Spain pledges rights preservation for UK expats but no details given

Published:  16 Jan at 6 PM
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Following on from a previous announcement, the Spanish government has now promised UK expats’ rights will be protected following a no-deal Brexit, but has given few details.

The rights guarantee is conditional on the same deal for Spanish expats in the UK, but details of the proposed bilateral agreement with the UK haven’t yet been made clear. The total number of British expats living, working or retiring in Spain is estimated to total some 750,000, but could be far more as it’s believed a high number haven’t registered to date. For Spain, the British connection is huge, especially in the most popular retirement regions along its Mediterranean coastline, and Brits are the heaviest users by far of the country’s state-funded healthcare system.

On the other side of the expat coin, the UK is the most important destination for Spanish overseas investment. Major Spanish-owned world banks such as Santander play a significant role in the British financial sector, construction companies have significant UK holdings and other service providers such as Telefonica also hold massive investments. Spain’s fresh produce stocks UK supermarkets, with supplies and profitability is expected to be severely affected by extra customs controls at the border. In addition to reassuring UK expatriates they won’t be illegal immigrants should the final outcome be a no-deal Brexit, another bilateral agreement is being worked on in order to safeguard commercial trade relations.

Unfortunately, a lack of clarification on all the above and other crucial issues is causing consternation in both the UK expat community and Spain’s business community. EuroCitizens representative Michael Harris told reporters the proposed legislation is likely to be too late, adding Spain has not yet instructed expat residents on how to ensure they’re residing legally in the country. Many long-stay expats are eager to become Spanish citizens in order to secure their futures, but Spain disallows dual citizenship, giving hard choices for older Brits.

EuroCitizens has suggested the government should pass a new law allowing expat dual citizenship for those who can prove long-term residency, but nothing’s been decided yet. Another crucial issue is those expatriates who’re economically inactive and who may not be able to satisfy Spain’s requirements as regards finance. Once the UK leaves the EU, sustainable income of 26,500 euros a year per immigrant will need to be proved, with expatriate UK state pensioners unable to comply unless they have considerable returns from investments. Some 50 per cent of Spain’s UK expat community are in retirement, with most living near or in southern coastal communities. Should a high number be forced to return to the UK, local Spanish businesses are sure to suffer.

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