Brexit means Brexit said Theresa May. The Brexit Bill has passed through the Houses of Parliament and Article 50 is expected to be invoked imminently.
As a British resident in Spain of more than 26 years, I ask, will anything change for us expats living in Spain?
Many British residents in Spain are worried about the effects of Brexit – of course they are. Many Brits looking to move to Spain are waiting to see what will happen – of course they are! However many Brits who have decided to buy a property in Spain, or move to Spain are still following through with their plans, regardless of Brexit.
What is the best thing to do if you are considering a move to Spain?
Well, my parents moved us to Spain in 1981. The UK had joined the EEC in 1973 and Spain & Portugal joined five years after we had been living in Spain in 1986. What was the difference between 1981 and 1986 when Spain were not members of the EEC but Britain was? The only difference then was that every six months we had to renew our residency by leaving the country and having our passport stamped. This involved a pleasant day trip to Portugal and a boat ride across the Guadiana river. We returned to Spain with a Portuguese passport stamp and applied for a new six month residency. Also as foreigners under the age of 65 living and working in Spain we had to have private medical insurance. Other than that, life in Spain continued and we were warmly welcomed by the Spanish.
It is understandable that Brits living in Spain are worried about the effects of Brexit. Top of the agenda is healthcare provision so that someone over the age of 65 can receive free medical care in their local Spanish hospital. Also will a visa be required for us Brits to live or work in Spain? The UK would sign a deal today guaranteeing the rights of EU citizens in the UK in exchange for reciprocal rights for Brits living in Europe. However until article 50 is invoked and negotiations are under way, nothing can be negotiated and nothing will in fact change until the UK does actually leave the EU which is expected in March 2019. Having said that, with 3 million EU citizens in the UK and 1.2 million Brits living across Europe, it is highly likely that an agreement will be put in place quickly. Even if it is not and the UK crashes out of the EU without an agreement, it would be in Spain’s and the UK’s interests to put in place an agreement guaranteeing reciprocal rights for their citizens! After all, last year more than 16.9 million Brits visited Spain, a number that is only likely to increase, and the Brits living in Spain bring welcome tax revenues for the Spanish coffers!
A further concern for British pensioners is will their pension continue to be updated in line with inflation?
This is a UK issue rather than an EU issue and one that all British pensioners across Europe should monitor with interest and write to their local MP’s about!
In the next couple of years and during the negotiations we are going to see a lot of headlines that could cause us concern. However until either a deal is reached or the UK leaves the EU, nothing will change. In the meantime the team at My Lawyer in Spain will be monitoring the following items of particular interest for our clients:
- Will the rates of annual taxation for British owners of Spanish property increase?
- Will the rates of inheritance tax for British heirs of Spanish assets increase?
- Will the rates of capital gains tax for British sellers of Spanish property increase?
- Will a visa be required to live or work in Spain?
- Will healthcare be provided to British pensioners?
- Will British companies be treated differently in Spain?
This British life in Spain has a long and special history and has withstood greater challenges than Brexit. Yes after Brexit life in Spain may be slightly different! But the changes will not affect the amount of days of sunshine Spain enjoys, the easy access from all UK airports to Spain, the fabulous Spanish countryside, beaches, culture and gastronomy as well as the warm welcome we receive.
Regardless of Brexit, Brits will continue to come to Spain!
Alex Radford is a qualified English Solicitor & Spanish Abogado and a Founding Partner of My Lawyer in Spain. Alex lives in Torrox Costa with his wife and twin daughters!