The European Union has suffered its first casualty. The exit of the United Kingdom will disrupt the lives of the British, but also of Europeans. Here’s a look at some of the most common questions about Brexit and how it will affect us in Catalonia. The Withdrawal Agreement sets out the conditions for the separation and the Trade and Cooperation Agreement lays the groundwork for the new relationship.
Do I need a visa now to go to London or Edinburgh?
Not if it is for a short stay of up to three months, for tourism, for example. You of course need a passport because an ID card is no longer valid. These conditions apply to all 27 EU member states, and so applies to flights from Barcelona, Berlin or Bucharest.
And do the British need a visa to come here?
As long as the UK reciprocates with all European citizens, the EU will allow short visa-free visits. Yet, it has already warned London that if it discriminates against any country, it will suspend this right to the British.
Is my European health card still valid if I have an emergency?
Yes. Tourists, students or people on business in the UK will be covered for medical emergencies. For stays of longer than six months, the British authorities will apply a “health surcharge” of almost 700 euros a year to adults and around 500 euros to minors.
Will my phone calls be free of roaming charges?
No. It will depend on each provider whether they charge extra for calls from the UK and vice versa.
Can I buy duty free products?
Yes, although with limits on the amount of alcohol and tobacco purchased.
What do I need to do to work in the UK?
Meet the entry conditions for foreigners, whether from China, the USA or Morocco. The British government has a points-based immigration system that prioritises highly skilled workers and health workers, and makes it difficult for people looking for lower-paying jobs to enter.
What requirements do they ask for?
There are several types of visas, but in general, you must have a job offer before entering the country. In addition, you must speak English, have a high school diploma or an equivalent level of education, and earn at least 28,400 euros a year. If the salary is lower, it can be offset by other factors, such as having a doctorate or working in a sector where there is a labour shortage.
How much is a work permit?
Prices range from 250 to 1,300 euros. For example, a standard visa to work for three years costs about 670 euros, while for scientists, engineers, programmers, artists or graphic designers, the cost rises by about 500 euros.
Which professions have priority?
Aside from highly paid ones, the UK wants to attract scientists, researchers and healthcare professionals. It has a programme called “global talent” for “potential leaders” in research, culture or digital technologies. The price to apply for this five-year renewable visa is around 600 euros per person.
And health workers?
If they meet the basic salary, education and language requirements, doctors and nurses will be able to apply for a visa at a reduced price and will be fast-tracked.
What if my company wants to transfer me there?
There is an agreement to transfer workers in case a company has a head office or an associated company in the UK. It also works the other way around. “Intracorporate” stays may last a maximum of three years.
Does all this affect those who are already resident in the UK?
No. Thanks to the EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement, all Europeans residing on the British Isles until the end of 2020 will keep intact the rights they had (social security, pension, health) for the rest of their lives, including family reunification. Their children will also enjoy these rights even if they are born after 2021. However, they must complete the relevant procedures to obtain resident status.
Will it be possible to do an Erasmus in the UK?
No, except in Northern Ireland. It’s a blow to students in Spain. British universities top the world rankings and are the second favourite destination of Spanish students. The UK prime minister Boris Johnson says he will create a new mobility programme, but the details are still unknown.
Will there be tariffs?
No. The Trade and Cooperation Agreement signed with the EU creates a free trade area without quotas or tariffs.
And border controls?
Yes. Being outside the customs union and the single market, freight traffic will be subject to the inconvenience of border paperwork. However, Brussels and London have agreed on some simplifications to ease the bureaucratic burden.
Will companies face new regulations to export to the UK market?
All products will be subject to UK regulations, which will not necessarily be the same as in the EU. However, a system has been created to simplify the process by creating “self-certificates” of compliance with the rules.
In case of doubt, what can companies and freelancers do?
Contact the Catalan government. Both the Catalonia Trade and Investment agency, Acció, and the Catalan agri-food agency, Prodeca, offer assistance and advice to companies for meeting the challenges of accessing the British market after Brexit. The UK is Catalonia’s fifth largest trading partner and represents 5.5% of exports, equivalent to 1.8% of Catalan GDP.
Which sectors will suffer the most from change in Catalonia?
The pharmaceutical, textile, and especially the agri-food sectors. The latter is one of the largest exporters to the British market, with mainly meat products (22%) and beverages (14%), especially wines.
And the tourism sector?
In principle, it should not be so affected because tourists will be able to continue entering without a visa for stays of less than three months. The revival of this sector will depend more on the evolution of the pandemic than on Brexit.
Does the trade agreement cover services?
Some, such as telecommunications, transportation, audits and legal services. By contrast, the audiovisual sector is not included. In general, service providers on the other side of the English Channel and will have to comply with the rules set out by each country to continue offering services.
What about financial services?
They are not covered either. Brussels and London aim to reach an agreement before the end of March to mutually agree how the financial industry should operate.
Will extraditions be possible under the Euro-order system?
No. The mechanism is for the exclusive use of EU members only. However, Brussels and London have agreed on their own system of extraditions with “strict deadlines, solid guarantees, procedural rights and judicial control”. For all Euro-orders executed before 2021, European legislation will continue to apply.