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OPINION: ‘Who are the Brits who have flocked to Spain because of Brexit?’

Ever since the UK voted to leave the EU Brits have been on the move, with many heading to Spain. Many are accepting a cut in wages and career prospects, but they're willing to make the sacrifice, writes Sue Wilson from Bremain in Spain.

OPINION: 'Who are the Brits who have flocked to Spain because of Brexit?'
Photo: M W /Pixabay

A recent study by the Oxford University in Berlin and the WZB Social Science Centre has revealed a significant rise in the numbers of Brits migrating to Europe.

Since the Brexit referendum, the numbers of Brits choosing to live in EU countries has increased by 30 percent. Spain has seen the largest increase in numbers, with an estimated 380,000 British nationals now living here. EU countries have witnessed a 500 percent increase in applications for citizenship, as British migrants strive to retain their freedom of movement rights.

Daniel Tetlow, an author of the study, said: “We’re observing a new social migration phenomenon and a redefinition of what it means to be British-European.”

Ever since the UK voted to leave the EU, British citizens in the UK have been on the move. Many wanted to fulfil a long-held dream to migrate, while it was easier and cheaper to do so. For others, it was a fresh idea, and a means of retaining valuable rights for their families.

Although many of the incoming British residents arrived soon after the referendum, the process is still underway. The Covid crisis ended many plans and put paid to many home sales. Now that things are returning to 'the new normality', plans are being expedited. With just a few short months left before the end of the transition period, the clock is ticking.

Nobody is suggesting a move to Spain once Brexit is finally 'done' is impossible. However, it would be more complicated and expensive. The exact requirements are still being defined and may be more akin to those for other Third Country Nationals.

Barcelona

More people are moving to Spain since Brexit | Image by kirkandmimi from Pixabay 

The main reason to move to Spain this year is the rights secured during the UK/EU negotiations. The legally binding Withdrawal Agreement (WA) enshrines residency, work and social rights, including protecting healthcare and pension rights.

People dreaming of retirement in Spain can benefit from the WA protections. Even those who aren’t of pensionable age by the end of 2020 will still qualify for healthcare and pension benefits, assuming they’ve made the appropriate level of UK contributions.

Most Brits in Spain are younger, working migrants. Of those leaving the UK for work reasons, rather than retirement, many are highly skilled. The study’s author said: “The UK is facing a potential brain drain of highly-educated British citizens, who have decided to invest their futures in continental Europe.”

While moving to Spain brings many benefits to British migrants, an increase in income is not often one of them. Most study participants had accepted a pay cut or a wage freeze, as part of their move. Before the referendum, most people migrating to other EU countries were doing so with a pay rise.

Even in this Covid era, Brits are voting with their feet and taking big steps away from Brexit Britain. Moving house is one of the most traumatic experiences in life. Moving country takes a whole other level of planning, effort and courage. Particularly now, with the double threats of Brexit and Covid, it is an enormous leap of faith. That Brits are increasingly taking that big step shows the strength of feeling over the loss of rights, or the fear of what the UK is becoming.

Dr Auer, of the WZB Social Science Centre, said: “These increases in numbers are of a magnitude that you would expect when a country is hit by a major economic or political crisis.”

Hardly surprising then, considering that Brexit – on top of Covid – will be the biggest economic and political crisis of our lifetimes.

By Sue Wilson – Chair of Bremain in Spain

 

 

 

 

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IMMIGRATION

EXPLAINED: What are the main obstacles to finding a job when moving to an EU country?

Moving to another country is never easy, as it requires going through cultural changes and administrative formalities. It can be even more complicated when looking for a job.

EXPLAINED: What are the main obstacles to finding a job when moving to an EU country?

According to new data released by the EU statistical office, Eurostat, the knowledge of the national language and the recognition of professional qualifications are the two most common obstacles experienced by foreign-born people in finding a ‘suitable’ job in countries of the European Union.

Overall, about a quarter of people born outside the EU who had experience in working or looking for work in the bloc reported some difficulties getting a ‘suitable’ job for level of education (without considering the field of expertise or previous experience).

The Eurostat analysis shows that the situation is better for EU citizens moving within the bloc. But there are major differences depending on countries and gender.

Life can be more difficult for women

In 2021, 13.2 percent of men and 20.3 percent of women born in another European Union country reported obstacles in getting a suitable job in the EU place of residence.

These proportions however increase to 20.9 percent for men and 27.3 percent for women born in a non-EU country with a high level of development (based on the United Nations’ Human Development Index) and 31.1 percent for men and 35.7 percent for women from non-EU countries with a low or medium level of development.

Finland (42.9 percent), Sweden (41.7 percent), Luxembourg (34.6 percent) and France (32.1 percent) are the countries with the highest shares of people born outside the EU reporting problems. Norway, which is not part of the bloc, has an even higher percentage, 45.2, and Switzerland 34.3 percent.

In contrast, Cyprus (11.2 percent), Malta (10.9 percent), Slovenia (10.2 percent), Latvia (10 percent) and Lithuania (6.7 percent) have the lowest proportion of people born outside the EU reporting difficulties.

Lack of language skills

The lack of skills in the national language is most commonly cited as a hurdle, and it is even more problematic for women.

This issue was reported by 4.2 percent of men born in another EU country, 5.3 percent of those born in a developed country outside the EU and 9.7 percent of those from a non-EU country with a middle or low level of development. The corresponding shares for women, however, were 5.6, 6.7 and 10.5 percent respectively.

The countries where language skills were more likely to be reported by non-EU citizens as an obstacle in getting a relevant job were Finland (22.8 percent), Luxembourg (14.7 percent) and Sweden (13.1 percent).

As regards other countries covered by The Local, the percentage of non-EU citizens citing the language as a problem was 12.4 percent in Austria, 10.2 percent in Denmark, 7.8 percent in France, 5.1 percent in Italy, 2.7 percent in Spain, 11.1 percent on Norway and 10.1 percent in Switzerland. Data is not available for Germany.

Portugal (77.4 percent), Croatia (68.8 percent), Hungary (58.8 percent) and Spain (58.4 percent) have the highest share of people from outside the EU already speaking the language as a mother tongue before arriving, while more than 70 percent of non-EU citizens residing in Denmark, Finland, Luxembourg and Norway said they had participated in language courses after arrival.

Lisbon Portugal

Portugal has the highest share of people from outside the EU already speaking the language as a mother tongue before arriving. (Photo by Aayush Gupta on Unsplash)

Recognition of qualifications

Another hurdle on the way to a relevant job in EU countries is the lack of recognition of a formal qualification obtained abroad. This issue was reported by 2 percent of men and 3.8 percent of women born in another EU country. It was also mentioned by 3.3 percent of men and 5.9 percent of women born in a developed country outside the EU, and 4.8 percent of men and 4.6 percent of women born in a less developed non-EU country.

Eurostat says this reflects an “unofficial distrust” among employers of qualification obtained abroad and the “low official validation of foreign education”.

The lack of availability of a suitable job was another factor mentioned in the survey. In Croatia, Portugal and Hungary, this was the main obstacle to getting an adequate position.

This issue concerned 3.3 percent of men and 4.5 percent of women born in another EU country, 4.2 percent of men and 5 percent of women born in a developed non-EU country It also worried 3.9 percent of men and 5.1 percent of women born in a less developed non-EU country.

Restricted right to work due to citizenship or residence permits, as well as plain discrimination on the grounds of origin were also cited as problems.

Discrimination was mostly reported by people born in a less developed non-EU country (3.1 percent for men and 3.3 percent for women) compared to people born in highly developed non-EU countries (1.9 percent for men and 2.2 percent for women).

Citizenship and residence permits issues are unusual for people from within the EU. For people from outside the EU, this is the only area where women seem to have fewer problems than men: 1.6 percent of women from developed non-EU countries reported this issue, against 2.1 percent of men, with the share increasing to 2.8 and 3.3 percent respectively for women and men from less developed non-EU states.

The article is published in cooperation with Europe Street News, a news outlet about citizens’ rights in the EU and the UK.

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