The fallout from Brexit is still raining down on millions of people, not least Britons who own second homes in Mallorca and Spain in general. Now that Britons have got their residency certificates or TIE cards in order, many face another hurdle which has the potential of being extremely damaging to the lifestyle of thousands of Britons, relations between Spain and the UK governments and the Spanish economy.
As the UK is no longer a member of the EU, and with no alternative arrangements in place yet, it is considered a “third country” and therefore many of the rights Britons enjoyed in the past have been lost - in particular the right to the freedom of movement. UK citizens had previously been free to travel in the EU and live there. They also had the right to not be discriminated against and to be treated as a national in each EU member state, whatever their nationality.
Post-Brexit, while Britons do still have the right to stay in the Spain without a visa for 90 days, in a rolling 180, this presents a problem for people who usually stay in Mallorca for 3-6 months in total over the year. Furthermore, the allowance is shared between 26 Schengen zone countries (which includes four countries not even in the EU). Andrew Hesselden has launched a number of campaigns to challenge and see that this is changed, at least in Spain.
Andrew, who is in his early 40s, has a home in Mallorca and spends a lot of time in London, where he is based in Canary Wharf. He divides his time between the two places, spending as much time in Mallorca as life allows. But with Covid this year, it has been impractical to travel back and forth as often as he would have liked.
He loves the island and has made many friends here. Andrew is fluent in Spanish and German and speaks six languages in total. He studied modern languages at university and always believed his career and life would be centred around living and working in Europe.
He was keen to stress that he did not vote for Brexit and believes that the UK was much better off in the EU and that London went about it in a way which didn’t respect all citizens’ rights. As a result, he does not believe there is a public majority in favour of Brexit today.
He has launched a number of campaigns to try to convince the Spanish and British governments to correct serious mistakes which have been made, such as the 90-day rule, which is affecting part-year residents and causing Britons currently in Mallorca a great deal of concern and even forcing some on the mainland to sell up and return to the UK.
Andrew represents two large groups of part-year residents who have made the most of true freedom of movement as it was intended by the Maastricht Treaty (by this he means live/work/study/retirement rights, not just for holidays and not full-time-forever migration either). “Some of these are retired and don’t need work rights, but an increasing number are younger and want to be able to continue to work in Spain and across Europe too (seasonal workers, writers, consultants, creative people etc.) Young people want to experience new cultures and move around these days.
“All of these part-year residents want to keep enjoying a life in Mallorca, contributing whatever they can to the island. It’s probably good for Mallorca too as it recovers from Covid, because this long-stay hybrid resident tourism is probably lower risk and is a little more stable than classic seasonal one-to-two week tourism."
But as a result of correspondence with in Madrid and London, Andrew has realised two important things.
Firstly, many Spaniards are unaware, understandably, of the full implications of Brexit, such as the 90-day trap and the loss of the right to free travel, which seems not to have hit home yet. Secondly, the disregard London has for second home or holiday home owners in the EU, terminology he hates, and would prefer to use “regular part-year residents”.
“We don’t all call ourselves holiday-homers. Nor second-homers. It’s a home for many of us. Not under the radar, properly registered and legally residing,” he stressed. I want to dispel the classic stereotype. The old-fashioned image of a British expatriate drinking lager in the sun is not the reality nowadays, especially among younger people (we are younger, well-skilled, well-educated, digital workers, freelancers etc. - we are Europeans).
“For the first time in history, Covid has made it possible to embrace remote working and Spanish islands like the Canaries and Balearics are well positioned to take advantage of that new kind of long-stay visitor.
He also warned that the 90-day trap could dissuade Britons from remote working in the EU/Mallorca in favour of other destinations. This would be much to the detriment of the local economy because of all the benefits an influx of young skilled Britons and their families would bring to the island as it looks to build a new roadmap for the future which is not so dependent on short-stay tourism.
“They should be also thinking long-stay tourism, such as property owners, and I am talking across the board, not just the wealthy. Some will have set up businesses over the past few years and employ local staff. They need to regularly come and go or spend long periods of time in Mallorca for professional reasons.
“Not everyone who makes a home in a second country is obscenely rich. Rents in places like London are so high that young people might choose to keep a small flat in London but have a bigger house somewhere cheaper that gives them a better lifestyle, like Spain. People might choose to have two smaller places to live, rather than one larger house in the UK. Freedom of movement made that possible, but all of a sudden it’s been taken away, or at least made extremely complicated and expensive.
“Plus, it’s not fair. My main campaign ‘180 days in Spain’ is mainly for people who have a home in Spain but keep one foot in the UK (all kinds of people including part-year residents, second home owners, holiday homers and retirees).
“Some planned to retire in Spain in future and it’s helpful to think of them essentially as being part way through a ten-year-moving process. They had always expected to be protected by the Withdrawal Agreement and are sad to find this isn’t certain. They mostly want to keep their ties to the UK for family reasons (they have elderly parents, or grandchildren, etc.) but like to spend as much time as possible in Spain enjoying the culture and warmer weather. We think the restaurant businesses in Spain in the coastal regions in particular will miss this group of people if they stop coming or sell up.
“Some people say these people should just buy visas, but the real issue with getting visas for three to six months is the lengthy and complex process and the incredibly high cost (in the region of €700+ for a non-lucrative visa in Spain plus a three-month wait without your passport). Furthermore, the system and process is not designed for someone who needs to buy a new one each year. It’s far less complicated to settle permanently in Spain than it is to try and spend three to six months in Spain each year and repeat the process every year. And Spanish people don’t have to do this in the UK.
“This group wants Spain to allow British people to have up to six months in total in Spain at any point during the year (in addition to their time in the rest of the Schengen zone) without needing a visa or stamping passports, which would match exactly what the UK is now offering Spanish citizens.
“We are lobbying the UK government to formally ask Spain on our behalf as well the Madrid national government and regional governments. We are asking for help from the tourism industry too in order to make our case. The other campaign is for British multi-country residents/owners/workers/retirees affected by Brexit.
“This group mainly comprises people who have made homes in one or more EU countries and still need the right to work across other countries in Europe, but who have been forgotten by the UK-EU Withdrawal Agreement which only protects people in ONE country and ONLY if they spend at least six months there. Countries are free to improve on this if they wish to. This group includes a number of young seasonal workers who might spend the winter in the Alps and the summer in the Mediterranean resorts.
“The group would like Spain to allow all British people legally residing before 31 December 2020 and with a Certificado de Registro or Brexit TIE card to be allowed to stay whenever they want to in future without needing a visa. You could call this a 'lifetime right of return for anyone who has ever before lived/worked/studied or retired in Spain prior to 31 December 2020',
“The people I represent did not vote for Brexit, for the most part (far too much press coverage at the moment, assumes we voted for it and are now just moaning about the awful consequences that now hit third country citizens). Remember that in number terms, only 26% of the UK population actually voted for Brexit.
“The British government has let its own citizens down. British people with lives/business connected with Europe are the victims of a British government that hasn’t listened and has left them ‘high and dry’ in the negotiations, unlike the EU that prioritised citizens’ rights at every stage.
“I suppose I am also slightly justified in feeling a tiny bit let down by the EU, who I thought would act unilaterally to protect British people in this situation. I understand why they haven’t but I still feel let down because we have been EU citizens for 47 years ... unlike other third country citizens. What is more, at the referendum, Britons overseas were not allowed to vote, nor most EU citizens in the UK, but Commonwealth residents in the UK were. What did Brexit have to do with, for example, South Africans or Australians? The people most impacted were largely excluded.
“The Czech Republic is working on a bilateral deal with Britain to remove the 3-6 month problem and let registered residents stay forever. France is looking into and making obtaining visas, etc. easier and Portugal is reported to be allowing all Brits to stay 180 days in Portugal, where they have also seen there is a serious problem which needs to be rectified. And it can be. We just hope that the UK and Spain soon wake up to what has happened and the full implications and resolve the issue which is going to become a nightmare for thousands of Britons in the Balearics and across Spain and the EU as a whole.
“Third country rules and visas may work for now for Australians or Americans; they’re coming a long way and are either tourists or settled here, but for Britons just a just a 2 hour flight away who are used to coming and going at their leisure, for whatever reasons, it’s all over, for the time being at least.
“I travel around Europe regularly for business and leisure but now, every time I enter and exit a EU country, British passports are stamped to keep track of how many days we spend in entire 26-country Schengen zone. These all reduce the days we can spend at our homes here in Mallorca. This has got to be resolved and sooner rather than later.
“This year, for example, young people wishing to ‘work the season’ in Mallorca or elsewhere in Spain will have to apply for work permits and visas. It’s not going to do local economies and businesses any favours. A Spaniard can go to the UK and stay for six months as a tourist. Should they wish to stay longer without paying for visas, all they have to do, in theory, is leave the country for a day and then return for another six months. We just want reciprocation.
“Experts on EU law in France have made it clear that bilateral agreements can be made, providing the will is there. Some already exist for USA and NZ citizens. I and my supporters will keep working to make sure that Madrid and London understand the issue and find a solution.”