Brexit is now a reality. 52% of the electorate in the UK voted for the Leave campaign, and just 48% voted for Remain, which means the British public has declared its intention to leave the European Union. The result has sent shockwaves throughout Europe and it is fair to say that it has been deeply resented by British expats in Spain.
Many British expats are concerned about what Brexit would mean for their property in Spain and whether they would still enjoy the same property rights as they have had so far. They are also worried that it might now become more difficult for them to buy a home in Spain or to work there. Many may try to sell property in Spain quickly due to this uncertainty.
Expats across Spain are worried about what their future holds for them. The most worried are retirees who depend on their British pension. With the decline of the sterling, their buying power will be seriously impacted.
Indeed, the fall of the sterling, which hit a 31-year low in the aftermath of the referendum, has only served to exacerbate the concerns over Brexit. Derek Langley, Vice President for Andalucian at the British Chamber of Commerce, said, “It was obviously a massive shock and a massive disappointment. The whole of the chamber is devastated by the news, we really didn’t see this coming.
“Those that voted to Leave will have to accept the ramifications. I would be particularly worried for those who live and work in Gibraltar,” he added
Chartered surveyor Campbell Ferguson is worried about the impact of Brexit on expats: “People are talking about a two year plan. But the fallout has already started.”
“People living in Spain and working in Gibraltar have effectively just taken a 10% wage cut. Meanwhile UK buyers will have to spend 10% more to get their property. The fall in Sterling does however benefit buyers who will get more value for their homes,” Mr. Ferguson added.
Expat solicitor Alex Radford said that is important to remain calm and not to get too stressed over Brexit: “It was an interesting night. Not a great one. It is important to bear in mind that there are unlikely to be any changes to the relationship between the United Kingdom, Spain and the EU and the current laws for at least two years during which period the United Kingdom will negotiate its EU exit process.”
Mary Reid, an expat and a school teacher who lives in Madrid says, “I just can’t believe it, what will happen to the UK now and to our rights as Brits living and working abroad? One of the first things I am going to do is consult a lawyer and see where I stand on getting Spanish nationality.”
"We won't be directly affected here as we have been legal residents for many years. However, I think many expats, who have been living here, without the correct paperwork will be very nervous, and rightly so. Our decision now is whether to swap our non EU British passports for Spanish ones," Ms. Reid added.
Maura Hillen, an expat who was elected as a councillor in Albox says, “Expats living in Spain are now facing an uncertain future for sure. I don't think that anyone can predict what will happen next at this early stage but the most immediate impact will be volatility in the markets which will affect exchange rates and therefore the value of our spending power in Spain.”
“We will need to wait a little longer to find out what happens in terms of access to health care, our tax status etc and I assume that UK citizens will lose the right to vote in municipal elections in Spain which means that any influence we held in our local town halls will come to an end,” Ms. Hillen added.
Christopher Dottie, the president of the British Chamber of Commerce in Spain explained that the impact of Brexit would hit expats both in the short-term and long-term future. He says, “The strongest short-term effect on business will be related to currency fluctuations and stock market valuations. Regarding the medium and long term much will depend on the results of the years of negotiations that the United Kingdom faces and we currently have no information or precedents to indicate how they will develop.”
“An uncertain future is never positive, but international trade will continue, relations between Spain and the UK will continue and the path to future collaboration and prosperity will become clearer during the coming weeks and months,” Mr. Dottie concluded.