Fears: Brexit in Spain
For months now, many Brits living abroad and would-be emigrants have been following the trials and tribulations of Brexit in Spain. Whether Gibraltar is a British “colony” or not; doubts over Brits’ entitlement to full healthcare benefits both in Spain and back home; policy-making surrounding potential visa requirements…
Even the weaker performance of the pound against the euro since the 2016 referendum has been a source of some preoccupation, especially for those expats currently drawing a UK pension.
"Brexit preparedness" gone too far
If you read the tabloids, it’s easy to get carried away with the concept of “Brexit preparedness” as a no-deal departure looms large on the horizon.
Being prepared is one thing, but exaggerations about a crippling “Brexodus” – where all skilled EU workers will suddenly have to up sticks and abandon Britain – and Brits stockpiling baked beans, Marmite and army ration packs seem to me to be wild and unrealistic.
Meanwhile, in Spain…
While the UK remains divided on the issue, Spain has been forging its own path towards economic stability, making wise alliances within the European Union, and its politicians are putting measures in place to soften the harshness of Brexit in Spain.
The Spanish Minister for Industry, Tourism and Trade, Reyes Maroto, came out this week to say that a Royal Decree ensuring reciprocal free healthcare between Spain and the UK could be passed as soon as next week1.
This is great news for the thousands of expats – and especially retirees, who have a greater need for Europe’s best healthcare system – and who were reportedly “at risk” of being left high and dry by the Brexit backlash.
However, by simply getting a NIE number and registering with your local town hall, you are (as a resident in Spain) guaranteed free healthcare anyway. It is, in fact, so easy that 147,248 Brits obtained the “padrón” certificate in Marbella alone last year2.
Improvements across the board
Access to free healthcare is just one of the many reasons expats love living in Spain, but behind the scenes its government and policy-makers are preparing for life in Europe post-Brexit.
In terms of jobs, Spanish and European employment have come on leaps and bounds, with Spain’s new socialist government recently approving a minimum wage rise affecting thousands of workers.
Investment in Spanish property assets continues to grow at a pace unseen for over a decade, while homeownership in Spain currently stands at 77.8%3.
In this week’s World Law Congress 2019 in Madrid, ex-Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero told those in attendance that “even Germany is envious of us”, in the sense that only 51.7% of Germans actually own a property and far fewer Spaniards have to rent from month to month.
Friends in high places
In a recent interview with Bloomberg4, the Spanish Foreign Minister, Josep Borrell, spoke about how Spain must “stop looking in the rear [view] mirror” and move past the Brexit debacle, hinting that it will “play a more important role” in the future European political landscape.
He went on to elaborate by mentioning the potential emergence of a new and prosperous three-country bloc within Europe that would include Spain: “…we’ve been getting closer to France and Germany… there’s even been talk of a G-3”.
Whether this particular initiative eventualises or not, it is certainly a wise move for Spain to position itself among the European nations with the most sway.
After all, it has Europe’s sixth biggest economy and, in light of the UK’s departure and political instability in Italy, it would do well to cash in on its pro-EU stance and strong economic projections.
If you’re British, do you feel “Brexit prepared”? And do you agree with me here? I’d love to get your comments on the matter! And, if you’re not from the UK, what are your thoughts on Brexit as an outsider?