‘Vicious circle’ Fears as British expat communities start to shrink post-Brexit

Boris Johnson 'needs to step up for British expats' says expert

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Darren has lived in Spain for 37 years and is the local councillor for tourism, business and international relations in San Fulgencio. He is one of only two British people on a municipality governing team in the whole of Spain.

San Fulgencio is 25km south of Alicante, close to beaches and has a sizable British expat community.

Darren said: “There’s certainly a more relaxed lifestyle here than in the UK. If you speak to many people here that are now in their 70s or 80s, I think many would say the lifestyle has prolonged their life.”

However, Darren said there are fears among the expat community in San Fulgencio that numbers will start to fall post-Brexit.

He told Express.co.uk: “Certainly, we’re conscious of the fact that our community here is made up of a lot of retirees.

“For the last 35 years, we’ve had this steady number of people coming out and retiring here, so they come on holidays and then they buy their holiday home where they’re going to come and retire.

“Sadly some have since died, or gone back to the UK due to ill health or a number of other reasons.

“I’ve always said it’s a bit like a new year of school, one group of people leave that school but a whole new term of first years come in.

“So you actually keep school numbers the same. So our numbers have always stayed more or less the same in terms of people wanting to come in.

“But of course after the first of January, the fact is, it’s not so easy to come to Spain. So our fear is that people wanting to retire here will then slowly start falling.”

Any British person that didn’t apply for a residency permit in Spain before January 1, 2021 has to do so from the UK which can be a lot more difficult.

Darren said: “That will affect future people coming to visit because their family and friends aren’t here.

“So they don’t come and visit these people, then those visitors don’t look to buy a property for their future. It’s like this vicious circle.”

In his role as councillor, Darren has helped some expats to understand the new rules for living in Spain. He has also been in discussions on possible visa options for British citizens.

He said: “We’ve certainly been making representations to the Valencian authorities and I also understand that they’ve gone up to Madrid basically making suggestions and explaining our situation here.

“We are worried about our future population. And there have been some suggestions about different kinds of visas that could be brought in for people that do want to spend more time here.”

He added: “I was at a meeting two or three years ago that the British Consul and myself attended and people were talking about residency.

“And I think she made a very valid point when she said now is the time to decide where you live. If you consider Spain as your home then you must go ahead with the residency before the deadline.”

Darren said it was difficult for some people to commit to Spanish residency as they didn’t live on the Costa Blanca full-time.

Sometimes known as ‘swallows’, some British people travelled to the region for the winter months to escape bad weather back home.

Darren said: “Even the ‘swallows’ that used to come here, Spanish law said they should have applied for residency after three months.

“I fully understand now they’ve said they can’t come and spend their four-five months here without a residency permit.”

Beyond residency issues, Darren has also been very busy assisting British expats to understand Spain’s Covid restrictions and curfews.

He said: “We became a trusted source for official information. Before Covid, I had about 700 Facebook friends, now I have over 1,500!”

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