Britons in Spain and France confused about post-Brexit future

Pedro Gonçalves
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Britons in Spain and France confused about post-Brexit future

British expats in Spain and France are confused and worried about what Brexit now means for their future, with poor support and communication from British and local authorities to blame.

That is the key finding of a new report by the research team "Brexit Brits Abroad", which draws on research conducted during 2017-20 with UK nationals living in the two EU member states.

"The UK government, and those of other countries, were slow off the mark in thinking about how they might communicate with Britons in the EU about how they should best prepare themselves for the future,"  Michaela Benson, one of the authors of the report, told Brussels Times.

The effect of this for British citizens living across Europe has been a continued feeling that they are nobody’s responsibility but their own"

"The effect of this for British citizens living across Europe has been a continued feeling that they are nobody's responsibility but their own," she added.

Between 300,000 and 1 million British people live for at least some of the year in Spain, while approximately 150,000 live in France, making the countries home to the two largest populations of UK nationals in the EU.

"They feel let down by the UK Government, while their encounters with the French state, often in local municipal offices, have created further confusion as local officers similarly find themselves lacking in the relevant information to give appropriate advice. This has left Britons in France with a sense that they are nobody's responsibility but their own," Benson said.

Many Britons in Spain were not officially registered as Spanish residents, partly because different Spanish local authorities have interpreted free movement policies differently. The situation is exacerbated because Spain does not allow dual nationality for Britons.

For years, the British and Spanish authorities have treated the British community in Spain as "long-term tourists",  Karen O'Reilly, a sociology professor at Loughborough University told The Guardian, adding: "Neither the UK government, nor the Spanish government, nor the EU are taking proper responsibility for these people. They suffer from a triple absence."

Portugal is considering offering British tourists subsidised post-Brexit healthcare in an effort to retain their custom in the Algarve, Lisbon and beyond.

Meanwhile, blue passports will be issued for the first time in almost three decades from next month to mark Britain's departure from the EU, the government has announced.

They will replace the standard-issue burgundy passports that were rolled out across EU countries from 1988.