Life after Brexit: What are the issues that worry Brits in Spain the most?

Life after Brexit: What are the issues that worry Brits in Spain the most?

From concerns about healthcare to problems regarding work and residency, a new survey reveals the main worries that are keeping UK nationals living in Spain awake at night, Bremain in Spain head Sue Wilson explains.

Back in April, Bremain in Spain launched a membership survey to investigate which Brexit-related issues were still of concern to our members. The ‘Brexit Impact on Brits Abroad’ working group (BIBA) was established and set to work on designing a survey that would encourage members to share their views and feelings.

The aim of the project was to discover how Brexit was impacting our members lives, employment, families and health, and what were their major concerns going forward. We received over 600 individual testimonies, covering a wide range of topics, with many more members contributing.

Whilst we don’t claim that our survey results represent the views of all, or even the majority, of our members, let alone those of all UK nationals in Spain, the issues raised will be recognisable to many.

Unsurprisingly, healthcare was a topic raised by many of our members. Despite government reassurances, fears of losing the protections afforded by the Withdrawal Agreement, whether likely or not, are very real.

One member, who wished to remain anonymous said, “I am worried that I cannot afford to pay for private medical insurance and will be left without recourse to any medical help at all.” Many others spoke of the effect on their mental health, such as Nicholas Evans, who said that despite feeling prepared and having made all the right arrangements, he still “felt awful” when Brexit actually happened. He said, “it has had a significant negative impact on my mental health. I feel disempowered, abandoned and betrayed.”


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Applications for Spanish residency was another hot topic, especially for those that had been unable to get appointments and were keen to legalise their status. Judith Hughes said, back in April, “I applied for my residency on 23 December, and I am still waiting. It was impossible to book an appointment,” adding “it is difficult to move on so many fronts without having residency” – a point made by many who are unable to process their driving licence applications. I am delighted to be able to report that, as I write this, Judith has finally had her residency application approved. She told me, “I can’t believe it has finally happened. I had started to think it never would. The stress has affected my quality of life. Finally getting my residencia does not take away from the fact that life has been made infinitely more stressful and complicated by Brexit”.

You can read the full article over at The Local The Local

Neither Spain nor the EU are to blame for some Britons having to leave

Neither Spain nor the EU are to blame for some Britons having to leave

Bremain Chair Sue Wilson writes for The

Some 500 Britons are to be deported from Spain, according to claims in the British media. Sue Wilson, from Bremain in Spain responds to the phoney reports and also the false accusations that somehow the Spanish and the EU are to blame for those Britons who might have to return home (but won’t be deported).
If you follow the British media, you’ll have seen numerous articles (see below) about UK nationals about to be deported from Spain or leaving of their own accord, to avoid the risk. Emphasis has been placed on the alleged actions of the Spanish authorities, or the EU in general, rather than the individuals concerned.

Firstly, who is leaving Spain, who is concerned about this issue, and what are the consequences of them overstaying? It’s a broader range of individuals, with a broader range of motivations than you might expect.

Some British people, for a variety of reasons, missed the Brexit deadline of December 31st 2020. If a UK national wasn’t in the country before the end of the transition period, they couldn’t apply for residency under pre-Brexit terms. Anyone applying for residency in this post-Brexit world must meet a more demanding set of criteria and won’t benefit from the protection of the Withdrawal Agreement (WA). However, anyone who can prove they were in Spain before the end of 2020 can still apply for residency under WA terms, even after April 1st, and regardless of whether they’ve already started the application process.

Some UK press reports have included interviews with returning Brits who applied for residency but were denied. In the vast majority of cases, no reasons for these residency refusals were given, so we can only speculate. One thing is for sure: the Spanish authorities have every right to say “no” if their requirements aren’t met.

A large group returning to the UK are the “under radars” – those living in Spain without being legally registered, sometimes for years or even decades. This group draws little sympathy from “resident” Brits who feel they have done the right thing and paid their taxes.

Meanwhile, the reaction from many “under radars” appears to be surprise or shock. There should be no surprise, as they’ve had four years to confirm the requirements and start the residency application process. However, we can’t know everyone’s personal circumstances. Whatever these may be, deciding which country to call home is a tough choice even under the best of circumstances. Now that element of choice has been removed.

Brits were always required to apply for residency after spending three months in Spain, assuming they intended to stay. While we were members of the EU, Spain, and many other EU countries, have taken little action about overstayers. Many people who will become “undocumented” on April 1st clearly think that Spain’s attitude to their presence won’t change, and they can continue to live under the radar. It’s a big risk, considering the consequences – a fine, deportation, and possibly being barred from re-entry into the EU (not just Spain) for up to five years.

Time will tell how this scenario pans out, but overstayers should be aware that they are no longer EU citizens and will be treated as third country nationals. They will face the same immigration policies that apply to citizens of America or Algeria. While third country national rules may be new to Brits, the Spanish authorities have been dealing with them for years. Despite suggestions in the media to the contrary, these rules are not new, and the Spanish, or any other EU government, are not to blame for the position we’ve been put in. They are merely enforcing rules that apply to non-EU members – a consequence of Brexit that the British government, if not all British citizens, would have been very well aware of. Indeed, the British government helped to write those rules.

For Brits in Spain who need to apply for residency, there’s still time. If you can prove that you were living here before December 31st, you can apply and benefit from the WA. You’ll need hard copy proof of where you were living – such as a mortgage or rental agreement – and to show when you arrived in Spain. Even if you haven’t started the process by April 1st, you won’t be classed as an illegal immigrant if you intend to apply for residency or your application is being processed. First-time residency applicants can start the process online, so you can put yourself in the system while awaiting personal appointments.

The British media has claimed 500 people are to be deported when their 90-day visitation period expires on March 31st.

Is that number accurate? It’s probably as accurate as the much-mooted figure of 350,000 Brits residing in Spain – clearly, this was always a significant underestimate of the true number.

With the 90-day rule being applied, and a raft of new residency applications coming forth, we might finally find out how many Brits really did make Spain their home.

A warm welcome to all the newbies!

Spain should stick to its two-dose vaccine strategy

Spain should stick to its two-dose vaccine strategy

Despite problems of supply, Spain is determined to stick to its current strategy of vaccination, prioritising second doses over first, unlike the UK. Columnist Sue Wilson explains why she believes that’s a good thing.
Based on recent arguments between the UK and the EU over vaccine supplies, nationalism has reared its ugly head again. The UK media focused on the EU’s threat to invoke Article 16 of the Northern Ireland protocol and barely mentioned that prime minister, Boris Johnson, had threatened to do the same, in parliament, two weeks previously.

Thankfully, the EU’s mistake was quickly recognised, publicly acknowledged, and reversed. As a result, the EU is now promised supplies from UK factories, to arrive in the first quarter of this year. The irony is lost on Brexiters that the EU threatened the NI border for just five hours, while the UK did the same for five years.

Vaccine supply is an issue for many countries, although less so for the UK. Having approved the use of various vaccines ahead of other countries, the UK was early to sign contracts with vaccine producers. As a result, the UK has rolled out its vaccination programme at a staggering – and for once, actually “world-beating” – pace.

Last weekend, a record-breaking 600,000 people were vaccinated across the UK. This was a phenomenal achievement by any standard, and is thanks to the incredible dedication, planning and hard work of the NHS. I cannot help thinking: how many lives would have been saved by giving the NHS the contracts for other programmes, such as test and trace, rather than handing them to private companies with ties to the Conservative party, and no relevant experience.

Based on announcements about the vaccination programme in Spain, and being in Group 4, I anticipated receiving my first jab around Easter, the second dose by the end of April, and to be immune by the end of May. Although I’m disappointed by the delay, I’m relieved to hear that cancellations for appointments related to supply problems are for the first dose, and not the second.

While the UK boasts about its vaccination rollout, it doesn’t mention those people who are awaiting their second jab. The UK has made a strategic decision to delay the second vaccination for up to 12 weeks, going against scientific advice. The vaccine producers have recommended that the second vaccine is ideally delivered three weeks after the first. Although some leeway exists, it is recommended not to exceed 42 days between doses.

The UK government has unilaterally decided that doubling that time to 84 days is acceptable, safe, and effective, minus any scientific evidence. Every UK care home resident has now been offered their first vaccination, but many have had their second vaccination appointment postponed until further notice – including my elderly mother.

If we consider the picture re first and second doses, on January 30th, the UK had vaccinated 0.72% of the population with their two doses. On January 28th, Spain was close behind, with 0.54% of the population having received a second dose.

You can read the full article over at The Local

Has Covid changed the way we live our lives in Spain forever?

Has Covid changed the way we live our lives in Spain forever?

It’s been a year since the pandemic began to take hold in Spain. Sue Wilson from Bremain in Spain considers how it has marked the way we live our lives and how it changes our hopes for the future.

No matter where you live or what you do, Covid has changed our lives. The same could be said of Brexit, but we knew it was looming and had some idea what to expect. We never saw Covid coming.

It’s over a year since reports of a dangerous virus first emerged from China. The world watched but took differing views of the level of danger or how to combat the spread. Over time, we watched in horror as the pandemic took hold, especially when it came closer to home. When we saw the devastating scenes from Italy – the death toll and overstretched hospitals – it began to feel very real and very scary.

With mixed emotions, we adapted to the strict safety measures introduced by the Spanish authorities. At first, those measures seemed heavy-handed. However, when compared to Britain’s less stringent approach, we started to believe that stronger measures were a necessary evil. Even when the UK eventually imposed a full “lockdown”, many of us in Spain suggested it was nothing of the kind. While we were prohibited even from taking a walk, Brits back home were exercising their right to, well, exercise!


Covid 19

The way we feel about Covid measures – and the actual virus – varies person to person. Our concerns may be based on a number of factors, including our age and our general outlook. Being shut indoors for weeks on end feels different to an introvert than to an extrovert. Being at home with your family is attractive to some yet stressful to others, particularly those with young children.

Lockdown measures worried many professionals working in mental health and domestic violence services. Being forced to stay indoors was sure to have a negative impact, especially on the most vulnerable in society.

The decisions being made by governments all over the world have attracted considerable scrutiny. They are making decisions we wouldn’t wish on our worst enemy, and unsurprisingly, there have been many mistakes. On the whole, the public have been reasonably forgiving when mistakes have been made – this is, after all, a new and devastating virus, and we are all learning how best to deal with it. What is unforgiveable is to witness governments – the UK in particular – repeating the same mistakes over and over and shirking any responsibility for their actions. Rather, it’s never their fault – it’s usually the fault of the British public.

You can read the article in full over at The Local

Britons in Spain will need to get used to life without Cheddar

Britons in Spain will need to get used to life without Cheddar

Brexit means it will be difficult to source our favourite Cheddar, writes cheese-addict Sue Wilson of Bremain in Spain.

As Brits across Europe adjust to a new, post-Brexit reality, the consequences of leaving the EU are gradually revealing themselves to the British public.

So far, most issues haven’t affected Brits living in Spain directly. Whether it’s cries of betrayal from the fishing industry, or businesses concerned re the bureaucracy – and cost – of exporting to Europe, the main impact has been felt by Brits in Britain, not those in Europe.   

However, we have experienced some teething problems of our own – especially related to travel and ordering goods from the UK.

This week, Dutch border guards had a joke at the expense of Brexit, confiscating sandwiches from British travellers. While many extremists jumped to the easy and false conclusion that EU countries are punishing Brits for Brexit, the answer was far simpler: they were applying EU law and border control. Taking back control of their borders, if you wis


You might not care a fig for post Brexit fishing policy, or EU companies being forced to collect VAT for the British government, but one thing the Brits do care about is good old British food!

The Dutch border incident highlighted the issues that British travellers will face should they attempt to import foodstuffs to any EU country. That includes bringing our favourite foods back from the UK.

You can read the article in full over at The Local.

How Brexit is delivering unpleasant surprises for Brits in Spain

How Brexit is delivering unpleasant surprises for Brits in Spain

Already a week into the New Year, Sue Wilson considers that aside from the large-scale losses brought by Brexit – freedom to live and work across the EU – it’s the smaller losses that are now causing concern.

Last week, as we bid goodbye to the worst year most of us could remember, we dared to hope that 2021 would be better. After all, it could hardly be any worse. Just one week in and our resolve is certainly being tested with plenty of fresh concerns to cause us stress.

Thankfully, with the ongoing Spanish Covid situation, we have reasons to be hopeful. Although cases and death rates remain a concern, they are falling, and compliance with government rules is generally high. By contrast, the UK continues to break records for the number of new cases daily, and that’s before the impact of Christmas mingling is assessed.

International travel has been problematic throughout the Covid crisis. For Brits, it has recently become even worse. This week, we have seen British nationals denied entry to Spain and other European countries, as border control officials questioned whether the travellers were valid EU residents with essential travel needs. Hopefully, with the swift intervention of Spanish authorities and the British Embassy, the problem has largely been resolved.

Many Brits in Spain are still struggling to get their affairs in order, and the lack of appointments for residencia and driving licence applications is contributing to stress levels. Add to that the continuing uncertainties surrounding Brexit, and it’s no surprise that we are still reeling.

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Even after Brexit is supposedly all over, much remains unresolved, leaving room for unpleasant surprises. Although an oversimplified generalisation, it would be fair to say that those that voted to remain are less surprised than those that voted to leave. Many leave voters were expecting – indeed, were promised – that nothing would change. They were misled that our rights, freedoms and benefits would remain the same, regardless of Britain’s EU membership status.

With the Withdrawal Agreement agreed a year ago, it was clear that some things were going to change for the worse. However, the scale of change was unclear to many. Aside from the large-scale losses – such as our freedom to live, work or study in any EU country – the smaller losses are now causing concern.

With our travel prospects limited, we won’t immediately be aware of all the ways our lives will change. It is too soon to say how the sterling/euro exchange rate might be affected long-term. The pound is worth about the same today as it was a month ago, even despite a Brexit deal being agreed. Seems the markets didn’t think it was that good a deal after all.

You can read the full article over at The Local