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Tuesday 12 January 2021

Brexit To Expats - You’ve Been Had

Nothing would really change if the UK left the EU. That was the message earnestly delivered by those seeking to have Britain removed from the EU because, well, it was all a game and they weren’t going to suffer, whatever happened. It was the message aimed particularly at those who had second homes in countries like France, Spain and Portugal, and who wintered where the weather was rather less cold.

The coastal town of Jávea

It was delivered to the target audience - older voters who liked spending those winter months abroad but didn’t fancy integrating or learning the language - via papers like the increasingly desperate and downmarket Telegraph. So it was that the Tel told readers in 2015 ofEmigration: Why British expats have nothing to fear from Brexit”.

Nothing to fear? Yes Sirree: “Despite warnings and fears, Britons living elsewhere in the EU would be largely unaffected if their home country left the union”. And who had brought forth this steaming pile of bullpucky? “Jon Moynihan, Andrew Allum, Matthew Elliott, Luke Johnson, Mark Littlewood, John Mills, Helena Morrissey And Viscount Ridley”.

Do go on: “the EU’s freedom of movement rights would be honoured for all those citizens who reside in other EEA nations prior to any Treaty changes … The UK’s large expatriate retiree community in Spain, France and Italy would also not have to worry. While the Centre for European Reform has claimed that, were Britain to leave, ‘Spain might demand that British retirees on the costas pay for their own healthcare or it may try to limit migrants’ access to healthcare…Their healthcare is costly to the Spanish treasury, which is struggling to balance its books’ this is inaccurate, as the NHS would be responsible for paying the cost of healthcare of pensioners abroad in any case”. Would it really now?

A ficus tree in Alicante

There is more. “In 2013-14, the UK paid £580m to other EEA countries for the treatment of British pensioners resident in the EEA, while it received just £12m from other EEA countries in the same year for the treatment of EEA pensioners in the UK”. Yes, Brexit boosters, but that was part of the UK being an EU member state. Which is isn’t now.

So let’s see what the reality looks like. This from the BBC: “To be able to live in Spain now, you will need to show proof that you're earning, either through having a contract with a Spanish company, or by proving that you have at least £2,000 (€2,223; $2,705) a month coming into your account. For a family, it will be much more. You will need to show that you have an extra £500 a month for each member of the family”.

Healthcare arrangements? The Government recommends registering as a resident and then registering for healthcare as a resident. As for spending the winter in those second homes, well. One retiree told the Beeb “We paid a mortgage for 20 years to have a holiday home and a retirement bolt-hole for the winter. We're limited to just 90 days now”. That’s why the Government recommends registering as a resident.

That same retiree concluded “I don't think anyone expected the rug to be pulled from under them so quickly”. He, and many others, were conned. The Brexit boosters didn’t tell them about the 90 day rule, changes in driving licence validity, or changes to healthcare access - which is an unknown longer term area, as the UK has not yet addressed it.

Remember the names on that Tel article well. They conned you, and they don’t care.

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Anonymous said...

Who didn't see that coming?

They foolishly believed the tory rags, voted for Brexit, and then got shafted!

No sympathy for them at all!

Anonymous said...

It's what some of them voted for.

So tough shit.

Wait until the other repercussions take effect. You ain't seen nothin' yet.

Dave said...

Why are people come to the UK classed as "immigrants", but those Brits who choose to live on the continent called "Expats"? Surely there are just immigrants?.

Anonymous said...

no they are not!

Arnold said...

Dave. It's an irregular noun. Foreigners are immigrants. Brits are expats. Legacy of the British Empire.

Lewis said...

I believe it's because they still hold British citizenship even though they live abroad much of the year/permanently. In any case they would only be immigrants to the host country such as Spain while when talking about them in British media, their source country, we could use the term emigrant but I wouldn't be surprised if Expat was the preferred term because it sounds so different from emigrant/immigrant that people won't make the connection.

Colin Davies said...

I'm new to your blog so don't really yet know where you're coming from. And I'm a tad confused by what you write,

Vis a vis Spain, there are 5 basic groups of Brits:
1. Tourists who come to Spain on holiday
2. Those that have property here and used to visit for less than 6 months
3. Those that have property here and used to visit for more than 6 month but - illegally - didn't register as residents
4. Those that have property here and used to visit for more than 6 months but did register as residents
5. Those that have property here and live here all the time and are officially resident here.

Not all of these can be considered expats/emigrants from the UK/immigrants into Spain. But those in group 5 certainly can be and I am one of those

Before the Brexit deal, there was considerable concern about what would change for us. Indeed there is/was a highly vocal group representing us, led by Sue Wilson. But I gauge that there's much less concern now and, to be honest, the only real change that I'm currently aware of for us in group 5 - and probably group 4 - is that we'll have to use the Non-EU line when arriving by air. I'm not aware there'll be different lines from the ferries, as there never have been,

So, as the gravamen of your post is that we real 'expats' were lied to, I'd be genuinely interested to know what other changes will affect me and other members of groups 4 and 5.

Of course, I have no doubt that things will have changed for those in groups 1, 2 and 3 - unless they've by now complied with the British embassy advice to obtain Spanish residency before 31.12.20, with all its tax implications. Perhaps it's fear of the latter which worried all the people reported to be leaving Spain, especially those who had been living below the line, not complying with the legal requirement to register with the padrón and to take out Spanish residency. Those who made the official number of Brits here c, 300,000 when the unofficial number is nearer one million. Quite a lot of them, then.

Stephen Butcher said...

Spot on!

Jonathan said...

They can't say they weren't warned that Brexit and the hard-line of the Tory Party to end FOM and leave just about every EU institution, has left many complaining bitterly...

Anonymous said...

@Colin. Unless Spain is massively different from the rest of the EU and has not implemented Schengen regulation then there is a requirement for EU citizens to register if they intend to stay for more than 3 months in any other EU country.