Since leaving the EU at the start of the year, a clock has been ticking for many British citizens living in the EU who after this Wednesday will be at risk of becoming ‘undocumented migrants’ abroad liable to face fines or deportation.
The changed status reflects changed legislation following the end of ‘free movement’ ushered in by Brexit, effective from 1 January, from which date UK citizens can only stay in the EU’s 26 Schengen countries for 90 days within a six-month period without a visa.
The number of British citizens living abroad who were not aware of the change legislation is surprisingly high, particularly in Spain
Those that have been granted permanent residence in the EU country of their choice are covered by the UK’s Withdrawal Agreement and are in the process of receiving biometric residence cards.
But all those living in the EU that haven’t been granted permanent residence; or have been late in applying, or hadn’t planned to apply, or have had applications rejected, will to all purposes be staying there ‘undocumented.’
According to reports over the weekend stemming from initial interviews with Global247news the number of British citizens living abroad who were not aware of the change legislation is surprisingly high, particularly in Spain, which hosts the largest number of expats in the EU.
Unlike Americans or Canadians, British visitors to Spain have been accustomed to an absence of scrutiny over travel, work and residence plans for years helping to make Spain the most popular EU destination for Brits whether living, working or both.
As such the end of ‘free movement’ was contested by many Brits that love Spain and had campaigned for ‘Remain,’ such as the ‘Bremain in Spain’ group.
Spanish police and immigration officials reportedly having put together a list of 500 Brits who they plan to deport
But following Brexit, thousands of Brits in Spain face being deported after 31 March – the end of the 90-day limit – with the Spanish police and immigration officials reportedly having put together a list of 500 Brits who they plan to deport.
A number of expats have already started making plans to leave and among those speaking to Global247news was Anthony Cook who had lived in Spain seven years and said: ‘The Spanish dream is over for me, it’s time to go back to Cardiff.
‘It’s been a blast, but the new regulations have made it impossible to stay, I don’t have enough credentials to become a resident, it was so easy before, get your funds in from the UK, do a bit of cash in hand around the likes of Benidorm and Bob was your uncle, but that’s all changed now.’
Yes I voted out, but I didn’t realise it would come to this, my application has been rejected and we are on our way home – the wife is in tears
But what prompted not only surprise and comment in the weekend press and social media was that a significant number of expats in Spain voted ‘Leave’ without realising they were effectively voting in favour of their own deportation.
One example found by the news website was Shaun Cromber who despite voting for Britain to leave the EU, didn’t believe it would end his Spanish lifestyle.
He said: ‘Yes I voted out, but I didn’t realise it would come to this, my application has been rejected and we are on our way home – the wife is in tears, she’s distraught if I’m honest and I’m not too happy at the prospect of returning back to the UK.’
The story was picked up by the staunchly pro-Brexit Daily Express, which prompted ‘Scientists for EU’ founder Dr David Galsworthy to tweet: ‘Free Movement was a new rule that gave our UK citizens all those freedoms in Spain. And you, Daily Express, campaigned relentlessly to end those freedoms. Those ‘tears’ of our fellow Brits leaving Spain are all yours to drink. Knock yourself out.’
[Header Image/Still: Daily Express]