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Mercers Brexit Statement

The vote has been cast and the UK will be leaving the EU. This throws up a number of questions that we have been asked and I will answer them using historical fact rather than simply my opinion.

I started as a Spanish Estate Agent in 1983 and to be honest from the buyer or seller perspective not a great deal has changed in the past 33 years. Yes, Spain joined the single currency in the year 2000 but were there any fundamental changes when they joined?

Prior to Spain joining the EU, British property buyers had no restrictions with regards to purchasing property, whether for holiday or retirement use. My own Father retired to Spain in 1985 after a career at BP Chemicals. His is a good example of how easy it was to move to Spain, prior to the country joining the EU.

My Father bought his first property from me in 1985 and spent the last 28 years of his life in content retirement in Spain. When he first moved to Spain the only real restriction placed on "non-residents" was a limit of 90 days stay in Spain, before they had to leave. This meant many non-residents would simply drive over the border to France, have their passport stamped and start the next 90 day period. This gradually changed as Spain become more democratic. Don't forget Franco, the dictator had only been dead some 8 years.

If you wanted to remain in Spain on a permanent basis, you needed to become a resident. This was a relatively simple process and meant that you could come and go as you pleased. You also had a responsibility to declare and pay taxes in Spain (as you do now), which actually were more favourable than the UK.

To become resident, you needed to demonstrate that you would not be a burden on the state and could support yourself financially. A state pension was sufficient proof on income for pensioners and for those wanting to work, it was relatively easy to obtain a work permit or to set up a company.

Spain and the UK had a reciprocal healthcare agreement for pensioners, so UK citizens who had retired and were resident in Spain had access to free and excellent (still is) health care. The UK Government had an agreement with the Bank of Spain to transfer pensions to Spain at favourable exchange rates.

So what changed when Spain joined the EU or the single currency? The answer is surprisingly, very little apart from Spain adopting the Euro as their currency.

What do I think will happen over the next few years? I do not think or believe that the UK leaving the EU will have an immediate, medium or long term adverse effect on UK citizens wanting to live, work or indeed die in Spain. Our input into the economy runs into the Billions and many areas of Spain have seen a dramatic and positive resurgence in their economic status, thanks mainly to this influx of Northern European buyers.

Spain has always been a warm and friendly country, the culture is very Southern Mediterranean and we like this and they (unlike some European countries) like us! What draws most of us to this wonderful country is the weather and that, regardless of what our politicians do, is guaranteed to put a smile on our faces and allow us to BBQ in December.

As the locals say - Viva Espana! Come and join us in the warmest, friendliest most welcoming country in Europe and enjoy 320 days of glorious, year round sunshine.

Chris Mercer MNAEA
24th June 2016

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