Spain: Expert explains ‘repercussions’ for British expats in 2021
British expats in Spain are furious with the EU, laying the blame for the hated 90-day rule squarely on Brussels.
It comes as a number of European nations have signalled that they would be willing to relax the rule or even completely lift it in order to allow Britons to stay in their countries for longer.
Members of the French Senate voted to amend the country’s immigration law earlier this month, though President Emmanuel Macron is known not to agree with his colleagues.
Ministers in Spain have also voiced similar desires to ease their immigration laws for Britons, important for their country where up to a million British expats are thought to own property.
But the true power lies with the EU, and one expat raged at Brussels in an interview with Express.co.uk, saying the outfit wouldn’t help because it was out for “revenge” for Brexit.
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“A lot of people think that it’s Spain [not helping with the 90-day rule”, said Tony Reddin, owner of Come Buy With Me real estate agency on the Costa Del Sol.
“But it’s not Spain, it’s Brussels. It’s Brussels getting their own back.”
The 90-day rule was borne out of the Brexit vote. Before, UK citizens could stay anywhere in the EU indefinitely, including Schengen Area countries like Spain and France, without needing a visa for a holiday or to conduct business.
So-called swallows — British expats who would spend the summer in Britain and winter in Spain — can no longer live their seasonal lifestyles without residency in their second country, citizenship, or an EU passport.
Just days after the French Senate vote, Spain’s acting Minister of Tourism Hector Gomez hinted that those in his government similarly wanted to work with the EU towards an “exception”.
He said: “Unfortunately, the rule is not something Spain has established by itself or can get rid of. It is in our interest to lobby and convince the EU that we can try to work an exception with them. But the solution must come from them.”
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The EU acts to lay down the conditions governing entry into and legal residence in a Member State, although Member States have the right to determine the number of admissions for people coming from third countries like the UK to seek work.
Ultimately, any decision to extend the 90-day rule rests with the EU, not the country in question.
It has resulted in a whole host of problems and conditions, some of which the likes of Mr Reddin believe are wholly unfair.
He said: “Why is it that someone from Europe can go to the UK and spend six months there in one go, and yet they won’t reciprocate it? It’s totally ridiculous.”
Under the UK’s new points-based immigration system, EU nationals can continue to visit the UK without applying for a visa, and in most cases can stay up to half a year.
The small window of opportunity for UK citizens to visit Schengen Area countries has also affected expats’ pursestrings.
Under Spanish law, the concept of a part-year resident does not exist, meaning an individual is either resident or non-resident and is taxed as such for the entire tax year.
The majority of Britons who own property in Spain will fall under the resident class, though are without the privilege of being able to stay in the country for more than 90 days.
It means many have found themselves paying full tax on their property despite only being able to stay in their second homes for less than half the year.
There are huge obstacles to amending the 90-day rule for the likes of Spain and France. Both governments first have to agree among themselves that it is the right thing to ratify the rules.
They then must take the proposal to the EU, with any such amendments needed to be voted on by all 28 members of the EU before they become official.
Bill Anderson, the first-ever Briton to serve on Mijas Council in Murcia, said he hoped that Spain would ease the rule but didn’t believe the EU would pay attention to the needs of a few individual states over the bloc as a whole.
“The EU is a very strange beast, and it is concerned about Europe as a whole and not necessarily about individual countries,” he told Express.co.uk.
“For countries like Spain, and also France, I’m not sure they will make a special rule that will be just to the benefit of those countries.”
Do you think it’s fair that British expats in Spain pay full tax despite being part-time residents? Vote in our poll here.
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