Britons living in Spain now have to prove they have an income of at least £2,000 per month and even more for families. Households will need to show they have an extra £500 a month for each member of the family so a family of four will need to prove they bring in at least £42,000 a year.
Changes to freedom of movement rules are also likely to have a huge impact on tourists, particularly people who have second homes in Spain but have not taken up residency.
They can no longer come and go as they please and are now only allowed to spend up to three months out of every six there.
UK pensioner Eric Anderson said he was currently unable to visit his second home in Spain because of coronavirus travel restrictions but said even when he can his time will be limited under the new post-Brexit system.
The 71-year-old former shipyard worker from Newcastle said: “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.
“So you’re already being restricted by time to come back into the UK.”
Mr Anderson continued: “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 more than 360,000 British residents registered in Spain but the many elderly Britons are already packing their cases and returning to the UK.
Three charities – Age in Spain, Babelia and the International Organisation for Migration – are offering legal help, or assistance in arranging appointments, for people struggling with the Spanish language, those in remote areas and people with disabilities.
Ex-pat Michel Euesden, who runs the Euro Weekly newspaper in the resort town of Fuengirola, told the BBC: “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.
“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.”
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She continued: “So the dynamics have completely changed. We have traditionally been a community here of ex-pats who are on average 50-plus.
“Last year it changed, and the average age was 45. If you come over in 12 months, it’ll be more like an average age of 35.
“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.”