Expat fury as British communities in Spain decimated amid ongoing Brexit row with Madrid

Following Brexit, Britons attempting to move to Spain now have to pay custom fees on anything ordered from Britain, change UK driving licences to foreign ones and apply for visas when entering the continent for long stays.

Post-Brexit rules mean anyone who wants to work in Spain must secure a visa which, if they are self-employed, involves proving they earn enough money to support themselves and dependents, presenting a business plan and paying for private health insurance.

Those who want to retire to Spain must now apply for a non-lucrative visa, and must have a pension which pays more than €2,151 per month and €538 for a dependent or relative.

They cannot engage in economic activity and private health insurance is also a must, with police and medical checks also essential.

The so-called “golden visa” grants residency if a foreign national invests more than €500,000 in property or a business.

Speaking to the i, Maura Hillen, a housing campaigner who advises Britons on buying properties in Almeria, said: “Brits are no longer buying homes and coming to live here.

“Instead, they are buying holiday homes as the new post-Brexit restrictions are putting people off moving to Spain.”

While Britons still make up the largest proportion of foreign nationals purchasing properties in Spain, with figures from the National Council of Notaries showing they bought 11 percent of all homes in 2021, Graham Hunt, an estate agent based in Valencia, said many people are no longer buying villas to use as short-term holiday lets or retiring to Spain.

Mr Hunt said: “At the upper end of the market people are buying the golden visa by spending €500,000 on a property and also buying a property to let.

“Brits are no longer buying homes and coming to live here. Instead, they are buying holiday homes as the new post-Brexit restrictions are putting people off moving to Spain.”

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Mr Hunt added customs charges are a major issue for expats, and noted: “My daughter ordered a pair of roller skates from a specialist company in the UK for €180 and when they arrived the customs asked us to pay €120 duty on them.

“No one is ordering from companies in the UK anymore because of the amount you are charged as duty on top.

“Local companies must be getting in on this niche to supply things that Brits want.”

Phil Gelling also told the outlet Brexit is to blame for Britons leaving expatriate life in Spain.

He said: “I have (a list of) about 800 friends here and a quarter have gone, either somewhere else or back home.

“There are too many problems if you are not a resident. They have had enough.”


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Meanwhile, a row between the UK and Spain has emerged over a proposed deal where Britons who still have UK driving licences can use them in Spain, after the deadline to solve this issue expired earlier in 2022.

From May 1, Britons living in Spain were unable to use their UK driving licence on roads in the country.

A Foreign Office spokesman said: “An agreement to swap UK driving licences for Spanish licences has not yet been reached.

“From May 1, UK licence holders who have been resident in Spain for more than six months and did not exchange their licence during the transition period will no longer be able to drive legally in Spain.

“We have agreed to rapidly accelerate talks and are urging the Spanish Government to bring forward interim measures.”

According to reports, the Spanish government wants access to the UK database of drivers, something that no other EU country has asked from the UK post-Brexit.

Madrid wants to be able to hand out fines to tourists caught speeding or breaching other road offences.

A spokesperson at the British Embassy in Madrid said: “We are hopeful that an agreement will be reached in the coming weeks and remain fully committed to making that happen.”

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