Brexit deal: what does it mean for you?

Telegraph Reporters
House prices should benefit from the end of uncertainty

Britain is set to leave the EU on Jan 31 after The Queen granted royal assent to Boris Johnson's Brexit deal once it had cleared all stages in Parliament. 

On Friday, the European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen and European Council president Charles Michel signed the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement in Brussels. But what does it mean for you? Here, we try to answer the most pressing questions. 

Are my savings going to suffer?

The threat of a no-deal has reduced, giving savers certainty that between now and the end of the year, Brexit will not change their financial situation much.

This is because a transition period between January 31 and December 31 means any agreements between Britain and Europe will stay the same. How savers interact with European banks from December 31 onwards is not clear and will depend on the trade deals struck with the EU.

But between now and then, savers could benefit from interest rates rising. These have been falling as banks worry their own finances will be squeezed by coming economic troubles, such as a hard Brexit. With this all but averted, savings rates could increase. 

Savers should welcome the deal as it means business as usual for their money.  A Brexit deal also decreases the chance that expat savers will lose access to their accounts based in the UK. 

This was a risk in a no-deal scenario, because the FCA had offered European financial firms the ability to keep trading in the UK after a no-deal Brexit, but the same had not happened in reverse.

Current accounts will continue to work normally after a deal. 

It is less certain what the Brexit deal will mean for the Bank of England's (BoE) bank rate, which is factored into the cost of many financial deals.  

What about my pension? 

Pensioners living in the EU should continue to receive their payments seamlessly now that a deal has been agreed.  Whether those in receipt of state pensions living in EU countries continue to benefit from the “triple lock”, will depend on the exact terms of the withdrawal agreement. 

The triple lock ensures payments increase each year in line with the highest of price inflation, average wage growth or 2.5pc. However, this protection does not extend to retirees living overseas. In the EU, the Government uplifts payouts, essentially replicating the triple lock, but this does not extend further afield. This leads to those living in affected countries being branded “frozen pensioners” – because their payments are frozen.

This currently applies only to recipients living in Britain or countries where a reciprocal arrangement exists. Those living in Australia, South Africa or Canada, for example, currently see their payments frozen.

While EU uplifting has been guaranteed for three years, there is no certainty over whether this will continue past that point. In practice, however, experts believe the UK would almost likely come to a reciprocal agreement with the EU, where the government guarantees to increase payouts to British pensioners living overseas if EU countries agree to do the same for their retirees living in Britain.  

Find out more about how Brexit will affect your pension.

Are my investments protected? 

The British market reacted positively to the Conservative election victory in December.  Rises in sterling brought down the cost of buying goods from overseas and increased spending power, meaning that stocks whose performance is heavily linked to the British economy are likely to perform well.

Medium-sized and small firms based in Britain – often part of the FTSE 250 index – typically make most of their earnings domestically, which means they should see the biggest jump in share price. 

However – the largest London-listed companies will suffer from a stronger currency because they derive most of their profits from overseas operations. Yet overseas investors, who have abandoned the British market, could come flooding back, giving these firms a boost.

Key to what stocks will do well following Brexit will be how well the domestic economy grows and how the pound performs against the dollar.

With political certainty due to the Conservatives' huge majority, businesses are more likely to ramp up investment plans boosting economic activity. Political stability has fed through to the currency and the Government is to push on with its spending plans.

Investors could therefore consider stocks that will benefit from a more resilient economy and from an increase in spending on infrastructure and housing.

Telegraph Money has looked at which four stocks could soar after Brexit, and why you should buy them now. 

Should I book a holiday? 

The UK will enter a transition period, meaning travel and all related arrangements will continue as currently until at least the end of December 2020.

Britons will not need a visa to travel to Europe this year. However, the European Commission has said that a fee of €7 (almost £6) may be payable for visa-exempt travel from 2021. 

While travel will be possible, the European Tourism Association estimated that additional border checks could add an extra 90 seconds for each UK passport holder, meaning it would take a single passport lane in an EU airport nearly five additional hours to process 189 passengers on a typical Ryanair flight.

Will I need a new passport? 

British passports will remain valid but it means holders are no longer EU citizens. During the transition period, Britons can travel in and out of Europe visa-free and without extra travel documents. 

Last year, people visiting the EU were advised to have a passport with at least six months of validity left after the document ceases to permit unrestricted travel across the EU.

How would travel to Europe change after the new Brexit deal? Read more here 

Will I have health cover? 

The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) gives us free or reduced-cost treatment in other EU countries. The Government has signalled an intention to keep the scheme – or a similar one – going.

Trade body ABTA, formerly known as the Association of British Travel Agents, has advised holidaymakers to make sure they have appropriate travel insurance “whether they have an EHIC card or not, as there are limitations to EHIC”.

Will my driving licence be valid abroad? 

ABTA says as long as you have a full UK driving licence, you do not currently need an additional licence to drive in the EU. However, the Government says Britons will need an international driving permit (IDP) to drive in some countries. It also says motorists taking their own vehicle should acquire a "green card" from their insurer (allow one month) and a GB sticker. 

Can I still take my pet on holiday? 

The current pet travel requirements will remain the same for now, confirms Telegraph vet Dr Pete Wedderburn, a member of the British Veterinary Association. Your pet may travel if it is microchipped, vaccinated against rabies (you can travel with your pet 30 days after vaccination) and if a pet passport has been issued by your vet. If you already have an EU pet passport it will remain valid until the end of the transition period. 

“During the transition period, the UK will still be a de facto member of the EU as far as pets are concerned,” says Wedderburn. “That’s why the deal is so important; it’s orderly. It means business as usual until the alternative has been fully thrashed out.” 

Before the end of the transition period, the UK will need to apply to the European Commission for listed status under the EU Pet Travel Scheme in order to avoid being treated as an “unlisted” (ie high rabies risk) country. The extended time frame will give the UK wiggle room to apply to be listed without inconveniencing pet owners. 

If, however, Britain departed the EU without a deal, the latest government advice suggests that a current EU pet passport issued in the UK would not be valid for travel to the EU - with immediate effect. 

In those circumstances, as well as vaccinating their pet against rabies, owners would be required to provide a blood sample to confirm that the vaccination has been effective. It can be a lengthy process, involving sending your pet’s blood sample to an EU-approved laboratory, followed by a three-month wait. This would mean having to see the vet four months in advance of travelling in the EU.

Will house prices rise or fall? 

Confidence is crucial when it comes to property deals, and the recent loss of faith in the market has been attributed to Brexit-related uncertainty.

However, prices have bounced back at the start of the year  and increased at their fastest pace in two years.

In the three and a half years since the referendum, there has been a reduction in the number of homes being put up for sale and a decline in house price growth as negotiations have dragged on.

House prices should benefit from the end of uncertainty

The average amount of time it takes to sell a property has risen by almost a fortnight compared with a year ago, according to the Post Office.

However, with the relative certainty presented by a deal, analysts believe that buyers and sellers will soon return to the market. Patrick Alvarado, of London estate agency Nicolas Van Patrick, said: “With a deal, those holding off putting their properties up for sale to avoid low offers will come to market.”

What will happen to house prices after Brexit and where will be the best places to buy?

Can I work abroad, or can foreign workers still come here?  

The transition requires that the United Kingdom follows the same rules as an EU member state, so freedom of movement will be part of this. During that period, British citizens will be free to live and work in the EU, and vice versa. 

There are fears in some parts of the business community that Britain could face a skills shortage if immigration policy tightens after Brexit.

What happens to our agriculture and fishing industries?

Farmers fear many of the changes in this deal. Previous pledges for close regulatory alignment have been watered down. Changing standards could mean reduced access to EU markets and more competition from cheaper, or lower quality, imports.

By contrast the fishing industry worries too little will change. The deal means nothing changes for now. The industry hopes to be able to negotiate the EU’s access rights annually from the end of 2020, as Norway and Iceland do.

The risk is free-trade talks could throw that plan off track as the EU wants to keep its hefty slice of fishing quotas.

Will I miss Brexit?

There's the issue of 'Strexit' – the low level hum of anxiety that's nagged at anyone who follows the news for almost four years now. What will happen? How will it affect us? Will the 10 o'clock news ever not feature the word Brexit? 

It's not just negotiators in Brussels who have been left pasty faced and exhausted by the infernal process: Brexit has put us all through the wringer. Since the referendum in 2016 there has been a 13.7pc increase in prescriptions for antidepressants; anecdotally, you don't have to search far to find stories of families bickering over Brexit at the dinner table.

"My own view is that Brexit stress is causing people to get ill," Sir Cary Cooper, a professor of organisational psychology and health at the University of Manchester, told The Telegraph. "Over time, prolonged political chaos and drip fed uncertainty triggers the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline to be released, which reduces immunity.”