Agence pour une Vie de Qualité
Brexit

Brexit

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Brexit: current state of affairs

On 23 June 2016, British citizens voted in favour of the withdrawal of the United Kingdom (UK) from the European Union (EU). This withdrawal, called Brexit and initially scheduled for 29 March 2019, led to negotiations resulting in a Withdrawal Agreement (WA).

The WA covers matters previously regulated in coordination with the various EU Member States for the period commencing on its entry into force on 31 December 2020. However, this Withdrawal Agreement was not approved by the British Parliament the three times it was voted on, namely 15 January, 12 and 29 March 2019. The Brexit, which was therefore scheduled for 12 April, has been flexibly extended until 31 October 2019. Indeed, the United Kingdom can leave the European Union as soon as the separation is ratified by its Parliament.

The United Kingdom, forced to hold European elections within its territory, saw the Brexit Party win with more than 30% of the votes. In addition, Theresa May having resigned from her position, her successor at the head of the Conservative Party and of the British government, has been proclaimed on July 23. This is former Foreign Minister Boris Johnson. Johnson has promised to respect, at all costs, the deadline of 31 October 2019 and excludes the idea of another postponement of Brexit.

Boris Johnson, a strong supporter of the United Kingdom's exit from the European Union, wants to reopen negotiations with Brussels because he feels he is not bound by the actions of the previous government. This last point is a stumbling block, as the European Commission has repeatedly indicated that the Withdrawal Agreement is final and could not be renegotiated.

Ready to leave the EU on a no deal, the new Prime Minister will, however, have to convince the British Parliament of this way of proceeding, an element that is far from certain given the fact that some of the Conservative Party's executives categorically reject this hypothesis.

To respond to this situation, the EU is currently working on “emergency measures” called the Contingency Regulation. This proposal is intended to guarantee, until 31 December 2020, certain social rights and interests of citizens who exercised their right to free movement with the UK.

With regard to the period commencing on 1 January 2021, the future relationship between the EU and the UK must be the subject of new negotiations between the two parties.

While awaiting the outcome of the Brexit situation, the Walloon Region has prepared for all possible scenarios in order to protect the interests of citizens, including the possibility of no agreement, the so-called “no deal”.

 

Consequences of Brexit for the Walloon Region


Two situations are possible, depending on the decisions taken by the United Kingdom: agreement (deal) or no agreement (no deal).


In the event of an agreement

The future relationship between the EU and the UK would be governed by the Withdrawal Agreement (WA). The terms of the future relationship have been outlined in a joint political declaration that states the framework of the future partnership between the two parties. The measures provided for in these documents will apply if and only if the British Parliament approves the WA.

 

In the event of no agreement

At the European level

The European Union worked on “emergency measures” called the Contingency Regulation. This proposal is intended to guarantee certain social rights and interests of citizens who exercised their right to free movement with the UK. Continuing the main characteristics of the current situation with regard to social protection and health care, the Contingency Regulation does not currently resolve the issue of the exportability of benefits (sickness benefits in kind, family benefits, …) out of the Walloon Region to the UK.

 

At the level of the Walloon Region  

In order to protect the interests of its citizens, the Walloon Region prepared a decree aimed at dealing with a withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union without a deal, particularly for matters managed by the Agence pour une vie de qualité (AViQ). The objective of this decree is to continue, until 31 December 2020, relations as they currently stand with the United Kingdom, provided that the latter demonstrates reciprocity in the aforementioned relations.

 

Social Protection & Health Care 

 

The social protection of persons moving within the European Union is currently governed by a specific European regulation that protects the social protection rights of EU citizens:

  • these persons are always subject to the legislation of one country and therefore only pay social security contributions in one country;
  • these persons have the same rights and obligations as nationals of the country in which they are insured;
  • for benefits, the periods during which these persons were insured, worked or resided in other countries are taken into account (aggregation of periods);
  • if these persons are entitled to a benefit from one country, they generally also receive it if they reside in another country (exportability).

 

These principles and these regulations apply for:

  • Walloons who work or reside in the United Kingdom;
  • British citizens who work or reside in the Walloon Region.

While awaiting an outcome within the context of Brexit, they will remain applicable until 31 October 2019 [or the new date set by a divorce between the European Union and the United Kingdom].

 

British citizens in the Walloon Region

 

Situation in the event that a European agreement is concluded (deal):

The withdrawal agreement document as negotiated between the EU and the United Kingdom provides for two periods:

  • from 01 November 2019 [or the new date set by a divorce between the European Union and the United Kingdom] to 31 December 2020 inclusive : transition period during which the United Kingdom is no longer an EU member. The European social protection rules nevertheless remain fully applicable: the situation of British citizens in the Walloon Region therefore undergoes no change;
  • from 1 January 2021: European regulations are no longer applicable. However, certain social protection rights remain guaranteed for British citizens, stateless persons, refugees and EU citizens having made use of the free movement of people before 31 December 2020. A system is yet to be developed for other situations.

 

Situation in the event that no European agreement is concluded (no deal):

In the case of no deal, the social protection rights of British citizens in the Walloon Region will continue to be protected after 31 October 2019 [or the new date set by a divorce between the European Union and the United Kingdom], in particular thanks to the Walloon decree. In fact, the Walloon Government has prepared a decree aimed at continuing the situation as it currently stands with regard to social protection for British citizens in the Walloon Region until 31 December 2020. This decree is obviously subject to the principle of reciprocity between the Walloon Region and the United Kingdom.

Moreover, it will be applicable to all branches of social protection falling under regional competence, in particular with regard to long-term health care, family benefits and elderly persons assistance benefits.

If after 31 October 2019 [or the new date set by a divorce between the European Union and the United Kingdom], British citizens stay temporarily in the Walloon Region (for holidays or family visits, for example) or are seconded to the Walloon Region, they remain subject to British legislation. In this context, they must contact the competent British authorities.

 

Walloons in the United Kingdom

 

Situation in the event that a European agreement is concluded (deal):

The withdrawal agreement document as negotiated between the EU and the United Kingdom provides for two periods:

  • from 01 November 2019 [or the new date set by a divorce between the European Union and the United Kingdom] to 31 December 2020 inclusive : transition period during which the United Kingdom is no longer an EU member. European social protection rules nevertheless remain fully applicable: the situation of Walloons in the United Kingdom therefore undergoes no change;
  • from 1 January 2021 [or the new date set by a divorce between the European Union and the United Kingdom] : European regulations are no longer applicable. However, certain social protection rights remain guaranteed for Walloons, stateless persons, refugees and EU citizens having made use of the free movement of people before 31 December 2020 [or the new date set by the extension of the Brexit deadline]. A system is yet to be developed for other situations.

 

Situation in the event that no European agreement is concluded (no deal):

A distinction must be made between the following situations:

  • You are living in the United Kingdom:
  • before 31 October 2019 [or the new date set by a divorce between the European Union and the United Kingdom]: your rights acquired before this date are guaranteed in the United Kingdom;
  • after 31 October 2019 [or the new date set by a divorce between the European Union and the United Kingdom]: you will be subject to United Kingdom legislation. In this context, you must contact the competent British authorities.
  • You live in the Walloon Region and are temporarily staying in the United Kingdom after 31 October 2019 [or the new date set by a divorce between the European Union and the United Kingdom] (for holidays or family visits, for example) or you are seconded to the United Kingdom:
  • your social protection rights remain protected. In fact, the Walloon Government has prepared a decree aimed at continuing the situation as it currently stands with regard to social protection for Walloons in the United Kingdom until 31 December 2020 (In fact, in the event of a temporary stay in the United Kingdom, covered Belgian nationals will receive, for example, a European Health Insurance Card issued by their Belgian health insurance provider. They will thereby be able to use it to access the United Kingdom’s National Health Service free of charge). This decree is obviously subject to the principle of reciprocity between the Walloon Region and the United Kingdom.


This decree will be applicable to all branches of social protection falling under regional competence, in particular those managed by AViQ with regard to long-term health care, family benefits and elderly persons assistance benefits.

As the Walloon decree covers only the competencies specific to the Walloon Region, if you would like information concerning the consequences of Brexit with regard to matters managed by the Federal Government, please refer to the FPS Social Security website.
For questions concerning the availability of medicines and medical devices, the validity of regulations, travelling with medicines and ordering products from the United Kingdom, refer to the website of the Federal Agency for Medicines and Health Products (FAMHP).

You can find further information about Brexit at the following addresses:

 

 

 

 

 

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