‘Brexit Day’: Brits could have until December 2020 to make move to Spain

Brits hoping to make the move to Spain could have until December 2020 - rather than until March 2019, to get across the Channel before new post-Brexit rules and red tape come into force.

'Brexit Day': Brits could have until December 2020 to make move to Spain
Photo: gustavofraseo/Depositphotos

Official “Brexit Day” is tabled as March 29th 2019 – 11pm to be precise – after which a new set of rules and regulations will apply to Brits making the move to Spain and EU citizens moving to the UK. Those new rules have not been thrashed out.

But the EU and the UK are expected to agree a transition period which will effectively postpone official Brexit Day for a period of time.

On Monday the EU took little time to agree that the end of the transition period should be December 31st 2020 – although the date will need to be agreed with the British government.

In a statement the EU said: “According to the EU position, during the transition period the whole of the EU acquis will continue to apply to the UK as if it were a member state. 

“All existing EU regulatory, budgetary, supervisory, judiciary and enforcement instruments and structures will also apply, including the competence of the Court of Justice of the European Union. “

The landmark Brexit deal that was negotiated on expat rights late last year should therefore apply to Britons who move to Spain before the end of 2020.

That deal guaranteed many existing rights of Britons already in Spain such as healthcare cover for pensioners as well as agreeing the uprating of pensions for retired Britons in Spain.

Crucially the deal also covered anyone who makes the move before the end of March 2019, which prompted many Brits who had dreamed of relocating to speed up their plans to get across the Channel before Brexit.

But if the EU gets its way with the transition period – which is likely as Brussels has got its way on most other points of dispute during the negotiations – then at least those making the move can afford a little more time to get it right.

The move to Spain can take many months due to the time it takes to find the right house and even the right part of Spain to live in so movers will be hoping a deal can be struck quickly on any transition period.

While last year's Brexit deal was heralded by Theresa May's government, campaign group British in Europe, which represents the hundreds of thousands of British nationals living in the EU, called it “a double disaster”.

They were angry that Britons who have already moved to the EU and those that come before Brexit Day, were not guaranteed continued freedom of movement to move around the EU in the future.

Kalba Meadows who runs the group Remain in France Together, which is linked to British in Europe told The Local at the time: “This is far worse than we were expecting and hoping for and leaves us as greater bargaining chips than before, as freedom of movement and our other outstanding issues have to jostle with the issue of trade.

“Continuing freedom of movement has been deemed 'out of scope' – and yet this is so important for so many of our members.

READ ALSO: Brexodus – the Brits in a rush to move to France before Brexit day


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.