Brexit: Britons in Portugal - will UK banking changes impact you?

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Brexit: how UK banks withdrawing services to account holders can impact you. Protect your financial postion in event of a no-deal Brexit by getting expert local advice on financial and tax planning from Blevins Franks.

2020 has been a year of challenges and a no-deal Brexit will bring some more, among them the implications of the possible withdrawing of services by UK banks to account holders living in the EU. Dan Henderson of Blevins Franks takes a look at the situation.

Blevins Franks provides expert advice and consultation to UK expats living in Portugal and Europe, covering financial health, wealth management, estate planning and international tax issues.

Brexit: As banks start withdrawing services for expatriates, what next?
By Dan Henderson, Partner, Blevins Franks
This article was orignally published by Blevins Franks

Since the Brexit referendum, the focus for many British expatriates living in the EU has been the larger issues like residence, healthcare and pensions rights.  But as we approach the end of the transition period, other practical challenges are coming to light.
The big issue to hit the news recently is whether UK banks can continue to provide services to EU residents after Brexit.  It has been widely reported that high street banks are writing to clients in some EU countries to advise that their accounts will be closed by the end of the year.
Financial institutions need to be authorised and regulated to provide services to clients in their country of residence.  So far this has been relatively easy since, as part of the EU, UK regulated banks and financial advisory companies can ‘passport’ their services into the bloc.    
The UK will lose these passporting rights from 1 January 2021, unless an agreement is reached to allow the current pan-EU rules to continue.  So far it does not look encouraging.  If the UK and EU fail to agree a deal, UK banks will need to apply for a banking licence in each country where they have clients.  This would be very expensive and time consuming and, considering their overseas client base is relatively small, many (perhaps all) will opt not to.
The British banking industry body, UK Finance, told the Times newspaper that each bank is deciding whether to apply for the appropriate regulation to operate UK bank accounts or close accounts instead.  A spokesman explained that “the impact on each customer will vary depending on the operating model of their bank or provider, the product or service being provided, and the legal and regulatory framework in the country in which they are resident”.
So currently much remains uncertain, particularly as we do not yet know if the UK and EU will reach an agreement or not, and some institutions may take steps to be able to provide services to EU clients while others will not.  You need to speak to your bank to establish what their plans are.
Other financial services
It is not only banks which are affected, other regulated financial advice and services too.  So if you continue to use a UK-based financial adviser, you need to ask them if and how they can continue to support you after Brexit if the UK and EU do not reach agreement on cross-border financial services.
Likewise, if you have UK investments, will you be able to retain them, and will there be restrictions?  For example, you may be able to keep a UK policy and withdraw money but prevented from adding or moving funds and applying for new services.
And find out if you can continue to have a ‘long-distance relationship’ with your adviser in the UK, or will you have to fly to Britain to receive advice and sign paperwork there?
The benefits of local advice
While this may be unwelcome news, and you may have a good relationship with your UK-based adviser, this could be the perfect opportunity to review your investments and financial planning and consider whether an adviser based here in Portugal would actually be much more beneficial for you.
Advisers living in Portugal have first-hand experience of the complexities of the local tax and succession regime. They keep up to date on the frequent legislative changes and can react fast where necessary.  They can advise on the compliant tax and estate planning opportunities available within the local regime – the way you hold assets can make a considerable difference to how much tax you pay and how easily they can be passed to heirs.
You also need to ensure your investment portfolio is suitable for your current, personal situation. Is it designed to meet your objectives and risk profile today? Does it have enough global diversification?  Are you holding some assets in Euros to avoid exchange rate risk?
With very limited time left before the end of the Brexit transition period, now is the time to talk to an experienced, locally based adviser to secure financial peace of mind for 2021 and beyond.
All advice received from any Blevins Franks firm is personalised and provided in writing. This article should not be construed as providing any personalised taxation and/or investment advice. All information is based on Blevins Franks’ understanding of legislation and taxation practice, in the UK and overseas at the time of writing; this may change in the future.
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