Spain’s British expats ‘going back to UK’ post-Brexit after ‘living under the radar’

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Thousands of Britons who call Spain home have seen their situations change dramatically post-Brexit. More than 360,000 UK nationals are residents in Spain; however, thousands more British nationals are believed to live in the country unregistered. Before the UK left the EU, British nationals living in the country for more than three months were expected to apply for residency.

However, according to Darren Parmenter, a British councillor in Spain, some Britons who were “living under the radar” without being registered are now returning to the UK.

The Londoner has lived in Spain for 32 years and is a councillor for the PSOE party in the town of San Fulgencio on the Costa Blanca.

Speaking about why Britons are leaving Spain, he told that people may be acting for “personal reasons” and because of the travel rules imposed by Brussels. 

He claimed that some Britons were living in Spain but not claiming residency, instead choosing to live “under the radar”, but were now returning to the UK.

Mr Parmenter said: “Certainly, where I am in San Fulgencio, we can’t say that droves of people have left. That’s certainly not the case.

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“I’m aware personally of people that used to be here for more than three months and were perhaps living here under the radar.

“They have decided they don’t want residency and are going to go back to the UK.”

One of the other post-Brexit factors that has changed the lives of many Britons in Spain, is the EU’s so-called 90-day rule.

After the UK exited the bloc, British citizens are now considered third country nationals by Brussels.

This means they are treated the same way as other non-EU citizens, including how much time they can spend in Europe.

Britons are now limited to a stay of up to 90 days in the Schengen Area, which includes Spain, during any 180-day period.

The rules have been particularly felt by Britons who own property in the country, such as those with second homes used for holidays.

Before Brexit, many Britons in this situation visited Spain for up to six months at a time during the winter months but are now no longer able to do so.

Mr Parmenter expects British property owners to continue visiting Spain to use their properties for the maximum of 90 days in a 180-day period.

He claimed that, although some homeowners “have ‘left’”, they “haven’t totally abandoned the area”.

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He added: “They will be coming back to use their holiday properties.

“On the other side, I’m personally aware of people that did have holiday homes here that used to want to come out a lot more than is now permitted.

“They have taken the view that they can’t use the property as much as they would want to as a holiday home, so therefore they’ve sold.

“In terms of leaving in droves because of Brexit, I certainly wouldn’t use that phrase.”

Amid the UK’s departure from the bloc, the Spanish Government has warned unregistered Britons, including holidaymakers, not to visit the country for more than three months at a time.

Amid Madrid’s tougher stance towards UK visitors and homeowners in Spain, the number of British property purchases in the country dipped to a historic low.

The combined effects of Brexit and COVID-19 are believed to be behind the registered slide in house sales in the second quarter of 2021.

According to the Spanish association of registrars, Britons still accounted for 9.5 percent of all purchases by foreigners during this period, meaning they are still the largest group of foreign buyers.
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