The latest news on Brexit changes almost daily and it can sometimes seem like despite the huge wealth of information, the negotiations are going nowhere fast. However, those UK citizens who live and own properties in EU countries, or are planning to do so, are constantly on the lookout for anything that might clarify their position post-Brexit.
Initially, experts and commentators had predicted doom and gloom for British ex-pats’ prospects in Europe after Brexit came into effect, but the most recent developments could give reason to be quietly confident.
Background to Brexit
British citizens voted in a referendum on 23rd June 2016 to leave the European Union. Negotiations about how to go about this unprecedented procedure started about a year later, and a final date for Britain’s exit has been set for 29th March 2019, at exactly 11pm GMT, which is midnight of 30th March in most parts of Europe.
After this, there will be a transition time, what the government prefers to call an ‘implementation period’, lasting until 31st December 2020. During this time, the previous laws and agreements will continue to be in effect while all the organisations and institutions work out how they are going to realise the changes agreed during the negotiation stage.
How does this affect ex-pats living in Spain?
The latest deal to be struck during the Brexit negotiations in Brussels has confirmed that UK citizens will have their rights to work, live, study and retire in the EU protected. People currently living in Spain and those who move there before 29th March 2019 will not experience any change in their status. Students will retain the right to study in Spanish universities, paying the same fees that Spanish people do, and retirees will see their pensions continue to rise at the same rate as before, in accordance with inflation or by 2.5% per annum.
However, freedom of movement will be severely restricted, and while UK citizens who are resident in Spain may stay on just as before and retain the same rights, they cannot move to another EU member state at the drop of a hat. The rules for going on holiday to another European country are not expected to change much, but moving from Spain to live in Italy, for instance, will present serious barriers after Brexit. The same goes for those who move to Spain from Britain after Brexit is officially put into practice, so if you were thinking of moving out to Spain, you’d be well-advised to do it now rather than later.
There has been much talk recently of changing citizenship or getting dual citizenship as a counter-measure to these Brexit restrictions. In the first six months after Brexit alone, it is estimated that there was a 165% jump in the number of Britons seeking to become citizens of another European country.
There are over 300,000 Brits living in Spain and an estimated 17 million of us visit the country every year, and the numbers of Spaniards going to Britain are also considerable, with both countries having deals and agreements between them going back a long way.
One such deal states that while Spanish people are allowed to apply for dual citizenship in the UK, British people in Spain are not. Becoming a Spanish citizen in order to remain an EU citizen and retain all current rights associated with it would mean renouncing your British citizenship.
Any such decision should not be taken lightly, of course, and may not even be necessary depending on each person’s circumstances and what final deals are struck in the end. The Brexit negotiations are still continuing and nobody really knows where they will end up, with the government even preparing itself for a ‘no-deal’ Brexit. The truth is that this is a work in progress, and while certain preliminary conditions have been outlined for the state of British ex-pats living and owning property abroad, nothing is set in stone just yet. While the majority of people can expect to have their rights protected and not be too affected by it, all Brits based in Europe are advised to keep themselves informed about the specific developments and consider their ensuing actions carefully.