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BREXIT

BREXIT

Seven burning questions for British expats about Brexit

We all knew that a win for Brexit would create some measure of uncertainty but for those expats who have chosen to take full advantage of the European Union freedom of movement and make their home in Spain, the questions just keep mounting.

Seven burning questions for British expats about Brexit
Photo: AFP

No-one will be asked to move home or even be made to apply for a visa or residency permit just yet, and we have been assured by Spain’s acting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy that the up to one million Brits estimated to live in Spain are in no danger of losing their rights overnight.

We've covered the big issues, such as how Brexit might affect property, the rights to live and work here and whether we should all be thinking about taking Spanish citizenship, but now that the reality of Brexit is sinking in, a few more questions about the future of Brits in Spain have surfaced.

While we can’t give you any answers – except wait and see – these are just some of the issues that could have profound consequences when Britain is no longer an EU member-state.

What about healthcare?

Health treatment is currently free for those travellers with a European health insurance card (EHIC) and for UK state pensioners living in the European Economic Area. 

As a result tens of thousands of British retirees currently enjoy free health care in Spain. That deal will automatically end when Britain pulls out of the EU and separate deals with European nations will have to be struck.

Before joining what was then the EEC, the UK had reciprocal health agreements with many European nations, including Spain, so a new deal is likely on the cards.

What will Brexit do to my pension?

If British citizens are still permitted to retire in an EU state, they may find their pensions affected, not least because at present, anyone who retires within the European Economic Area, has their state pension increased every year under the “triple-lock” system. 

This means that pensions rise by the higher of wage or price inflation, subject to a minimum of 2.5pc. With Brexit the UK will have to negotiate individual reciprocal agreements with EU countries if annual state pension increases for expats were to continue.

“I’m worried for my parents,” Tania Garcia, a primary school teacher who now lives in Galicia, told The Local. “My parents, who are Spanish but spent all their working lives in London, have now retired back in Spain and are living off a UK pension. They have already seen their spending power drop with the result of the falling pound. But what next?”

Photo: Tommy Hemmert Olesen/Flickr 

Will my driving license still be valid ?

Just as in the case of UK passports, driving licences issued in the UK are EU-branded and will have to be phased out as people renew them. But post Brexit will British driving licenses be valid in Spain or will people living here have to apply for Spanish ones? What about those expats who have already got themselves a Spanish driving licence? Will they be valid if and when you return to post-Brexit Britain?

“My British driving license is due to expire and I don’t whether I should renew with the DVLA or start the Spanish application and if I do will have to reapply if I move back?” asked Samantha, an English teacher living in Oviedo.

Will Brexit bother my four-legged companion?

Remember those days when pets had to suffer six-months of quarantine to bring them into the UK? The EU pet passport scheme put an end to that but for the thousands of Brits who take their furry pals back and forth between Spain and the UK each year, Brexit could be a disaster.

It could also have a dire impact on the charities that seek British homes for the animals abandoned in overcrowded shelters across Spain.

“It would be desperately worrying if the British vote to leave the EU had put international dog rescue and adoption at risk,” said Polly Mathewson form the Podenco Alliance, a charity supporting the rescue of Spanish hunting dogs.

 

What about the study abroad programme?

The Erasmus+ scheme is an EU programme open to education, training, youth and sports organizations. It offers opportunities for UK participants to study, work, volunteer, teach and train in Europe. And thousands of British students opt to study in Spain each year, while the UK is the favoured destination for Spanish students.

Jo Johnson, Minister of State for Universities and Science, released this statement following the referendum result:

“The referendum result does not affect students studying in the EU, beneficiaries of Erasmus+ or those considering applying in 2017. The UK’s future access to the Erasmus+ programme will be determined as a part of wider discussions with the EU.

“More broadly, existing UK students studying in the EU, and those looking to start in the next academic year, will continue to be subject to current arrangements.”

But after Brexit, who knows?


 Photo: theinterngroup.com/ Flickr

What will happen to roaming?

Mobile phone users across Europe are looking forward to the complete removal of roaming charges between EU states in June 2017 but the controls were introduced under an EU regulation and are not incorporated into UK law.

So the UK will have to negotiate their own deal with mobile phone operators once Brexit occurs or we will all be looking at a hike in roaming charges on trips back to Blighty.


Photo: AFP

Who's going to police the Costa del Crime?

The Costa del Sol – once dubbed 'Costa del Crime' – has been known as a hideaway for British criminals in the past, particularly in the late 1970s and 80s when there were no extradition agreements with the UK.

Once the UK is no longer a member state it will automatically be excluded from access to EU agencies such as Europol, the EU police intelligence agency.

Britain and Spain enjoy particularly close relations on policing and more than 500 British felons have been arrested in Spain since 2013 thanks to initiatives such as Operation Captura, which produces a list of The Most Wanted British Fugitives thought to be hiding out in Spain.

“Once the European Arrest Warrant, which currently allows criminals who flee to another EU country to be brought back to the UK to face justice – disappears, we will have to negotiate anew,” a retired British police officer told The Local.

“No one wants to see a return to the days of the Costa Del Crime.”



Photo: Crimestoppers

Don't Panic, Keep Calm and Wait and See.

Whatever is on the cards for the next few months and years, just remember that right now nothing has changed.

Simon Manley, the British Ambassador in Madrid, has a message for you.

READ MORE Brexit limbo: What happens next for expat Brits in Spain?

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BREXIT

Brexit: Brits in EU feel European and don’t want to return home

The majority of Britons who live in the EU, Norway, Iceland or Switzerland and are protected under the Brexit agreement feel European and intend to remain in Europe permanently, but many have concerns about travel problems, a new survey reveals.

Brexit: Brits in EU feel European and don't want to return home

The research also shows that problems exist and “travel is where most issues relating to the new status currently occur”. For instance, border officials are still stamping passports of UK citizens with residence rights under the EU UK withdrawal agreement, even though they shouldn’t.

“There is constant confusion around passport stamping. I was ‘stamped in’ to France on a short trip… but could not find anyway to be ‘stamped out’ again. I think I can only spend 90 days in other EU countries, but have no idea how anyone can check or enforce that – until someone decides to try. It’s a mess,” was one of the answers left in an open question.

“Every time I go through a Schengen border control, I need to provide both my passport and Aufenthaltstitel card [resident permit in Germany] and watch to check that they don’t stamp my passport. As I am currently travelling a lot that’s been 20-odd times this year…” another respondent said.

The survey was carried out by Professor Tanja Bueltmann, historian of migration and diaspora at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, between October and November 2022. About 1,139 UK citizens replied.

Of these, 80 per cent found acquiring their new status easy or very easy, 60.7 per cent feel their rights are secure, while 39.3 per cent have concerns about their status going forward.

Staying permanently

More than three quarters (76.6 per cent) of respondents said they plan to live permanently in the EU or the other countries of the European Economic Area and Switzerland. In fact, 65.7 per cent said that Brexit has increased the likelihood of this choice.

For some, the decision is linked to the difficulty to bring non-British family members to the UK under new, stricter immigration rules.

“My German wife and I decided we no longer wanted to live in UK post Brexit referendum. In particular, we were affected by the impact of immigration law […] We cannot now return to UK on retirement as I cannot sponsor her on my pension. We knew it was a one-way journey. Fortunately, I could revive an application for German citizenship,” was a testimony.

“My husband is a US citizen and getting him a visa for the UK was near impossible due to my low income as a freelance journalist. We realized under EU law, moving to an EU country was easier. We settled on Austria as we had both lived there before… we could speak some German, and we like the mountains,” said another respondent.

Professor Bueltmann noted that the loss of free movement rights in the EU could be a factor too in the decision of many to stay where they are.

Citizenship and representation

Among those who decided to stay, 38.2 per cent are either applying or planning to apply for a citizenship and 28.6 per cent are thinking about it.

A key finding of the research, Bueltmann said, is that the vast majority of British citizens do not feel politically represented. Some 60 per cent of respondents said they feel unrepresented and another 30 per cent not well represented.

Another issue is that less than half (47.5 per cent) trust the government of their country of residence, while a larger proportion (62 per cent) trust the European Union. Almost all (95.6 per cent) said they do not trust the UK government.

Feeling European

The survey highlights the Brexit impacts on people’s identity too. 82.6 per cent of respondents said they see themselves as European, a higher proportion than those identifying as British (68.9 per cent).

“Brexit has really left me unsure of what my identity is. I don’t feel British, and I certainly don’t identify with the mindset of a lot of British people who live there. Yet, I am not Danish either. So, I don’t really know anymore!” said one of the participants in the survey.

Professor Bueltmann said the survey “demonstrates that Brexit impacts continue to evolve: this didn’t just stop because the transition period was over or a deadline for an application had been reached. Consequently, Brexit continues to shape the lives and experiences of British citizens in the EU/EEA and Switzerland in substantial, sometimes life-altering, ways.”

Considering the results of the study, Professor Bueltmann recommends policy makers in the EU and the UK to address the issue of lack of representation, for instance creating a joint UK-EU citizens’ stakeholder forum.

The report also recommends the UK government to rebuild trust with British citizens in the EU introducing voting rights for life and changing immigration rules to allow British-European families to return more easily. 

This article was prepared in cooperation with Europe Street News.

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