It’s official. The UK has now left the European Union. Effective 31 January 2020, the transition period catered for by the United Kingdom Withdrawal Agreement from the European Union has kicked in – it will expire on 31st December 2020, unless a decision to extend this transition period is taken by mutual EU-UK agreement.

During this transition period little will change in practice, including with respect to the 4 freedoms of movement of goods, services, capital and workers. Negotiations between the UK and the EU have kicked off but there is no indication currently as to what the future arrangement between these two parties will be.

Impact on businesses trading with the UK

Aiming to prepare businesses, the European Commission has made available a Checklist for preparing for Brexit for companies operating in the EU.  The Maltese Government has also taken steps to support businesses trading with the UK – this includes the Brexit Support Scheme which measure is available to duly registered SMEs operating in Malta and engaging in significant import and/or export activities involving the UK, in the form of a cash grant.

Impact on UK nationals residing in Malta

During the transition period, UK nationals will continue to enjoy the rights associated with free movement in the EU (including, therefore, Malta) until the end of said period, unless this is extended by mutual EU-UK agreement.

New regulations have meanwhile been published introducing rules applicable to UK nationals and their family members who are either currently residing in Malta or plan to take up residence in Malta in the near future.  These regulations came into force on 1 February 2020.  Meanwhile, with reference to certain key areas which would immediately have an impact on UK nationals currently residing in Malta, the position which Malta has taken is as follows:

Residence Status

UK nationals residing in Malta on the basis of their Treaty rights as EU nationals prior to or on the last day of the transition period will be entitled to continue to reside in Malta and move freely in and out of the country. This will also apply to family members whose relationship with said EU national shall have commenced before the end of the transition period (this time limitation for the commencement of the relationship will not apply to children).

Other benefits are also to remain in place during the transition period e.g. the exemption from the labour market test when it comes to the taking up of employment or self-employment in Malta, the right to set up a company and to employ oneself with same without meeting any specific capital and other requirements.

UK nationals already resident in Malta and in possession of a valid residence document are to apply for a new residence document before 30 June 2021. Identity Malta Agency will be reaching out to all who have a valid residence document. Residence documents valid for a period of 10 years will be issued and will be automatically renewed on expiration, provided that the relative conditions remain satisfied.

UK nationals moving Malta during the transition period may apply for a residence document after a period of three months from the date of their arrival in Malta and before 30th June 2021 (unless the transition period is extended) and again benefit from the aforementioned rights.

Tax Programmes

UK nationals who are beneficiaries in terms of the Residence Programme Rules shall be required take certain steps to become beneficiaries under the Global Residence Programme Rules. Beneficiaries under the High Net Worth Individuals Rules or the Malta Residence Programme, among others, may also be required to switch to another Programme in due course.

Social Security

UK nationals shall be treated as EU nationals for the purposes of the EU Social Security Coordination Regulations (EC) Nos. 883/2004 and 987/2009 till the end of the transition period, further to which the general principle that one is to be subject to only one country’s social security laws at a time shall continue to apply.

Driving Licences

During the transition period, holders of valid driving licences issued by the UK can drive in Malta without the need to obtain any additional permits. They may also exchange their driving licence for a Maltese driving licence if resident in Malta.

How can we help?

Our team of professionals within our Tax & Immigration Law Department may help you and your family better understand the implications of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU and to take the necessary steps to help you make this transition and comply with the law, including:

  • Legal advice and assistance with all practical aspects of relocation to Malta, including liaising with the relevant authorities on your behalf;
  • Assistance with residence permit applications;
  • Assistance with driver’s licence exchanges;
  • Assistance with change in applicable tax programmes.

Contact: Dr. Rosanne Bonnici, Partner, Head of the Tax & Immigration Law team on rosanne.bonnici@fenlex.com

This note is not intended to constitute legal advice but merely to provide general guidance as to the subject matter of same.