What will be Brexit’s impact on consumers?

Things would change for Britons abroad, tourists and investors
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If Britain leaves the EU, the effects would be particularly felt by some parts of the UK population.

Britons living abroad
The government estimates that about 1.8m Britons live in other EU countries, more than half of them in Spain. Over 400,000 receive the UK state pension.

If movement and residency rules change, one option for Britons who want to live in an EU state might be an investment visa. These are offered by Spain and Portugal among others, and give residency to someone who invests in property or business.

Holiday homeowners
For people with holiday homes abroad, Brexit would not have an obvious impact on their property rights and taxation, which are determined at a national level. But, said Richard Way, editor of the Overseas Guides Company, “There’s little doubt that being an EU national brings with it a certain level of protection when owning a property in another EU country.”

Holidaymakers
Pulling out of the single market would be more of an inconvenience than a serious problem for British holidaymakers. The UK is not a member of the Schengen visa-free area and the European Health Insurance Card, which gives tourists access to state healthcare in participating countries, is an initiative of the European Economic Area rather than the EU.

Flight compensation is currently paid for delayed departures from EU airports. If the UK left the bloc, airlines would no longer be bound by this legislation.

Retail investors
Much of the UK’s financial regulation relating to individual investors comes from Brussels, so withdrawal could have a big impact.

Ian Cornwall, director of regulation at the Wealth Management Association, says that “rules on the conduct of business might be more appropriate to the business models that we have in the UK” if the UK were to exit. For example, forthcoming EU rules may limit retail investors’ access to investment trusts, a product that has a long UK record but is little-known elsewhere in Europe.

On the other hand, Brussels lawmakers have also voted to force fund companies and wealth managers to disclose more information on their fees, a move seen as consumer-friendly.

Students
EU students can apply to study at any university in the bloc and pay the same fees as nationals. Non-EU students often face much higher charges. The UK could also pull out of the Erasmus academic exchange programme while a post-Brexit deal is negotiated with the rest of the bloc, said Universities UK, the sector’s umbrella body.

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