November 27, 2018

Living in Spain after Brexit: Expats urged to reconsider returning to Britain

By Lucy Ingham

The growing numbers of British expats who are returning to the UK over fears surrounding living in Spain after Brexit have been advised to reconsider by a leading financial expert.

James Green, the divisional manager of Western Europe for deVere Group, acknowledges that very real fears over the falling pound are forcing many to consider returning to the UK.

However, he argues that they should think twice as there are other options that make staying in the expat haven viable despite Brexit.

British expats leaving Spain over Brexit fears

Spain hosts more British expats than any other country in the EU, with an estimated 760,000 British living in the nation, according to the BBC.

However, it is thought tens of thousands have left in the last few years – 157,107 over the last five, according to Spain’s National Statistics Institute – and observers are reporting that the exodus is increasing as the Brexit deadline nears.

“As Brexit fears, uncertainty and doubt begin to bite deeper, a growing number of British expats in Spain are reluctantly considering moving back to the UK,” said Green.

This, he said, is despite Spain still having the same qualities that initially lured them there.

“The ‘pull factors’ that attracted them to Spain in the first place – such as the more relaxed, family-orientated, more outdoors lifestyle, the weather, great schools, and work opportunities – remain intact,” he explained.

“As do the ‘push factors – such as UK’s cost of living, high taxes, low interest rates, the scrapping of some age-related benefits, quality of life, crime concerns and the weather – that encouraged them to relocate.

“This is why it’s so sad. Brexit concerns are potentially forcing them to give up their dreams of living in Spain.”

Why Brits are leaving Spain

Financially, however, there are very realistic reasons for making the return to Britain.

“It’s our experience that most of those who are reluctantly considering such a drastic step are flagging up fears about further devaluations of the pound,” explained Green.

“Of the 300,000 UK nationals officially living in Spain, almost half are over 65.  A further drop in the pound – which has received a monumental bloody nose since the Brexit vote – would be a serious issue for those who receive UK pensions or income in pounds as the cost of living would be considerably more expensive.

“Then there’s the risk that existing payments from British companies, including pension and insurance companies, to those living within the European Economic Area (EEA) could be disrupted. Of course, this would be a major inconvenience to many UK expats.

“In addition, they are highlighting worries about healthcare and residency rights, potential increases in flight costs, and issues about loved ones being easily and cheaply able to visit.”

Financial solutions to living in Spain after Brexit

Despite the factors that make living in Spain after Brexit a challenge, Green argued that there are ways expats can make staying in the country work for them.

“I would suggest that people consider all the options available to them in the first instance, such as the bona fide solutions which offer tax efficiency, peace of mind and low administration issues,” he said.

“In recent months, many expats who were seriously contemplating a move back to the UK have been able to successfully restructure their financial planning to, in fact, capitalise on their expat status to take advantage of the tax privileges and investor protection legislation which exists.”

For expats considering a return to the UK, then, the first step should be to review their financial options to see if living in Spain after Brexit is an option.

“Instead of allowing Brexit concerns now forcing you to quit Spain and the amazing quality of life it offers you and your family, it would be worth first seeing if a revision of your financial affairs is the answer.”

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