Giving official notice under Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, on Tuesday evening British prime minister Theresa May officially signed the letter triggering Brexit, which will be delivered to European Council president Donald Tusk on Wednesday.
May’s letter will be delivered to Tusk at 12:30pm (BST) by the British ambassador to the EU, Sir Tim Barrow.
Once triggered, Article 50 gives both sides two years to reach agreement, so unless both sides agree to extend the deadline for talks, the UK will leave on 29 March 2019.
Negotiations are expected to begin in mid-May and the UK has said it wants an “early agreement” to guarantee the rights of EU citizens living in the UK and those of British nationals living abroad.
However, a leaked Brussels report published in February revealed that the 1.2 million Brits living across Europe could pay a penalty after May failed to guarantee reciprocal rights for EU citizens in the UK.
For her part, May has insisted that she wants to come to an arrangement “as soon as possible” but has complained that EU leaders are blocking an immediate deal to reassure people they will not be displaced after Brexit.
Earlier this month, the House of Commons scrapped a House of Lords bid to write a commitment to EU nationals living in the UK into Law by dumping the peers’ proposed amendment to the Article 50 Bill.
The British prime minister has also been told by key Brexit negotiator Guy Verhofstadt that she must guarantee a reciprocal deal for eastern Europeans if she wants Britons to have the chance to individually apply for EU rights such as freedom of movement after the UK leaves the bloc.
Stuart Ritchie, senior chartered financial planner at expat-focused IFA firm AES International, said there are still a lot of unknowns for British expats living abroad.
“The biggest concern voiced by clients is uncertainty.
“Questions around qualifying recognised overseas pension schemes (Qrops), taxation and reporting are most common, with Britons in Europe wondering if they’ll continue to have the same rights when the UK has left the EU.
“I appreciate the uncertainty our clients are facing – because no one can second guess what’s going to happen,” he told International Adviser.
Ritchie added that the despite the ambiguity surrounding Brexit, the advice he gives to clients has not changed.