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Brexit news roundup: All the latest info for Brits in Spain

Stay up-to-date with the latest developments, news and concerns regarding Brexit for UK nationals who live in Spain or have a connection to the country. This week we speak about residency refusals, dwindling UK food supplies in Spain, tax-free shopping and more.

Brexit news roundup: All the latest info for Brits in Spain
Brexit news roundup from Spain. Photo: Pixabay

UK food exports to Spain drop by more than half 

As has been reported in the British press recently, UK food and drink exports to the EU are suffering a huge decline, costing the industry €2 billion in losses. 

And among Member States, Spain is the country that’s seen the biggest drop in British produce arriving to its shores since Brexit, a 54 percent fall in 2021 when compared to 2019 figures. 

Italy (-50 percent), Germany (-49 percent) and Denmark (-36 percent) are the other EU nations that have seen British food and drink products disappear from supermarket shelves at the greatest rate, data from the UK’s Food and Drink Federation (FDF) reveals.

The products that are struggling to make it from the UK to Spain and the EU are beef (37 percent drop in exports), cheese (-34 percent), chocolate (-19 percent) as well as milk and cream (-19 percent).

“It’s noticeable that some former UK staples on Spanish supermarket shelves, such as imported English cheddar are gradually being phased out. They are being replaced by alternatives from other EU countries, often from Ireland,” explains Sue Wilson, chair of Bremain in Spain. 

“We may have to make minor adjustments regarding our choices and tastes, but at least we have no empty shelves and prices are stable. The UK, meanwhile, is suffering shortages and price hikes unknown for decades, and all in the name of sovereignty”, she continues.

British cheddar cheese is slowly being removed from the shelves in Spain. Photo: PDPhotos / Pixabay

Brits rejected for residency 

Some UK nationals who have had their Spanish residency applications rejected are being sent notices telling them they must leave the country or risk being classified as illegal.

According to legal documents The Local Spain has had access to, Spain’s Immigration Office (Extranjería) is informing some Britons who applied for residency under the Withdrawal Agreement that they have 15 days to leave the country after their application has been rejected. 

According to the state bulletin in question, overstaying can be considered a “serious offence” by Spanish authorities, with fines going from €501 to €10,000, a possible expulsion from Spain as well as a potential ban from the Schengen area for six months to five years.

READ ALSO – BREXIT: Brits rejected for residency in Spain given 15 days to leave country

UK students coming to study in Spain face visa delays 

Many British students enrolled in courses in Spain this September are still in limbo and haven’t yet received permission to enter the country.

According to reports in the British press, most of the issues and delays seem to be caused by the different legislation and administrative processes brought about by Brexit.

This is the first academic year that British students have been required to have visas to study in Spain since Brexit kicked in. 

The Local interviewed two different students about their experiences, one of whom has already spend £1,000 and still hasn’t got his student visa. You can read the interviews here

British tourists can benefit from tax-free shopping in Spain

One actual benefit of Brexit is that residents of England, Wales and Scotland can make the most of tax-free shopping in Spain and the rest of the EU – which means that they can save on the cost of certain goods by claiming back VAT on their purchases.

It does not apply to everything though. For example, you can’t get VAT back on your restaurant bills or transport tickets. But it does apply to fashion, cosmetics, jewellery, technology, and some food and drink products. 

Not all retailers offer this service, but high street stores and global luxury brands operating in Spain routinely do and will inform customers that this option is available. 

In Spain in order to benefit from this, the total amount of your purchases, including taxes, must be greater than €90.16. 

When you leave Spain to return to the UK, present your purchases, receipts, and forms you received from the shop to customs for approval. It is important to note that items on which you are claiming a refund must be unused and in their original packaging.

Brits in Spain can benefit from tax-free shopping. Photo: gonghuimin468 / Pixabay

British companies exporting to the EU are still at a disadvantage

Chair of Bremain in Spain, Sue Wilson explains why British companies exporting to the EU are still at a disadvantage. 

“Having refused an extension to the transition period when it was offered by the EU last year, the UK are now looking to extend the current grace periods indefinitely”, she explained.
“As expected, the EU have stated yet again that the Northern Ireland Protocol, is not up for renegotiation. While the UK government may choose to delay further checks on UK imports, the EU will not do the same for UK exports. So, British companies exporting to the EU will continue to be at a disadvantage compared to their European counterparts,” she added. 
“Meanwhile, the list of companies and industries negatively affected by Brexit continues to grow. The consumer will be the one to pay the ultimate price in the end, with less choice and higher prices. Welcome to the sunlit uplands. So much for taking back control”, she concluded. 

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Brits in Europe won right to vote for life in UK but questions remain

After years of campaigns and promises British citizens living abroad finally won the lifelong right to vote in UK general elections in April 2022. But campaigners say more needs to be done to allow all those Britons abroad to be able cast their votes easily.

Brits in Europe won right to vote for life in UK but questions remain

What’s in the law?

The Elections Act 2022 introduced several changes to the current legislation on electoral participation. Among these, it removed the rule by which British citizens lose their voting rights in the UK if they have lived abroad for more than 15 years

The new rules also abolished the requirement to have been previously registered in the UK electoral roll to become an overseas voter. In addition, the registration in the electoral roll will now last up to three years instead of only one year.

It is estimated that these changes could increase the number of overseas voter registrations by some 3 million. But the way new measures will be applied in practice is still to be defined.

READ ALSO: ‘Mixed feelings’ – British citizens in Europe finally get right to vote for life

Defining the practicalities

Under the new law, Britons living abroad will have to register to vote in the last place they were registered in the UK. This means that people who have never lived in the UK will be ineligible to vote, regardless of how long they have been overseas, while those who left when they were children will be able to use a parent or guardian’s address.

But given that the UK does not require residents to register with local councils, how to prove previous UK residence? “Typical documents accepted as a proof of residence are Council tax or utilities bills, but not everyone will have them or will have kept them in an international move,” says Fiona Godfrey, co-founder of the British in Europe coalition.

Ballot papers are pictured in stacks in a count centre as part of the 2019 UK general election. (Photo by ANDY BUCHANAN / AFP)

Other questions concern how people will effectively cast their ballot. UK citizens overseas will be able to vote by post or by proxy or in person at their polling station if they are in the UK at the time of the election. However, few people are likely to travel to the UK for an election and in the past there have problems and delays with postal voting.

The Electoral Commission has recommended that overseas electors appoint a proxy to vote on their behalf. But who could that be for people who have been away from their constituency for a long time?

New secondary legislation will have to answer these questions, defining how to be included in the electoral roll and how to exercise the voting right in practice.

According to British in Europe, the government should present draft legislation in the first half of the year so that the parliament can adopt it before summer and registrations of overseas voters can start in the autumn.

British in Europe survey

British in Europe are currently running a survey to understand the difficulties UK citizens abroad may face in the registration and voting process, as well as their intention to participate in elections.

The survey asks for instance which documents people can access to prove their previous residence in the UK, what problems they had voting in the past, and if and how they plan to vote in the future.

“We need to get an up-to-date picture of British citizens living around the world and have information to make recommendations to the government, as it prepares secondary legislation,” Godfrey said. “If millions of people will exercise their voting rights, there will be consequences for council registration offices, post office and authorities that will manage the process, among other things” she argued.

The right to vote concerns only UK parliamentary elections and national referendums, not elections in the devolved administrations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, or at local level.

The survey is open to UK citizens living anywhere in the world and is available at this link.