Despite the fact that many people claimed that nothing would materially change for South Africans with British passports if the United Kingdom chose to leave the European Union on 23rd June, there now exists the possibility that South Africans with a British passport could actually miss out on the privileges that a European Union Member State enjoys if they fail to apply for visas or permits.

Given the fact that being a member of the European Union offers so many living and working opportunities, it is little wonder that Andrew Taylor, head of Henley & Partners South Africa, has said that the value of the British passport will be greatly reduced thanks to the outcome of the referendum.

That said, he does maintain that those who are after a short-term visit to the EU will not suffer similar consequences: “Brexit will of course not impair visa-free travel between the UK and the EU countries, and also have no impact on the visa policy of either the UK or the EU as this has always remained separate with the UK setting its own short-term visa policy,” he stated.

According to Mr Taylor, the value of the British passport has not escaped from this debacle unscathed: “I wouldn’t say it’s worthless, but the quality (of the UK passport) would decrease, it all depends if they terminate the right to free movement. These agreements will probably be cancelled if (Conservative MP Boris Johnson) wants to control his borders,” he said.

Indeed, given that one of the main reasons cited by people voting to leave the European Union was in order to be able to regain border control thanks to the influx of immigrants in recent years, it is obvious that free movement is going to be something of an issue when the British manage to completely extricate themselves from the EU, however, Mr Taylor said that the expectation is that the UK will end up under an European Economic Area (EEA) Agreement or maybe acquire a similar status to Switzerland.

Of course, since this is an unprecedented move, it is still in the realm of possibility that the British will remove the right to free movement, however, Mr Taylor does feel this to be unlikely: “But, in the unlikely event that free right of movement was to be terminated, then Brexit will damage the value of British nationality far more than that of European nationality. The EU will lose one country whereas the UK will potentially lose free access to 27 countries. European nationals will still have the right to live, work, and study in any of these 27 countries, plus the EEA and Switzerland.” If this were to happen, the United Kingdom would fall 19 places down the Quality of Nationality Index and end up in 30th place.

As grim as this forecast may appear, Mr Taylor does not think that this will happen and is sure that: “…the UK will find some form of association with the EU which will, at least for financially independent citizens, continue to provide access to settle in the UK.” In addition to this, Mr Taylor also lists various forms of relationships that the United Kingdom will feasibly be able to enter into: “For instance, Liechtenstein, Norway and Iceland are not members of the EU, yet they are party to the EEA Agreement, and therefore the free right of settlement as well as many other rights still extend to these countries. Switzerland is part of the European Free Trade Agreement, but not a member of the EEA. It has opted for bilateral agreements with the EU which give its citizens the same rights of settlement throughout the EU.”

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