There’s only one month to go until the planned exit of Britain from the European Union, known as Brexit, but still there’s no clear idea of what exactly is going to happen.
Britain could leave without or without a deal on 29th March. Or perhaps the Brexit date will be extended by mutual agreement. Many of these (frankly, huge) issues won’t even be addressed by the British parliament until the middle of next month, leaving just two weeks at that point until the date Brexit is supposed to happen.
For British nationals living in Finland and Finns living in the UK, there’s a lot of uncertainty about what might or might not happen, although the government has produced a general guide with more information about Brexit, from a Finnish perspective.
So here’s a look at some of the main practical issues you can plan for, whether or not Brexit happens, and whether or not there’s a deal or no deal scenario. We’ve included plenty of links to more info as well – but this is not an exhaustive list so let us know if there’s another topic you’d like us to add.
Registering to stay in Finland
The most important thing to do is make sure you are registered with authorities in Finland before 29th March.
In practice virtually everyone from UK who has been here for any length of time is already registered and in the system – for example if you’ve got a Kela card, a social security number, or a driving license; if you have a job, pay tax, run a business or registered with the local Maisraatti office then you are almost certainly already in the system and shouldn’t have to do anything else.
If you’re unsure about your status, or just want to double check that you’re okay then give Migri a call on their helpline: 0295 419600 Monday to Friday 09:00 – 16:00.
If you need to register for the first time, then visit this Migri web page to start the process to register your right of residence as an EU national while you can. The government is pushing a special piece of legislation through parliament to guarantee that any British national who registers before 29th March will continue to enjoy all the same benefits and rights as they have now, at least until the end of 2020. Read more about what it means at our story here.
Migri has produced a really thorough guide about how to register for the first time, or how to get a certificate of permanent residence as an EU citizen if you’ve lived in Finland uninterrupted for five years or more.
If you already got one of these permanent residence certificates in the past, but you lost it, do not panic! Migri won’t ask you to produce one to prove you’re legal. It should be straight forward to get a new copy of it. If you got your permanent residence certificate after 1st January 2017 request a new one by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. If you got your permanent residence certificate before 1st January 2017 submit a certificate request to ask for a new one (there’s a fee for this).
If you have a UK driving license then you must swap it for a Finnish one so that you can continue to legally drive in Finland and the rest of the EU after Brexit. The process takes a bit of time and bureaucracy (like everything in Finland!) so start as soon as you can. In the first instance, get in touch with your nearest Ajovarma office or visit the website. Briefly: the process involves swapping your licence, you don’t have to take any theory or practical exams, but you will need a medical exam (including eyesight test) from specific private health centre, plus some photographs. Expect to pay €130 for the whole thing.
Traveling with pets
In the event of a no-deal Brexit, any ‘pet passports’ issued in the UK will not be valid for travel to other EU countries. So if you have a dog with a UK pet passport and you’re living in Finland, you won’t be able to take it for a trip to Estonia for example. The British government has issued some advice for pet owners, but the most simple solution is to get a Finnish equivalent pet passport – talk to your vet. Find out more at our story here.
Healthcare and Kela benefits
The right to access healthcare services in Finland is based on your legal residence here, not your nationality. So if you make sure to register with Migri before 29th March then your healthcare rights will continue exactly the same as they do now, deal or no deal on Brexit. You can continue to visit the public-funded local ‘tervysasema’, see a doctor, get a hospital appointment or pick up a prescription.
If you are a British national visiting Finland for only a short period of time, you can get a free European Health Insurance Card to access Finnish healthcare should you become sick or injured during your stay. Apply for this before your travel. However, it will not be valid after 29th March so you will need comprehensive travel insurance in future for your short journeys like business trips or holidays to Finland.
Social security works in a similar way to healthcare: the right to social security coverage is based on living or working in Finland and legal residence, not citizenship. So, again, if you are registered by 29th March things will continue as they do now, for the time being. It gets a little more complicated if you move back and forth between UK and Finland, depending on where you would normally access your benefits, and Kela is not quite sure what would happen at this point in the event of a no-deal Brexit. However they have some basic information here.
European Parliament elections
If you’re registered with your local Maisraatti in Finland, the Population Register Centre should have sent you by now a form to fill in if you want your name to be added to the electoral roll for May’s European Parliament elections. You need to fill in the form and send it back by 7th March to get on the list. But here’s where it gets tricky. If Brexit happens, deal or no deal, then British nationals will not be entitled to vote in those elections, even if you fill in the form on time. And if the Brexit date gets delayed then you might be eligible to vote, depending on how long the delay is. Find out more at our story here.
UK pensions payments
If you are a UK national, retired in Finland and receiving your UK state pension here then there’s good news and bad news. The UK government has committed to uprate pensions in all EU countries in 2019 and 2020. But after that nothing is certain, it depends on new deals being in place. Without a specific new deal on uprating being in place after 2020, the risk is that British pensioners in Finland (and other EU countries) could end up like Australia where pensions are not uprated, and someone who moved there 20 years ago has their pension frozen at that amount.
When it comes to private pensions there is better news. If you have a private pension with a UK company then a recent decision means that British pension firms can continue to operate across the EU even in the event of a no-deal Brexit, so you wouldn’t need to move your pension fund to a Finnish provider – although that is something you might want to consider, going forward.