News & Insights

‘Soft’ or ‘hard’ Brexit…

I recently joined a colleague of mine and attended a talk by Lawyers of PLMJ – one of Portugal’s leading legal firms – at the invitation of the Portuguese Chamber of Commerce in the UK. The firm has clearly spent some time internally looking at some ‘key’ areas; attempting to identify what would happen in the event that Article 50 is invoked. Some great detail was provided on subjects such as visas/residency, health, and trade.

While this was all extremely useful and enlightening, I was still left with a feeling of ‘who knows?’

We don’t at this stage know whether this will be a ‘soft’ or ‘hard’ Brexit; whether the UK’s deal with the EU will look like Norway or some other ‘special’ deal. All I know is that none of this would have taken place if the EU had listened to the issues and sought some consensus on the subject of immigration. A great deal of this is evident in the sentiment of far right groups in other Europeans countries – who seem to be gaining ground. Even Merkel herself seemed to finally realise her stance on immigration could impact her remaining in power at the next German general election.

The fact we do know is that a referendum is not a legally binding vote. It would seem that the Prime Minister will invoke article 50 without going to parliament; hence numerous legal cases being raised to ensure that she does. Surely this is a decision that cannot be made without discussion in parliament.

At the morning of writing this piece, I read an interview from the ex-prime minister, Mr Tony Blair, seeking a second referendum and suggesting that the ‘Remainers’ should take to the street and be heard; he also felt that the general opinion of the British public had changed and that leaving the EU was no longer what was wanted.

In the event of a Brexit it may well be the case that we need to seek a Visa or jump through a few more hoops to get residency – but do we really think that Portugal will make it difficult for the British expat to remain and/or move here? Personally – I don’t think so.

The one area of concern I do have is on the subject of pension transfers. If the UK were to leave the EU and move away from EU legislation – what will they do with pension legislation? could they remove the ability for those with UK based pensions to transfer them into the EU through Recognised Overseas Pension Schemes? I think this is a possibility – especially taking into consideration the poor position most defined benefit pension schemes find themselves in.

Pension transfer calculations at this moment seem high versus the guaranteed pension benefits on offer; this coupled with low interest rates and a falling lifetime allowance add up to a perfect time to review any UK-based pensions – a mere 2% increase in interest rates could have an alarming impact on a Transfer Value. Advice in this area, however, is essential.

So whatever the politicians decide to do, I think the feeling of uncertainty will remain with me for the foreseeable future.


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