BRITISH homeowners in Spain are bolstering their campaign to change the 90-day rule following David Cameron’s appointment as foreign secretary.
Campaigners are more ‘hopeful’ of bringing back some form of freedom of movement after the europhile was sensationally brought back into government as part of Rishi Sunak’s cabinet reshuffle this month.
The 180 Days In Spain group is planning to apply pressure on the former prime minister in the hopes of securing new concessions that will allow Brits to spend more than 90 days at a time in the Schengen area.
The group will be calling on Cameron to follow in the footsteps of France, which looks set to relax visa rules for UK homeowners.
The group’s leader, Andrew Hesselden, told the Olive Press: “Since Brexit, Brits in this position often come up against the 90-in-180 day problem, which means that if they’ve spent 90 days living in their own home in Spain, they find themselves unable to go to France or Germany or even Switzerland at all until their day-count resets.
“For some of our members, this has reduced the amount of time they can now spend in Spain by as much as 40%. And from a tourism perspective, Brits with homes in other Schengen zone countries or who travel extensively throughout the zone, may find themselves unable to visit Spain even for a 7-day holiday without applying for a visa. But those short-stay visas don’t seem to exist.”
He added: “David Cameron seems well respected and trusted by international leaders and so this bodes well for a more constructive and positive relationship with Europe and the EU.”
One Brit from the group said: “Cameron’s natural sympathies are undoubtedly on our side. It’s definitely an opportunity, and his voice would have an influence.”
Another added: “I too think David Cameron could be an asset to us. People who have homes in Europe but not residents are missing out big time. It’s against human rights to be unable to visit their properties as before.”
Spain’s tourism minister Fernando Valdés, told the “i” Newspaper last year that “his country would like to end the ‘rule’ that means non-EU travellers can only stay for 90 days within a 180 day period”.
Valdés has now been replaced as Secretary of State for Tourism by Rosana Morillo. But this month, the Spanish government reported that the Secretary of State “held an important meeting at the Foreign Office with the Director for Consular Affairs and Crisis, Jennifer Anderson, in which they discussed issues of interest regarding the stays of British tourists in Spain”.
Hesselden said: “Our members will be writing to Lord Cameron in the coming weeks to suggest he explores the possibility of using the special provisions in the Withdrawal Agreement that enable ‘errors, omissions or other deficiencies’ to be fixed.
“If on 31 December 2020, British full-year residents had been told to leave France/Spain, return to the UK and come back only once they had secured a visa, there would have been public outrage. Yet, essentially, this is exactly what happened to British part-year residents who also have lives and obligations elsewhere. The pandemic restrictions certainly masked the extent of this problem at the time.”
The scrapping of the 6-month absence rule this summer reported by The Olive Press in July, provides comfort for those who registered before Brexit. However, for Brits who regularly lived in their Spanish homes before Brexit, but never spent any longer than 90 days there at a time, it’s unlikely they would ever have been obliged to register.
“They were simply EU citizens exercising their rights to Freedom of Movement”, Hesselden said and suggested that this would be an easy matter for politicians to resolve, even now. People just want to get on with their lives again”, Hesselden added.
He said the campaign group “also hopes Lord Cameron will explore the possibility of the UK signing new bilateral agreements with Spain, to mirror the ones Spain has with USA, New Zealand, Japan and 15 other non-EU countries, that seem to permit additional time in Spain over and above the 90-in-180 day allowance they have for the rest of the Schengen zone. This would help all Brits, even those without homes in Spain, and wouldn’t really require the UK government to change anything at all since the UK already welcomes Spanish visitors to the UK for 6 months per visit”.
This would appear to be along the same lines as suggestions made by Carlos Mazon and Ximo Puig when they visited Spain’s Ambassador to the UK in London, as reported by The Olive Press, back in 2021.
“Restoring mutual freedom of movement between Spain & the UK would of course be nice, especially for younger people who want to work, but that seems to me, to be rather too much for anyone to hope for at the moment”, Hesselden told us.
When contacted by the Olive Press today, the UK’s Foreign Office refused to directly comment on the campaign.
It pointed instead to a question raised by Labour MP for North Tyneside Mary Glindon last week.
She put forward the following statement to the Foreign Office: “To ask the Minister of State, Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, whether the Government plans to hold discussions with the EU on enabling UK citizens with holiday homes in the EU to extend their stay for more than 90 days in every 180 day period.”
The question was answered on November 16 by Conservative MP for Aldershot Leo Docherty – although he failed to address whether or not the issue would be raised in the near future.
He wrote: “The UK’s Trade and Cooperation Agreement with the EU confirms that both the UK and EU currently provide for visa-free travel for short-term visits for each other’s nationals in accordance with their respective laws.
“British citizens are treated as third country nationals under the Schengen Borders Code. As such, they are able to travel visa-free for short stays for up to 90 days in a rolling 180-day period.
“This is the standard length of stay that the EU offers to other third countries, in line with existing EU legislation.
“I [Minister Docherty] engage regularly with my EU counterparts to discuss a range of issues, including on mobility.
“The Government is focused on the smooth, robust and effective implementation of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement.”