Boris Johnson 'needs to step up for British expats' says expert
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After the UK left the EU on January 31 last year, an 11-month Brexit transition period was put in place. During the transition period, EU law still applied in the UK, and the country was still treated as a member of the 27-nation bloc. However, British nationals, including those overseas in countries such as Spain, are now seen as “third country” citizens by Brussels. More than 360,000 British people have Spanish residency, while thousands more are thought to reside in the country unregistered.
Since Brexit, holidaymakers and other travellers from the UK who are not Spanish residents can only visit Spain for up to 90 days at a time in any 180-day period.
Longer stays require visas, causing difficulties for the thousands of British second homeowners, some of whom would previously spend up to six months at a time in Spain.
British expat Bill Anderson, 63, who moved to Spain in 2002, has told Express.co.uk that amid Brexit and the COVID-19 pandemic, some Brits are now returning to the UK.
The Scot, who is a councillor for Spain’s Partido Popular, lives in Mijas on the Costa del Sol.
He said: “A lot of people, their businesses have either gone bust or they’re just not earning enough from them to make a living.
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“They’ve decided, ‘the dream’s over, let’s go back to the UK’.
“But I’ve also known a number of elderly people, some who have been widowed, male or female, and have decided ‘I don’t want to be here on my own anymore’.
“They don’t speak the language in many cases, they feel isolated, they feel that they’ve got a problem that they can’t communicate.
“So, they’re going back to the UK where they feel more secure and more comfortable with dealing with any problems that they have.”
Mr Anderson acknowledged the impact of the pandemic in Spain, which imposed stricter lockdown measures than the UK.
He said: “I do know of one or two families who have moved back to the UK because of, not Brexit primarily, but really to do with COVID.
“Basically, their businesses have gone bust, and they have more support structure in the UK from family and friends.
“I think the businesses haven’t been able to support themselves.”
Some British businesses in Spain have permanently closed their doors amid the combined effects of Brexit and COVID-19.
One issue has been the red tape that the EU has slapped on products imported into Spain from the UK.
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In some cases, this has caused huge delays and added to the costs for British businesses.
Mr Anderson said: “I know a number of families over the last few years who have gone back they’ve worked very hard to try and earn a living down here
“Especially on the Costa del Sol, where people think paying you €1,000 is a good salary when it costs you €800 to rent an apartment.
“So, making a living down here for a long time has not been easy.”
Meanwhile, COVID-19 travel restrictions also hit UK tourism to Spain last year, causing significant losses for businesses in the country, which rely on British trade.
However, there are signs of a rebound, with more than five million international travellers entering Spain in August 2021, according to the latest Government figures.
The increase of 172 percent compared to the same month last year saw Brits emerge as the biggest market, with the number of UK travellers having tripled compared to August 2020.
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