With slow progress being made on the negotiations over Brexit, and the possibility of a transitionary period being implemented to soften the landing both for Europe and for Britain, the landscape is changing and the position of ex-pats in Spain has different ramifications. Let us inform you on how the latest round of negotiations will affect ex-pats in Spain and how you can prepare for the worst.
Spain is the biggest holder of UK nationals with around 319,000 holding a permanent residency card in Spain. One of the main reasons for this is the ease of access to the job markets in Spain and also access to local infrastructure such as healthcare. Healthcare is set to be one of the key bargaining chips in the negotiations from the Spanish perspective; without assurances from the UK government that Spanish residents in the UK will have full access to local services, it is probable that the response will be to have UK retirees in Spain pay for their healthcare.
Currently, negotiations in Brussels are based around 22 pages of proposals from the UK government. There is no evidence either way to say if there will be a deal or not, though with the Labour party yesterday cementing their preference for a hard Brexit, negotiations are going to be tougher and residency is likely to come into play.
The proposal from the UK government would see the removal of rights from EU nationals residing in the UK, where the EU proposal simply seeks to maintain the rights of expats across Europe.
In the case that Britain’s terms are agreed, and that foreign nationals are required to re-apply for what is pencilled-in as a “settled” status, the same would be required for UK nationals abroad in a reciprocal Brexit deal. This means you would, regardless your current status, have to reapply to your local council within 2 years of separation from the EU (provided there is no transition period in place, which would allow for more time).
The legal rights have been laid out formally in the official Brexit proposal from the UK government. Noteworthy is the rhetorically voiced point 3 of the summary.
This is an important consideration, as foreign offices will be put under huge pressure to re-evaluate the status of all residents, in the south of Spain and Valencia are likely to be inundated with reapplication from citizens with existing residency permits. Keep yourself up to date on this at the UK Citizens Advice Bureau.
There are concerns regarding London’s status as the global capital of banking, insurance and FinTech which senior Brexit politicians seem to be ignoring, the proposal of a tax on business employing foreign nationals is making the City appear less internationally focused and is only working to cement companies’ decisions to carry out due-diligence in seeking offices in the continent in established financial cities such as Frankfurt and Luxembourg.
The Spanish government has assembled a team of experts in the financial sectors to study and promote the opportunities for London financial services companies to move to Spain. There are clear advantages in Madrid, with low property prices and a growing financial portfolio in La Castellana, both JP Morgan and Swiss Bank have outlined in recent reports that Madrid is one of their considerations.
Over 1,000,000 are people employed in finance in London, and a tenth of these are foreign nationals. With a rise in FinTech and a shortage of talent in programming and software, companies will be looking to take advantage of Brexit by lowering costs and remaining part of the single market. The proposals above, which will re-evaluate foreign nationals’ eligibility to reside in the UK (possibly according to a points system and a capped net migration figure), is only going to make corporate relocation from London to the EU all the more attractive.
The opportunity for Madrid is big, and if it can entice companies to make the move, it stands to benefit not only from increased investment directly but also from the growth of FinTech companies and other financial sector services around an enlarged banking hub. This will also provide an opportunity for existing residents in Spain with an increase in employment opportunities in and around a new financial market.
That the House of Commons is working only to help this happen, is astounding.
The Spanish healthcare system is state of the art and guarantees emergency healthcare to those who need it, this will not change after Brexit regardless of the outcome. It is for non-emergency medical care that the legal position of UK foreign nationals is in doubt. The reciprocal healthcare deal currently in place under EU law means that the rights of EU citizens are easy to implement, even in the cases of pensioners who are not paying into the local tax authorities, these costs are recuperated by the Spanish government and further costs are recovered due to a 60% payment towards prescriptions from pensioners receiving more than €100,000 annually.