The bright side of Brexit: The ‘good news’ for Brits in Spain

Britain has voted to leave the European Union, and many if not most British expats in Spain are deeply concerned. But there are a few silver linings... perhaps.

The bright side of Brexit: The 'good news' for Brits in Spain
Could Brexit be a reason to celebrate in Spain? Photo: AFP

Readers fed up with all the negativity have asked us to try and put some positive spin on the result of the Brexit referendum and the economic fall out, which began even before the results came in.

It has not been easy, but we've had a go at looking on the bright side of Brexit for Brits in Spain.

Cheaper visits back home

With the value of the pound falling surely and swiftly since Friday morning – on Tuesday it was worth around €1.20 – life in Spain for those Britons who rely on income from back home will be more expensive. But on the flip side, it will certainly make trips home to see the family in Britain a little cheaper. Especially if you earn a wage in euros but spend in pounds.

Christmas shopping at Harrods never looked so good. 

With the current exchange rate you can buy more pounds for your euro. Photo: AFP

We've been here before

The fall in the pound is indeed worrying and Brits have told The Local they have already seen the value of their pensions cut. But the one thing to remember is that we've been here before. 

“Back in 2008 we saw almost parity between the euro and the pound so at the moment it’s not too disastrous,” Victoria Lewis, a financial advisor, told The Local.

 “Most people are not panicking yet,” she said. 

 Cate Carnduff from Herman de Graaf estate agents added: “The pound is always going up and down and around. We nearly had parity a few years ago and we didn't go out of business.”

Get rich selling your house

But as well as those who pile through the arrival gates each year, there are hundreds if not thousands who return to Britain.

 For people who already own property in Spain, now might just be the time to put it on the market, sell up and head home. Thanks to the exchange rate you're going to be able to get more for your money back home. And it might even get better if you wait a little bit.

“Given the thrashing of the exchange rates it is a good time to sell your house and buy sterling,” said Maura Hillen, a town councillor in Albox representing expats.

Photo: AFP

And it's not all bad news for buyers

While it may become a good market for leavers (those heading out of Spain, not those who voted Out) the reality is that it's still not too bad for buyers either. While estate agents are clearly concerned, they say there are still many great deals out there for those looking to sell up in the UK and buy a house in Spain.

 “The Brits buy in Spain for the wonderful climate and bohemian lifestyle. That hasn’t changed and houses in Spain will always have a pull for the British purchaser,” a spokesman for property website Kyero told The Local. 

“There was a very healthy market for Spanish property before Spain joined the Eurozone and there'll still be a thriving market once Britain leaves. Property prices in Spain remain relatively low, and this is still an excellent time to make a shrewd investment in the Spanish property market.”

Nothing will happen for a while, if ever?

One thing that is certain is that nothing will happen for a while. And some, in fact many are suggesting that it will become so complicated for the UK to leave the EU that it might never happen. 

In the meantime Simon Manley, British Ambassador in Madrid sent a message of calm to expats in Spain.

“The truth is that, right now, nothing has changed. You can still live here, work here, just as you did before.”



Europe might actually become stronger

Of course, no one knows what will happen with the EU now that the UK has voted to leave. But its leaders, at least those from France, Germany and Italy, are promising “a new impulse” to the EU now that the “enfant terrible” has it made it clear it wants a divorce.

It may be that the British public's rejection of the EU, may force Europe to carry out the many necessary reforms to prevent other countries from following suit. And without Britain blocking the path, it may actually be possible to bring Europe closer together politically, which is what many economists believe is necessary.

In short, Brexit could give the EU an almighty kick up the backside and force it to take steps to make its economy stronger and to make the voters feel less disconnected from the decision makers.

It's a great time to become Spanish

Let’s face it, Spaniards know how to enjoy life. Not only do they have an amazing climate and great food but they also enjoy the longest life expectancy in the world (after the Japanese).

For those who've always dreamed of being one of them, this might be your chance.

READ MORE: Worried about Brexit? Here's how to become Spanish

 What better excuse could there be to apply for Spanish citizenship – if you qualify that is, than the potential troubles ahead now that the UK has voted Leave?

Wedding bells for Spanish-British couples?

Again this all depends on what happens over the next two years but the Brexit could mean a surge in marriages between Spanish and British couples, the easiest way for a Brit to gain Spanish citizenship.

Some of you have already told us about proposals prompted by Brexit. And as the uncertainty lingers we expect to hear more.

Those interested can follow The Local’s handy guide to getting married in Spain.

Fewer Brits on the Costas?

With the falling pound we might well see less Brits choosing to head to Spain for their holidays and hope instead to save some money on a ‘staycation’. That might mean less of a pile up on those popular resorts and less bad behaviour from untrained youths in hotspots like San Antonio and Magaluf. 

And if Brexit really does mean an end to free health care in Spain, it could send pensioners hurrying home. Just imagine Benidorm without the mobility scooters?

Photo: AFP

Better relations with American expats

There's nothing like commiserating about the trials and tribulations of bureaucracy to bring people together. If Brexit happens, Brits would probably have to face the prospect of all kinds of administrative headaches and red tape that Americans have already been dealing with forever, so they're sure to make some Yankee friends who will certainly be empathetic about their plight, and will no doubt have some useful advice.

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Brits in Europe won right to vote for life in UK but questions remain

After years of campaigns and promises British citizens living abroad finally won the lifelong right to vote in UK general elections in April 2022. But campaigners say more needs to be done to allow all those Britons abroad to be able cast their votes easily.

Brits in Europe won right to vote for life in UK but questions remain

What’s in the law?

The Elections Act 2022 introduced several changes to the current legislation on electoral participation. Among these, it removed the rule by which British citizens lose their voting rights in the UK if they have lived abroad for more than 15 years

The new rules also abolished the requirement to have been previously registered in the UK electoral roll to become an overseas voter. In addition, the registration in the electoral roll will now last up to three years instead of only one year.

It is estimated that these changes could increase the number of overseas voter registrations by some 3 million. But the way new measures will be applied in practice is still to be defined.

READ ALSO: ‘Mixed feelings’ – British citizens in Europe finally get right to vote for life

Defining the practicalities

Under the new law, Britons living abroad will have to register to vote in the last place they were registered in the UK. This means that people who have never lived in the UK will be ineligible to vote, regardless of how long they have been overseas, while those who left when they were children will be able to use a parent or guardian’s address.

But given that the UK does not require residents to register with local councils, how to prove previous UK residence? “Typical documents accepted as a proof of residence are Council tax or utilities bills, but not everyone will have them or will have kept them in an international move,” says Fiona Godfrey, co-founder of the British in Europe coalition.

Ballot papers are pictured in stacks in a count centre as part of the 2019 UK general election. (Photo by ANDY BUCHANAN / AFP)

Other questions concern how people will effectively cast their ballot. UK citizens overseas will be able to vote by post or by proxy or in person at their polling station if they are in the UK at the time of the election. However, few people are likely to travel to the UK for an election and in the past there have problems and delays with postal voting.

The Electoral Commission has recommended that overseas electors appoint a proxy to vote on their behalf. But who could that be for people who have been away from their constituency for a long time?

New secondary legislation will have to answer these questions, defining how to be included in the electoral roll and how to exercise the voting right in practice.

According to British in Europe, the government should present draft legislation in the first half of the year so that the parliament can adopt it before summer and registrations of overseas voters can start in the autumn.

British in Europe survey

British in Europe are currently running a survey to understand the difficulties UK citizens abroad may face in the registration and voting process, as well as their intention to participate in elections.

The survey asks for instance which documents people can access to prove their previous residence in the UK, what problems they had voting in the past, and if and how they plan to vote in the future.

“We need to get an up-to-date picture of British citizens living around the world and have information to make recommendations to the government, as it prepares secondary legislation,” Godfrey said. “If millions of people will exercise their voting rights, there will be consequences for council registration offices, post office and authorities that will manage the process, among other things” she argued.

The right to vote concerns only UK parliamentary elections and national referendums, not elections in the devolved administrations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, or at local level.

The survey is open to UK citizens living anywhere in the world and is available at this link.