No deal Brexit and UK citizens and solicitors in Belgium

With the 31st October now only a month away, the Law Society is urging those UK nationals living in Belgium, who have not already done so, to register as an EU citizen resident in Belgium. Regardless of the outcome of the Brexit negotiations, this will help lock in a number of time-limited rights which may be critical to continued residence in this country.

Paramount to registration is ensuring that all UK nationals, who are currently living in Belgium, are covered by Belgium’s contingency legislation for the event of a No Deal Brexit. This legislation effectively allows the continuation of EU rights until the end of 2020, even if the UK were to leave without a deal.

Applying for residence after the 31st October in the event of a No Deal Brexit, would see any application (as a UK national) treated under the same process as that of a third-country national. Registration now is then the safest means by which to ensure that the residence and employment rights of British nationals is guaranteed, and for ensuring that social security rights and benefits, including pension, unemployment, sick benefits and health care, continue to operate under an extended application of EU co-ordination until the end of 2020.

For UK nationals with family members in Belgium, registration before the 31st October additionally ensures that any relatives’ applications will be treated under pre-Brexit rules right up to the end of the 31st December 2020.

Please note that the Law Society is aware of certain individual cases where the relevant commune has not provided UK nationals with the correct advice. You are therefore encouraged to register as soon as possible, in order to avoid any last minute confusion. The pace at which registration is processed will also differ depending on the commune.  

If you are a UK qualified solicitor, you need to register separately with a Belgian or Brussels Bar, to be able to continue to practice European law. The no deal legislation applies also to those who have established themselves in Belgium and you are allowed to continue as a registered European lawyer, under E list, until the end of 2020. You can also requalify as a Belgian lawyer after three years of practice, using the European rules, until the end of 2020. After that, however, the Belgian qualification is open only for those who have Belgian or EU nationality.

This is why the Law Society further recommends UK-qualified lawyers to consider registering with the Belgian Bars ahead of the 31st October: this could provide security beyond 2020.

If you have any questions, or would like further guidance on the registration process, please contact marcus.corry@lawsociety.org.uk