On the 23rd June 2016, British voters were asked whether they wanted the United Kingdom to remain in the EU or not, with the majority voting to leave the EU. In order for the UK to leave the EU, Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty had to be triggered; this article incorporates the process for a Member State to leave the EU.
This was eventually done on the 29th March 2017 with the UK having two years to exit the EU. In this period, negotiations between both parties will take place which will determine the future relationship between the UK and the EU.
This is going to have a significant effect on whether British expats can apply or continue to benefit from Maltese residence and/or tax residency programmes and even retirement programmes.
At the moment there are around twelve thousand British nationals residing in Malta as ordinary residents or as beneficiaries under tax or retirement schemes. Currently, British expats residing in EU member states are faced with uncertainty about their future residency rights since these rights depend solely on the negotiations and agreements that will be made between the UK and the EU, and between the UK and individual member states.
They may also lose other rights such as social security benefits, rights to free education and eligibility of working in Malta.
With regards to healthcare, the Ministry for Health, Hon. Chris Fearne announced that UK nationals will not lose the right to benefit from free healthcare due to a Malta and UK have a bilateral agreement to enjoy free health care. Such agreement was done in 1975 and is being renewed every year. Hon. Chris Fearne has given his reassurance that Brexit will not interrupt this agreement.
Presently, there are two possible situations that may occur to beneficiaries who fall under these tax residency programmes. The first possible situation is that British expats would be treated like non-EU nationals. This means that British citizens who presently benefit from such programmes would be disqualified from the same programmes. The second possible situation would be that Malta and the UK reach an agreement so that British expats would continue to benefit under the EU programmes.
British expats who have become ordinary residents in Malta will also be affected. In the unlikely scenario where British expats will no longer be allowed to freely reside in Malta, they will have to look into the possibility of applying for residence under the Global Residence Programme and the Malta Residence and Visa Programme.
However, given the significant number of British expats living in Malta and Maltese expats residing in the UK, it is highly probable that the Maltese Government will enter into an agreement with the UK to retain their residency and expat rights.