If you take financial advice from the UK but live in Spain, France, Portugal, Cyprus, Malta or another EU country, what do you need to think about as full Brexit approaches? 

Reassuringly, even if there is a no-deal Brexit, citizens’ rights for UK nationals legally settled in an EU member state by 31 December 2020 are protected under the UK-EU Withdrawal Agreement. There are no such guarantees, however, in the area of financial services, which could affect whether you can continue to receive UK-based advice and services as an EU resident. 

With no certainty that negotiations will be resolved in time, make sure you check that your financial planning – and adviser – will stand up to the challenges that Brexit may bring. Here are four key considerations. 

1. The end of passporting

If you have a good relationship with your UK-based financial adviser, you may understandably wish to continue using them, despite now living in a different country. However, you need to make sure they can legally continue to advise you after the Brexit transition period. 

Under today’s rules, UK-based financial businesses can ‘passport’ out of the UK and into Europe – but this will no longer apply after 31 December 2020.  

‘Passporting’ enables cross-border transactions between EU member states through shared financial regulation. It is currently possible because the UK Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) is bound by the same rules and standards as other regulators in the EU. But once the UK leaves the EU, the regulation of financial activity and consumer protection may not continue to line up on both sides. As such, unless a mutual deal is agreed on financial services, the EU will not permit ongoing passporting arrangements for UK financial businesses and advisers from 1 January 2021. 

Some UK financial firms have put arrangements in place to be able to continue working in an EU country post-Brexit, but others have not. We have already seen letters from major UK banks to EU-based clients, advising they will be withdrawing services and recommending they make arrangements now with an alternative provider who can support them.  

2. The limits of UK advice

If you still retain UK investments, a UK-based adviser may be able to continue supporting you there. But if you hold savings and investments with an EU-based institution, from 2021 they may not accept instructions, such as top-ups, from a UK adviser. The financial regulator in France, for example, has already confirmed it will be illegal for French banks and insurance firms to do business with a provider who is not authorised in the country. Similarly, while the Central Bank of Ireland has enabled a three-year grace period for servicing existing insurance contracts, it will not allow unregulated entities to renew or create new policies from 2021. 

We can expect similar positions to be taken by other EU regulators seeking to protect consumers in their country, so this could limit the planning opportunities for expatriates using UK-based advisers. 

Also, make sure you check if there will be any practical challenges to keeping a UK-based adviser. Will you have to travel to the UK for meetings and paperwork requirements? Consider how this would work in situations where you need funds quickly or if you are unable to travel through illness or sudden travel restrictions.

3. The advantages of local knowledge

As well as the legal and practical implications, you should also review whether an adviser based in a different country is best placed to help you take advantage of opportunities available to you in your country of residence. For example:

  • Will they fully understand the intricacies of the tax regime and how it interacts with UK taxation?
  • Will they have in-depth knowledge of the local residence, domicile, tax, succession law and reporting rules?
  • Do they know about – and have access to – tax-efficient solutions that offer significant benefits to EU residents?
  • Who will foot the bill or face the consequences if they get things wrong?

While UK-based advisers may be experts on the ins and outs of the UK system for residents there, it is unlikely that they have the same in-depth knowledge for another country. Nor should they! 

Download our 10 key questions to ask your UK adviser

4. The suitability of UK planning

Remember: financial planning that is tailored for a UK resident is unlikely to remain suitable once you become resident elsewhere. Ideally, you should review your arrangements before you move to minimise taxation when changing residency and make the most of tax-efficient opportunities in your new home.

If you are holding on to UK savings and investments, beware that they can lose their tax benefits once you are living abroad. Once they cease to be EU/EEA assets from 2021 and you are no longer a UK resident, they could potentially attract a higher tax bill, in either or even both countries. Meanwhile, EU residents have access to locally-compliant alternatives that can offer other advantages besides tax-efficiency – such as multi-currency and estate planning flexibility – so explore your options.

As full Brexit draws ever nearer, it has never been more important to ensure your financial affairs are both compliant and suitable for your life abroad. Secure financial peace of mind by talking to an experienced, locally-based adviser, as soon as possible before the 2020 Brexit deadline. 

Blevins Franks are Brexit-ready

At Blevins Franks, we are committed to providing all our EU-based clients with a high-quality service well into the future and have been planning for Brexit for some time. We have arrangements in place which enable us to continue to service our clients, whatever the outcome of the Brexit negotiations. 

So when we are approached by people who have received a letter from their UK bank withdrawing a service, asking if we will be fully authorised to work in the EU after 31 December 2020, we are pleased to be able to say that yes, we are ready and in a position to provide regulated advice on their savings and investments next year and beyond.

Our local advisers are regulated, authorised and have the experience and knowledge to advise on all aspects of financial and tax planning in post-Brexit Spain, France, Portugal, Cyprus and Malta, so get in touch to find out how they can help you.

Arrange to speak to your local Blevins Franks adviser

Tax rates, scope and reliefs may change. Any statements concerning taxation are based upon our understanding of current taxation laws and practices which are subject to change. Tax information has been summarised; individuals should seek personalised advice.