On June 17, 2017, The United Kingdom began to negotiate its exit from the European Union (i.e. the "Brexit"). As a British citizen in Canada or the United States, you are likely wondering
How Does the Brexit Affect Me and My UK Citizenship?
Well, the short answer is that the Brexit does not affect your UK citizenship or your UK passport. At least not immediately.
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The Brexit (UK European Union Membership Referendum) Was Non-Binding But...
Though a majority of Britons voted to leave the European Union in 2016, the referendum was non-binding. However a lot has changed from the referendum:
- In January 2017, the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom ruled that the UK Parliament need to pass an Act in order for Brexit to go ahead, despite the referendum.
- However, the House of Commons readily complied with the court's decision and, on February 1st, 2017, the House of Commons passed the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Act of 2017, by a vote of 498 to 114.
- Two months later, on March 29th, 2017, the UK Ambassador to the EU delivered a letter signed by Prime Minister Theresa May invoking the infamous Article 50, the article of the European Union treaty that allows countries to leave.
So it looks like Brexit is happening after all.
What Does Brexit Mean for My Passport/Citizenship?
In terms of how the Brexit affects your status as a British citizen in Canada or the United States, you still have exactly the same rights as you did on June 22nd, 2016. There is no need to renew or replace your current passport as no regulations have changed. As of today, you still do not require a visa to visit, work or live in Schengen area countries either. But negotiations to leave the UK have begun and this will change sometime in the next months or year or two.
But for those UK passport holders who currently live in the European Union, the concerns are greater. Here are some of them:
- Will the EU revoke the right of British citizens to work and live in the EU before the Article 50 negotiations are concluded?
- Will EU member countries unilaterally revoke the rights granted British citizens by the European Union during the current negotiations?
- Will EU member countries revoke the right to public healthcare currently enjoyed by UK citizens in EU member countries during the current negotiations?
So, if you do not currently live in the European Union, you have nothing to worry about for the moment. If you do live in the EU, or had plans to move there, it may affect your decision, but we don't know how yet.
Will British Citizenship Laws Change if the UK Leaves the European Union?
Though the ongoing negotiations concern the UK leaving the European Union, many saw the 2016 referendum as a referendum on immigration. It's possible that, whether or not the UK leaves the European Union by the methods described above, there will be significant future changes to the UK's nationality law. Because of the UK’s unique position of still having British subjects around the world, any changes to UK’s nationality law could have far-reaching consequences. If and when that happens, we will have all the details.