Prime Minister Boris Johnson managed to reach a miraculous deal with the EU on Christmas Eve, just days before the end of the transition period. This was expected to build on the security the withdrawal agreement created for many expats living across the continent, which protected UK citizens as long as they were workers, students or financially self-sufficient or already have the right of permanent residence. As the Gov.uk website explains: “If you were legally resident in Spain before January 1, 2021, you will be able to stay. “You must ensure you are correctly registered as a resident.”
After living in the EU country for five years, Britons who were in Spain before the transition period ended can apply for permanent residence.
However, just days after the UK cut all ties with the EU, expats already began experiencing difficulties entering Spain.
UK nationals hoping to return to their Spanish homes were prevented from boarding their flights as airlines claimed their proof of residency documents were now invalid.
Spain banned all travel from the UK — except for nationals and British citizens with residency rights — after the outbreak of the new coronavirus variant.
This rejection came despite Spanish and British officials agreeing that a certificate proving EU citizenship with a foreign national identification number, issued by Spain, is valid for Britons.
According to Dispatches Europe, there is no protection for UK nationals arriving in Spain in 2021 at the moment.
However, Spain was the first country to provide UK residents new cards to document their long-term residence status.
Spain is also one of the most popular EU destinations for British expats — so was expected to have a firm system in place for its growing UK community.
Vice President of the EuroCitizens lobby group, Camilla Hillier-Fry, said: “Official records from the UK Embassy say there are about 300,000 Brits resident in Spain.
“But unofficial figures show it’s probably more than a million.”
German news outlet Deutsche Welle explained: “For the next generation of British holiday homeowners in Spain, the UK’s divorce from the EU could bring along more difficult choices.”
Britons with holiday apartments in Spain can no longer rent them out or use them easily unless they want to acquire Spanish citizenship.
Ms Hillier-Fry said: “Like many others, I was forced to give up my British citizenship.
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“I think it would be better for Spain to finally make it possible to have two passports like in Britain.”
Yet, Spain has not granted any dual citizenship to foreigners, even though supporters believe it would encourage more to flock to the country to reside.
Business consultant Raisa Venermo told Deutsche Welle: “Under Spain’s so-called golden visa programme, which is similar to that in Portugal, investors who spent more than €500,000 [£451,000] on Spanish properties since 2013, or are willing to do so in future, have a right to claim resident status.”
It’s also worth noting that the country has promised British expats will have access to the same rights in Spain if the UK extends the same rights to Spaniards in the UK.
Dispatches Europe claimed: “Concerns about their citizens in the UK have countries from Spain and Portugal to Poland making clear that ultimately, they’ll allow Brits to stay only if there is reciprocity and their citizens get settled status.”
Spaniards have been granted settled status in the UK, but until Spain permits dual citizenship many expats are likely to continue struggling to adapt post-Brexit.