professor of European politics and foreign affairs at King’s College London.

“All of a sudden you wake up in a new world at the start of January.”

Here are some of the changes to movement that people will start to feel almost overnight.



Even though the coronavirus pandemic has led to a collapse in the numbers of people traveling between Britain and the EU, the end of freedom of movement from Jan. 1 will represent the most tangible Brexit consequence so far.

Under the divorce deal agreed by the two sides on Dec. 24, the roughly 1 million British citizens who are legal residents in the EU will have broadly the same rights as they have now. The same applies to more than 3 million EU citizens living in the U.K.

But British citizens will no longer have the automatic right to live and work in the EU, and vice versa. People who want to cross the border to settle will have to follow immigration rules and face other red tape such as ensuring their qualifications are recognized.

The exception is people moving between the U.K. and Ireland, which have a separate common travel area.

For many in the EU, the freedom to be able to travel, study and live anywhere in the 27-nation bloc is among the most appealing aspects of European integration.

Yet some in Britain and other parts of Western Europe became more skeptical about freedom of movement after several former communist nations in Eastern Europe joined the EU in 2004 and many of their citizens moved to the U.K. and other wealthier countries to work. Concerns over immigration were a major factor in Britain’s 2016 Brexit vote. On Jan. 1, the consequences of that decision will become apparent for British and European citizens alike.



Although travelling for holidays will remain visa-free, British nationals will only be allowed to spend 90 days out of every 180 in the EU, while the U.K. will allow European citizens to stay for up to six consecutive months.

For retired British citizens who have been used to spending more than three months at their second homes on Spain’s sun-soaked Costa del Sol, the change may come as a shock. British travellers in Europe will also have to have at least six months left on their passports and buy their own travel insurance. Britons will no longer be issued the European Health Insurance Card, which guarantees access to medical care across the bloc, but the U.K. says it is setting up a replacement system so that U.K. visitors to the bloc and EU citizens visiting Britain still have medical coverage.



For British citizens accustomed to taking their dog, cat or ferret on vacation in Europe each summer, the situation will get more complicated as Britain will no longer be part of the EU’s pet passport scheme — although the agreement avoids the onerous months-long procedures that some had feared. U.K. pet owners will have to have their animal microchipped and vaccinated against rabies at least 21 days before travel, and will need to get an Animal Health Certificate from a veterinarian no more than 10 days before departure.



The deal means British drivers won’t need an international driving permit once they cross the Channel. British motorists can travel in the EU on their U.K. licenses and insurance, as long as they carry proof that they are insured in the form of a “green card.”



The end of freedom of movement will have a major impact on hiring at all ends of the labor market.

A newly graduated British citizen on holiday in the Greek islands, for example, won’t be able to walk up to a beach bar and seek part-time work without having the necessary visa. The same applies for European citizens arriving in the U.K. They won’t be able to turn up at a sandwich shop like Pret a Manger and look for work without the necessary documentation.

Larger businesses will also find it far more difficult and costly to hire people from the other side. The deal does include provisions to allow contractors and business travelers to make short-term work trips without visas.


Follow all AP stories about Brexit and British politics at

Today’s Top Stories


Anastasiya Sayer, 11, joins others in rallying against the war in Ukraine at the Capitol in Salt La...
Curt Gresseth

Through donations, Ukrainian woman in Idaho seeks to ease suffering of war

The war in Ukraine may have faded from the daily news but a Ukrainian-born woman now in Idaho is dedicated to collecting and sending supplies to meet the needs of suffering Ukrainians.
2 days ago
Residents stand in front of building destroyed by missiles in Ukraine...
FRANCESCA EBEL Associated Press

Russian missiles kill at least 19 in Ukraine’s Odesa region

The Ukrainian president's office said three Kh-22 missiles fired by Russian bombers struck an apartment building and a campsite.
6 days ago
A technician works on a component of Rocket Lab's Electron rocket ahead of the launch on the Mahia ...
NICK PERRY Associated Press

NASA hopes New Zealand launch will pave way for moon landing

The mission came together relatively quickly and cheaply for NASA, with the total mission cost put at $32.7 million.
9 days ago
Tim Lister, Julia Kesaieva, Salma Abdelaziz, Pierre Bairin and Jeevan Ravindran, CNN

Russian missiles hit Kyiv as G7 summit begins in Europe

G7 summit begins in Germany, as Russia hits Kyiv with a series of missile attacks.
11 days ago
A fighter in a tank in Ukraine....

Men, morale, munitions: Russia’s Ukraine war faces long slog

Over the weekend, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg warned the war could last years and warned of "Ukraine fatigue" abroad.
17 days ago
supermoon photos...
Associated Press

AP PHOTOS: Supermoon delights skygazers around the globe

The moon reached its full stage Tuesday during a phenomenon known as a supermoon because of its proximity to Earth. It's also known as the "Strawberry Moon."
22 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Tax Harassment...
Jordan Wilcox

The best strategies for dealing with IRS tax harassment | You have options!

Learn how to deal with IRS tax harassment. This guide will teach you how to stop IRS phone calls and letters, and how to handle an IRS audit.
spend a day at Bear Lake...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

You’ll love spending the day at Bear Lake | How to spend a day at Bear Lake

Bear Lake is a place that needs to be experienced. Spend a day at Bear Lake.
Curb Appeal...
Price's Guaranteed Doors

How to have the best of both worlds for your house | Home security and curb appeal

Protect your home and improve its curb appeal with the latest security solutions like beautiful garage doors and increased security systems.
Prescription opioids can be disposed of during National Prescription Take Back Day...
Know Your Script

Prescription opioid misuse | How to protect your family from the opioid epidemic

Studies have shown that prescription opioid misuse has increased since COVID-19. So what do you need to know about these opioids?
national heart month...
Intermountain Healthcare

National Heart Month: 5 Lifestyle Changes to Make Today to Keep You Heart Healthy

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. One person dies every 36 seconds in the United States from cardiovascular disease
Joseph Smith Memorial Building...
Temple Square

The Joseph Smith Memorial Building is an icon of Salt Lake City | Why hosting an event at this beautiful location will make you a hero this year

Here's why hosting an event at the iconic Joseph Smith Memorial Building in downtown Salt Lake City will make you a hero this year.
EXPLAINER: Brexit ends Britons’ right to live and work in EU