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Brexit: 'So many questions, but still no answers'

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Brexit: 'So many questions, but still no answers'
Photo: AFP
16:34 CEST+02:00
David Sparks, 78, moved from his native Bedfordshire in the UK to Murcia in southern Spain 12 years ago to enjoy what he hoped would be a peaceful worry-free retirement in the sun. More than two years after Britain voted for Brexit in June 2016 and with the March 29th deadline approaching fast, The Local asked how Brexit was affecting him and those around him.

I have been asked the following questions many times. As a UK immigrant in Spain and resident have you concerns or worries about Brexit and what are they?  

If you have no concerns what are your reasons?  Have you prepared for a no deal Brexit or a possible deal? If so, what have you done and why?  Finally, how are you coping with all the daily media talk about Brexit?

Personally, I don't worry about my own situation regarding Brexit; it does not give me sleepless nights.

Right to reside?

I have been a permanent resident for 12 years and I feel that after Brexit my residency will be continued. However, I have deep concerns that after March 29th next year I will no longer be a European Citizen.

At the moment I am registered as an EU citizen in Spain, but after March 2019 I will become an alien and would have to register as such.

Will Spain accept me as such without additional conditions of residency which apply to an alien but not an EU citizen?

If there is a transitional period with a Brexit deal then the last PP government said that we would be able to continue just the same as an EU citizen, but I still do not know if the new government will honour that promise. If I had to re-register to be a resident in Spain as an alien then financially I could not meet the conditions and would have to leave Spain.

Pensions

Another concern is that of UK pensions being able to be transferred from the UK.

The UK government have said that the OAP will be paid as it is now to Spain. What they have not said is whether the pension is going to be frozen with no more annual inflation increases.

We still do not know. If they are frozen then life will become more difficult financially. The main pension concern is that of private pensions being paid by insurance companies directly into Spain as the EU conditions and agreements will no longer exist.

Healthcare is also an issue

Everyone has the right to emergency care in Spain. but what about universal healthcare? Photo: gioiak2/Depositphotos

The UK government has said that the healthcare agreement with Spain will continue as that is not an EU issue, but between individual countries.

Those pensioners with an SP1 will continue to receive care. A qualification for residency is proof of adequate healthcare insurance with either a SP1 or private policy.However in July 2018 the Spanish government made a law that all people living in Spain should receive free healthcare. The only problem is that it was left to each autonomous region to enact the law, and many have not.

Freedom of movement is also a concern.

Will I have the ability to work,travel and live in other European countries as I can now?  At the moment it is easy and straight forward to fly to the UK, but what conditions will apply if there is no deal? The media reports that aircraft will be grounded as they would no longer have the EU licenses to fly into Europe.

In June 2017 I was concerned how the Brexit negotiations were going. The UK promised that the first subject on the agenda would be the rights of all UK citizens resident in the EU being continued and maintained.

This has not been the case. Promises were made in words not a signed written agreement.


Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May arrives at the European Council in Brussels on October 17th for Brexit negotiations. Photo: AFP

The UK PM later inferred that the rights of EU citizens in the UK and those of UK citizens in the EU would be reciprocal, but we have heard little about how this will apply. 

I therefore felt I had to take some action and get involved somehow with protecting the rights of UK immigrants resident in Spain.

With a friend I created a Facebook group called “Brexit in Spain” and become a voice for our rights to be maintained. We now have 441 members and growing. It is also a help group and we try our best to find answers to their questions.

I asked the group how they felt about Brexit and these were some of the comments.

“I am frightened and angry. I fear the UK is preparing for war in Europe”.

“I have changed my nationality to Irish which lessons a lot of the worry”

“I feel as though my arm is twisted up my back, but I want to stay European”

“I am very concerned. I feel that Brexit has dominated my life for the last  two odd years and I know that I am not alone”

To sum up, Brexit has and is causing confusion for many UK immigrants resident in Spain. There are so many questions unanswered. The overriding feeling is that of insecurity; We are almost two years into the process and “We still do not know”. 

David Sparks, 78, moved from Bedfordshire to Totana in Murcia 12 years ago with his wife. He worked with expat charity MABS, which offers cancer support and set up the Brexit in Spain facebook group for those concerned about rights of those UK immigrants resident in Spain after Brexit. 

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