Brexit: British expats in Spain share their thoughts on leaving EU
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As the UK officially left the EU back in January, Brexit put an end to the free movement of persons between the bloc and Britain. Britons living in an EU member state before January 1 were able to reside there under the Withdrawal Agreement.
Hundreds of unregistered British citizens in Spain could be hit by new EU rules limiting visa-free visits to just six months.
However, reports Spain was planning a mass deportation of unregistered Britons were squashed by the Spanish interior ministry.
He said: “Following the UK’s departure from the European Union, and in accordance with the Brexit agreement with EU countries and international conventions, British citizens are subject to the same rules as citizens of other third-party countries.
“Like any other third-country citizens, the maximum period they can stay in Spain is three months – unless they have a work, study or another kind of visa that allows them to stay longer.”
This comes after a small exodus began last week as expats – including some whose applications for residency have been rejected – started to head back to Britain to beat Wednesday’s deadline.
Sue Wilson, the chair of Bremain in Spain, a group campaigning for the rights of British migrants living in Spain, claimed people face a 90-day deadline to leave the country.
She said: “These are people who have been flying under the radar for a long time when they should have registered their residence in the country and didn’t for whatever reason.
“If they are unable to prove they were resident before December 31 and get entitlement to remain in Spain, they now face a 90-day deadline to leave the country.
“Many are still planning to do the same and think the Spanish will either turn a blind eye or will take time to get their act together to enforce the law.
“But they are kidding themselves.
“These rules are rules that have applied to third-country nationals for years and the Spanish authorities have no catching up to do.”
Another British national in Spain said people are anxious over having to choose their formal country of residence.
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They told the Guardian: “If they remain in Spain, they have to become an official resident and might be worried about their rights to go home to access the NHS for example.
“For them, it is crunch time.”
Michele Euesden, the Marbella-based managing director of the Euro Weekly newspaper, added: “Some people are frightened of the consequences if they overstay and are afraid if there is another lockdown they won’t be able to leave and come back again and visit because they will be known to the authorities.”
One Brexit voter, Shaun Cromber, said he did not believe Brexit would end his Spanish lifestyle.
He said: “Yes I voted out, but I didn’t realise it would come to this.
“My application has been rejected and we are on our way home – my wife is in tears, she’s distraught if I’m honest and I’m not too happy at the prospect of returning back to the UK.
“I’ve loved living on the Costa del Sol and after five years can’t believe it has come to this.
“We applied but got rejected and so have no choice, although long term I think the Spanish will regret chucking us out of Spain.”
Spanish government guidelines state: “Stays in Spain cannot exceed 90 days in an 180-day period, whether in a single visit or various visits.
“Britons need to use their passports for identification purposes and will be exempt from visas.”
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