OPINION: Yes, second-home owners in Spain should be furious about the post-Brexit 90-day rule

Yes second-home owners in Spain and frequent visitors should be furious, but don't blame the EU for the "new" post-Brexit travel rules, writes Sue Wilson of Bremain in Spain.

OPINION: Yes, second-home owners in Spain should be furious about the post-Brexit 90-day rule
Second home owners in Spain will be limited to 90 days. Photo: Elektra Klimi/Unsplash

If you’re a British “expat” who follows the UK press, you’re presumably “furious” about the “EU’s new post-Brexit travel rules”, which ban you from spending more than three months in your European holiday home from January 2021. At least, that’s what the ‘Daily Mail’ suggests. In that particular publication, a bit of outrage and EU-bashing never go amiss.

Personally, I hate the term “expat”, as it confers an unwarranted and unwelcome status on to Brits. We are immigrants – no better or different to EU citizens living and working in the UK. I understand, however, that journalists use the term as shorthand for “British citizens living abroad”, which is a bit of a mouthful.

I’m not disputing that “expat” second-home owners are furious. I expect they are also worried, confused and saddened by the “news”. After all, there’s ample cause for concern.

However, the changes to our rights aren’t down to “new post-Brexit travel rules”. Yes, this is a result of Brexit but, no, it’s not new. The same rules have always applied to non-EU citizens, moving around as third country nationals.

We were fortunate to enjoy special rights that waived this rule. Brexit takes those benefits away. Countries that aren’t members of the EU club cannot expect exclusive membership rewards. Without the EU changing anything, Britain has chosen to put itself in a different category.

The ‘Daily Mail’ says that a 90-day stay means anyone visiting any EU country cannot return for a further three months.  It’s actually worse than that, as the rule doesn’t apply to just one country, but the entire EU bloc. 

So, once a 90-day allowance in a 180-day period has been spent, you cannot return to your holiday home in Spain, France, or travel anywhere in the EU.

Say goodbye to that romantic weekend break to Rome or Paris. While you can enter the Schengen area more than once in the 90 days, official guidance from the EU says “you must carefully calculate your days of stay as the overall period of stay must not exceed the overall total of 90 days of stay within any 180-days period”.

Photo: AFP


Hard luck on the “swallows” that like to spend all winter in the Spanish sun. They will find themselves returning to cold Britannia sooner than intended.

The ramifications of overstaying in Europe could be serious. Post-Brexit, British passports will be scanned on arrival and departure. Anyone caught “illegally present”, staying longer than permitted, risks an “over-stay flag” on their passport. This could lead to a fine, difficulties applying for any future visa, or even a re-entry ban.

As more details emerge re our lost rights, blame has frequently been levelled at the “vindictive” EU.  Spin abounds concerning “rules brought in to punish the Brits” when, really, it is standard third country national rules being applied.

The Leave campaign sold the lie that “nothing would change”, and many Brits assumed the UK could negotiate the parts of EU membership it liked and ditch the rest. Compliance with third country national rules didn’t register on voter consciousness. To allow British citizens special rights after Brexit would be unfair to other third countries – and in many cases, illegal.

Anger exists at the dawning realisation of what we will lose. For some people, late awareness has been a real shock. For those of us that have been pointing all this out for the last four years, it is incredibly frustrating.  We’ve been accused of “project fear” and told repeatedly that Brexiters knew what they were voting for. I’m not sure that was ever true, but they’re getting the idea now!

Why any British citizens living in Spain – under or over the radar – voted for Brexit is still difficult for me to fathom. It’s hard to think of a better definition of “turkeys voting for Christmas”.

I have some sympathy for second-home owners who are “furious” about the effect of Brexit on their lives. I empathise with anyone who stands to lose something they value, for no good reason and through no fault of their own.

However, those with second homes will merely have their European visits cut short. Brits in the UK on lower incomes may be deprived of their European visits altogether, and that could mean us seeing less of our families.

Regardless of your financial status, Brexit will make us all poorer, and that’s not the EU’s fault. No, it is entirely the fault of the charlatans who sold the British public a lie. Perhaps ‘Daily Mail’ editors and readers could be “furious” about that instead.

By Sue Wilson – Chair of Bremain in Spain


Member comments

  1. Nicely explained Sue! Hopefully people will read this and stop blaming Spain or the EU or anybody other than the Tory government and those who voted for them!

  2. Is the ‘Daily Mail’ correct in stating that a 90-day stay means anyone
    visiting any EU country cannot return for a further three months?
    Although the rule doesn’t apply to just one country, does it apply
    to the ENTIRE EU bloc or just the Schengen zone?

    The example is Ireland. Many people will spend over 180 days a year
    in each of UK and Irish republic. Will days in the republic count
    against allowed days in Spain or vice versa? Obviously not – as there
    is no mechanism to monitor cross-border transits in Ireland. However
    this would seem to counter the assertion that the 180-day limit applies
    to “visiting any EU country”

    Is there official clarification on this?

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Banking giant Barclays to close all accounts of Brits living in Spain

UK nationals living in Spain have begun to receive letters from their bank telling them that their accounts will be closed, in an apparent post-Brexit change. Have you been affected?

Banking giant Barclays to close all accounts of Brits living in Spain

Customers of Barclays Bank who are living in Spain and other EU countries have been receiving letters telling them that their UK accounts will be closed by the end of the year. 

A number of readers of The Local’s network of news websites have contacted us to report receiving either letters or messages in their online banking telling them that their accounts would be closed because of their residency in Spain or in other countries in the EU.

A Barclays spokesperson told The Local: “As a ring fenced bank, our Barclays UK products are designed for customers within the UK.

“We will no longer be offering services to personal current account or savings customers (excluding ISAs) within the European Economic Area. We are contacting impacted customers to give them advance notice of this decision and outline the next steps they need to take.”  

Customers are being given six months to make alternative arrangements. The changes affect all personal current accounts or savings accounts, but do not affect ISAs, loans or mortgages.

During the Brexit transition period Barclays closed Barclaycard accounts of customers in Spain, but did not indicate any changes to standard bank accounts.


Around the same time several other British high street banks began closing accounts of British customers who live in the EU, although with the exception of Barclaycard customers in Spain who were largely spared.

Many UK nationals who live in Spain maintain at least one UK bank account – in addition to a Spanish account – sometimes just for savings but others use their accounts regularly to receive income such as pensions or income from rental property or – for remote workers – to receive income for work done in the UK.

Not having a UK bank account can make financial transactions in the UK more complicated or incur extra banking fees.

READ MORE: What are the best UK banks for Brits in Spain?

Since Brexit, the UK banking sector no longer has access to the ‘passporting’ system which allows banks to operate in multiple EU countries without having to apply for a separate banking licence for each country.

And it seems that many UK high street banks are deciding that the extra paperwork is not worth the hassle and are withdrawing completely from certain EU markets. 

When British banks began withdrawing services from customers in the EU back in 2020, a UK government spokesman told British newspaper The Times that “the provision of banking services is a commercial decision for firms based on a number of factors” so Brits in Spain probably shouldn’t hold their breath for any help from that direction.

READ ALSO: Premium Bond holders in Spain may have to cash in if no UK bank account