PUBLISHED ON 30/11/2023

On 29 November, 2023, a packed room of UK citizens and friends gathered at the offices to learn about the situation of the British community in Brussels after Brexit. The event marked the launch of the new report This is still your home. Brexit Impact Scan for UK citizens in Brussels. This document combines population data, survey reponses and observations from our two-year project to offer an assessment of the consequences of Brexit for UK citizens in Brussels.

The evening began with a warm welcome from Alain Hutchinson, Brussels Commissioner for Europe and International Organisations, who reflected on his British father's own life in Belgium and underlined that Brussels remains a welcoming place for UK citizens to work and live. We then heard from His Excellency Martin Shearman, the UK Ambassador to Belgium, who acknowledged that the period after the Brexit referendum had been difficult for many UK citizens living in Belgium, but also praised the positive practicality of local authorities who did their best to support these residents and implement the agreements protecting their rights.

We then moved onto a panel discussion digging into the report and everything we have learnt during the project. Amélie Bovy, Senior Legal Adviser for the Expat Welcome Desk of, presented the many outputs of the project. Of course these include the UK Citizens and Brexit Helpdesk, as well as the accompanying newsletters and webinars, but the Expat Welcome Desk has also dealt with over 200 individual queries from UK citizens since January 2022. The expertise and observations these interactions offer is a major source of content for the report. Amélie's colleague Bryn Watkins then presented some of the data in the report, which includes population statistics from the Brussels regional statistics agency IBSA and responses to a 2022 survey of UK citizens. Jo Antoons from the law firm Fragomen, primary partners in the project, offered an assessment of the key issues UK citizens in Brussels need to be aware of: whether they aquire Belgian nationality, hold an M-Card, or live here as a third-country national. Finally, Glenn Vaughn, chair of the Brussels British Community Association, shared a perspective from UK citizens themselves. We then enjoyed a lively discussion with the audience and a small reception to celebrate the success of the project.

So, what has happened to the British community of Brussels after Brexit? The report does not claim to be a rigorous scientific study, but it does offer a snapshot of a community in flux and the administrative challenges they face. Some key conclusions include:

  • There was no “Brexodus” from Brussels after Brexit, but over 2500 UK citizens in Brussels have become Belgian since the referendum.
  • The UK citizen population in Brussels remained steady during the negotiations and transition period, but is now falling as annual immigration drops by 70%.
  • In the survey, most UK citizens who have already been here a few years say that they will not be leaving any time soon. Almost half say that Brexit made it more likely they will stay in Belgium and 39% say Brexit made them less likely to return to the UK.
  • Belgium issues the M-Card to guarantee the rights of UK citizens who were here before the end of the Brexit transition. But this is not the same as EU citizenship. It leaves individuals tied to Belgium, and it can lapse if you leave the country for too long. Worryingly, not all UK citizens seem to be aware of these limitations.
  • Most UK citizens who have been here for some time are finding their way in the new administrative landscape, but they sometimes complain of incoherent information, bad treatment from public officials and discrimination on the labour market.
  • UK citizens arriving since the end of the transition period are treated like all “third-country nationals”, and they are worried about paperwork.
  • Nevertheless, Brussels remains an open and welcoming place for UK citizens to build careers, homes and families, with a UK citizen population in the thousands - be they dual nationals, M-Card holders, third country nationals or visitors.

Although this event marks the formal end of our two-year project, funded by the EU's Brexit Adjustment Reserve, there are still two editions of the Brexit Brief to come. The Helpdesk and all other materials produced will of course stay online for the foreseeable future, adn the Expat Welcome Desk will remain a free and accessible service for any International Brusselers in need of information and advice on administrative matters.

recent articles