Loading...

Now that British Prime Minister, Theresa May, has outlined her negotiating plans for Brexit, what do we know about how it might affect expatriates in Spain?

While there is still much uncertainty, we are optimistic that Britons will continue to enjoy the benefits of owning property and living in this beautiful country.

The UK is likely to leave the single market

On 17 January, May revealed that her Brexit vision means that Britain “cannot possibly” remain in the European single market. She perceives the free movement of goods, services and people as incompatible with the Brexit objectives of gaining control over British borders and decision-making.

Instead, she wants to achieve the “freest possible trade” with EU countries in a "new and equal partnership". Ruling out any arrangement “that leaves us half-in, half-out", it is unlikely Britain will accept the Norwegian approach of remaining in the wider European Economic Area.

This means that the current benefits of EU membership for expatriates will most likely be negotiated one-by-one over the two-year negotiation period.

Expatriate rights “remain a priority”

It is reassuring that May reiterated her intention to “guarantee the rights of EU citizens already living in the UK and of UK nationals in other states as early as we can”.

However, some were disappointed she did not get the ball rolling by committing to continued healthcare and pension arrangements for Britons living in Europe and the right for EU citizens already in the UK to remain. Many believe this gesture is within her scope and could have paved the way for reciprocal deals for British citizens living in Europe.

She suggested that many EU countries wanted to agree a deal now to offer certainty to expatriates, but "one or two others do not". However, EU spokespeople insisted there was “complete unanimity” among the 27 EU states that no such negotiations can take place until article 50 is triggered.

The Brexit deal will be put to Parliament

May has committed to give MPs a final vote on the Brexit deal. The following week, the Supreme Court ruled the government must also get Parliamentary approval before kick-starting Brexit with Article 50.

Does this mean the decision can be reversed if it faces enough formal opposition? It is highly unlikely, with Brexit Secretary David Davis declaring the UK has passed “the point of no return” and will leave the EU whatever happens. Encouraging MPs to “respect the democratic decision that was taken”, May pledged to trigger Article 50 before the end of March and work within the two-year framework outlined in EU laws.

What does this mean for expatriates?

While we can now expect a clean break with the EU rather than a softer approach, there are still many unknowns. This continued uncertainty can be unsettling for those living in or planning to move to Spain, but the fact is that little has changed since Brexit was announced. There are still at least two years before changes to your EU membership can be implemented.

With the UK hosting thousands of Spanish citizens and around 310,000 Britons contributing to the economy in Spain, both countries would benefit from reciprocal residency rights. Until we know if agreements will maintain benefits like healthcare, however, it could be beneficial to explore private health insurance options.

There are other things you can do now to make things easier. Some British expatriates, for example, are considering securing their position by applying for Spanish citizenship. Now may also be a good time to review whether you can benefit from transferring your UK pensions and taking advantage of current opportunities before Brexit takes effect.

You should also be prepared for Brexit developments like May’s keynote speech to continue to cause uncertainty for the British pound and investment markets. For expatriates, there has never been a better time to review your financial planning and explore your options. An adviser who lives here and is experienced in supporting expatriates in Spain will understand cross-border implications and help you take appropriate action as Brexit unfolds.