From Covid Chaos to Brexit bluster for homeowners abroad

Just at the time we might be able to travel again and move about a bit more freely at some stage in 2021, then another challenge rears its head for Continental European homeowners.


From January 2021 the right to free movement guaranteed under EU rules ends for UK residents, who will only be able to remain within the Schengen-free zone (encapsulating most EU member countries), for a maximum of 3 months, within each six month period, regardless of whether a post-Brexit trade deal is done or not.

And this is irrespective of whether it is for work or leisure, in that country or any other in the same Schengen zone. There is a 180 day allowance over the entire year.

This is a challenge for people who have got used to homeworking and the idea that work can be non-location specific, as has become more ingrained in our psyche. This means some Brits are feeling the draw to move to and work from countries like France, Spain or Portugal, potentially still for UK-based enterprises.

However in spite of this, individual EU countries have some discretion, with some offering longer stays for non-Europeans who invest in property above a minimum threshold level. Or in other assets. This arrangement has been dubbed a Golden Visa.

Currently a work-around is for Britons to change their formal residence from Britain to one of the 27 members. Although from 1.1.2021 this becomes more complicated.

There are other also other considerations, like, taxation. The UK currently has a reasonable taxation system and some Continental European countries have higher personal taxation regimes. Becoming resident of another EU country can mean being taxed in that country on worldwide income and potentially assets too.

Then there are healthcare and pensions to consider. On the upside, a replacement for the EHIC card may yet still come, but in the meantime it’s a question of ensuring travel insurance covers medical needs, which we tend to do anyway. Expats might incur extra charges for Private Pensions being paid into foreign bank accounts (although State Pension payment are free).

What isn’t yet clear – given no agreement has yet been reached on the future relationship between the UK and the EU – is to what extent bi-lateral agreements between countries might be reached. Countries like Spain and Portugal have long-standing relationships with the UK and will want to maintain the status quo. London is France’s ‘second city’ on account of the number of French people living in the city, so has vested interests. What are your thoughts?

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