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Brexit: British ‘expats’ in Spain facing deportation over residency

British ex-pats enjoy a drink in Benidorm, May 2020 - Credit: Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images

Problems are mounting for thousands of Britons in Spain and the rest of Europe who chose not to apply for residency after Brexit

It has been a gloomy week on the sunlit uplands of sovereign Britain… and also in the parts of Europe where UK ex-pats (because people are only called ‘migrants’ when they don’t look like us) have settled and are now facing huge headaches.

The pain to the brain is mainly felt in Spain, home to 285,000 of the 485,000 Brits in the EU. Those who have failed to register their residency must now pay an extra 5% income tax – 24% to 19% – compared to EU nationals and have been told they must obey the ‘90 in 180’ rule. That means, like ordinary tourists, they can only stay in the country for 90 days within every 180-day period.

Ex-pats who stay under the radar and chance it “face potential deportation or a ban from the country should they outstay their welcome,” said tax lawyer  Leon Fernando Del Canto. “There is zero leeway.” 

Reports also continue of Britons who thought they were safe – like Jay Elliott, 66, and Lily Higgins, 71, who had been in the country for five years apiece – being accused of faulty paperwork and warned that in the event of an unsuccessful appeal, they will have to pack up and leave for good.

Brits in the Canary Islands have been turned away from vaccine centres – incorrectly, say the Spanish government – for not having a public health card, with John McKenzie, 42, who has diabetes and a heart condition, claiming to have been denied a jab four times in his local health centre in El Sauzal, Tenerife.

Elsewhere in Europe, over 100,000 ex-pats face becoming undocumented migrants on July 1 after failing to apply for settled status in the 13 EU countries that did not grant automatic residency to British citizens who were already living there when the UK waved its two-fingered goodbye to the bloc. Some 25,000 are thought to be in France, but the list also includes Belgium, Denmark, Malta and the Netherlands.

Those who don’t manage to complete the application process in time are likely to lose access to services including healthcare, a devastating prospect since many of them are in the later stages of life.

Of course, those 100,000 might just be tempted to come home temporarily for surgery, or just return to Britain for good. Some 8,000 have already done that in the last year.

Now, what was that about Brexit stopping health tourism and mass migration to the UK?

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