BRITS living in homes in Spain between 3 and 6 months have launched a campaign asking the Spanish government to reconsider the post-Brexit rules.
Since the UK left the European Union, thousands of Brits have been forced to choose between either Spain or the UK, or else be limited to only spending 90 days there in a rolling 6-month period, in the entire 26-country Schengen zone.
Diane Lavender, 70, who has owned a second home in Andalusia for 15 years, said the rules are ‘shambolic’ and ‘unfair’.
Originally from Wales, Diane and her husband typically spend up to six months of the year in Estepona spread across various visits but said she now feels that their freedom to move between their two homes has ‘been completely taken away’.
She told the Olive Press: “We’ve had 11 flights cancelled this year because of COVID which has obviously made it a lot more difficult for us to travel.
“Luckily we have started our residency process but we still feel as though we are on tenterhooks.
“We are choosing Spain for now but we don’t know what will happen if we are absent for too much of the year.”
“Our rights have been completely taken away.”
The retired couple is at pains to insist that it is not just Brits who are suffering from the 90-day limit.
“It’s bad for everyone,” said Diane. “We want to be able to live in our homes without limitations and the Spanish bars and shops rely on Brits to spend their money here in the winter months. It is in everyone’s interest if we can come to a better agreement.
“It’s heartbreaking to see Spain so quiet and so many businesses being forced to close.
“Thousands of Brits chose to go home at the end of March because of the new rules and in my opinion, Spanish businesses are really suffering.
Diane said Estepona, where she has been residing since last year, has become ‘a ghost town’.
“Everywhere is deserted and empty,” she said. “I could sit and weep.”
“It’s the UK government that has really let us down here …and Spain is suffering as a result.
“We were promised that nothing would change and that couldn’t be further from the truth.”
Andrew Hesselden, a remainer who launched the campaign group ‘180 days in Spain’ to help people who have a home in Spain but also want to keep one foot in the UK, agrees.
Andrew told the Olive Press: “I think the UK gov probably intended for this to be resolved via many bilateral agreements in the years to come, but in the rush to ‘Get Brexit Done’, it left most of Brexit Undone.”
The 40-year-old, who has a home in Mallorca, created the group which now boasts nearly 2000 members across Spain to find a solution for part-year residents.
He said: “The purpose of the campaign group is really for the people who cannot spend the six months here but who don’t want to have their 180 days of allowance spread out over the year nor shared with 26 other countries.”
Andrew added that while retired expats are perhaps more able to adapt to the new 90-day rule, he’s concerned for the young professionals whose careers rely on freedom of movement across the EU.
He believes that many Brits who were waiting for Boris to negotiate a deal for Brits in Spain were blindsided by the results of the Brexit TCA deal in December.
Andrew says “We could have retained Freedom of Movement. Losing it never was an inevitable consequence of Brexit and a Norway-style EEA Brexit would have resulted in almost no loss of rights to any UK or EU/EEA/Swiss Citizens at all. Even today, simple solutions exist that would restore Freedom of Movement for everyone, or resolve this issue for part-year residents”
“It is about protecting people’s current lifestyle and securing equal reciprocation from Spain for the sake of those who always dreamed of a partial-life in Spain in future.
Andrew is now campaigning for the national and regional governments in Spain for a change to the tourist rules to allow UK citizens to travel freely and/or to use their homes in Spain for 180 days in any 365 day period, whenever they want, separately and in addition to any allowance that may be given in or shared across any other Schengen zone countries.
“This is simply to match what the UK is already giving to Spanish citizens visiting the UK,” he said. “What we are really asking for is the Spanish government’s generosity, it is beneficial to both parties that this is resolved. This is just about treating human beings fairly. No individual deserves to suffer”.
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