Brexit changes lead to exodus of Brits from Spain, UK nationals claim

Costa del Sol beach near Torremolinos.

Costa del Sol beach near Torremolinos. - Credit: PA

British pensioners are being forced out of Spain's Costa del Sol due to changes brought about by Brexit, ex-pats living in the country have said. 

Under new rules introduced on January 1, tourists, including people who have a second home in the country but have not taken up residency, will only be able to spend up to three months out of every six there.

To live in Spain, Britons will now need to show they are earning at least £2,000 per month, with that figure expected to be higher for families.

The BBC reports people will need to show they have an extra £500 a month for each member of the family. For example, a family of four will need to prove they earn a yearly salary of at least £42,000.

British driving licences will also need to be changed to Spanish ones.

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These changes have seen many elderly Britons desert the sunkissed region. 

"Our removal companies have never been busier. Every removal company across this coast has told our team they've never seen a situation like this," Michel Euesden from Rochdale, who runs the Euro Weekly newspaper in Fuengirola, said.

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"It's the first time in 25 years since we started the paper here that we've seen removal companies fully booked going out and coming back in.

"They are taking the elderly and people who haven't had jobs for a while, because of the Covid situation, back to the UK, and then they're bringing back younger generations with disposable income, and often with an online marketing presence, out here. So the dynamics have completely changed."

Longlife friends Jan Miller and Sonia Martin dashed to Spain to register as residents before the new rules kicked in.

They travelled three days over Christmas from Warrington to Malaga and are now living in a small cottage in the mountains with their partners.

"We'd talked about it for years and years," Miller told the BBC. "We were fed up of the same old, same old routine. The same journey to work, same things at work, we wanted something different. And the Brexit rule changes made us go in the end.

"I think it's going to be much harder now from what I've heard… you've got to have more in the bank income-wise, going forward."

Meanwhile, 71-year-old former shipyard worker Eric Anderson, like thousands of fellow "swallows", are now stuck in the UK.

A 'swallow" is a term given to Britons with a second home in Spain who spend the winter in the sun and return to Britain for the summer, 

Spanish Covid rules means Anderson cannot fly. When he can, his time in Spain will be limited.

"I feel badly let down. We paid a mortgage for 20 years to have a holiday home and a retirement bolt-hole for the winter.

"We're limited to just 90 days now, and that's not just for Spain, but anywhere we go in Europe on holiday. Say we cross from Newcastle to the Netherlands, that's counted."

He added: "There's a lot of average working guys that have done exactly what I've done and it's just not going to be possible now. I don't think anyone expected the rug to be pulled from under them so quickly."

There are now more than 360,000 British residents registered in Spain, according to official Spanish figures.

Reflecting on the impact of the changes, Euesden said: "If you're 70 or 80 years old and you don't understand this new system, the new paperwork, the driving licences needing to be switched over, say for example they get ill - what are they going to do?

"I think a lot of people will go back to the country where they speak the language. You no longer have the best of both worlds, and people can't rely on speaking only English to get by."

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