According to financial advisers, British retirees are rushing to settle in European countries such as Spain, Portugal and France before the Brexit deadline, believing that such a move will become significantly more difficult in the future.
One company that supports those moving to mainland Europe after they finish working revealed that the number of monthly inquiries to its website had doubled in a year, while actual business was up by 25%.
It came as experts said it was extremely unlikely that any post-Brexit deals with European countries would allow Britons to continue to move overseas in their later years as easily they can do now.
“The golden age of British retirees heading to the Costas is probably over,” said John Springford, a migration expert who is director of research at the Centre for European Reform.
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He pointed to research that found that while young immigrants provided an economic boost in most OECD countries, people turned into a net drain on national finances somewhere between the age of 40 and 45.
“The thing about retirees is they are expensive. There is no way Spain would allow lots of Brits to retire there and use their health system unless young Spanish people could come and work in the UK,” said Springfield. “If we don’t have free movement it is very unlikely we would have retirement rights.”
Carlos Vargas-Silva, of the University of Oxford’s centre of migration, policy and society (Compas), agreed that the UK could strike a bilateral arrangement with Spain, but said that might not be encouraged by the EU.
“In order for British people to continue retiring to Spain there would need to be something in return, likely to be around more flexibility for Spanish people working in Britain,” he added.
British Retirees Comprise Significant Portion of Europe’s Expat Community
There were estimated to be almost 300,000 UK citizens living in Spain in 2016, with 40% (121,000) over 65. In France, the figures were 148,800 with earlier estimates suggesting about 19% are at retirement age.
Over 65s make up a third of UK expats in Malta, Cyprus and Portugal, while overall they account for one in five of the 890,000 Britons living in the EU.
While Brexit negotiations are likely to secure a deal to protect the rights of those already living abroad, there is a big question mark over what opportunities there will be after the UK leaves the EU.
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A Home Office spokesman made clear that no decisions had been made, and that businesses and communities would be consulted on what a post-Brexit immigration system would look like.
However, he did admit that there were currently no routes through which non-EU citizens were able to retire into the UK, nor any bilateral arrangements of the type suggested by Vargas-Silva.
Chris Burke, of the Spectrum IFA group, who advises largely British expats living in Spain, said he had one client who had taken early retirement to beat the Brexit deadline. “People who are looking to retire to Spain are bringing it forward and moving out now before Brexit,” he said.
He also said 20% of his clients already living abroad were looking into whether they could obtain Spanish or Irish passports.
Campaigners representing expats admitted that they had also witnessed a surge in the numbers attempting to beat the Brexit deadline.