Claudia Font and Antonio Guillen, both of whom are dual-qualified Spanish lawyers and English solicitors, operate gunnercooke’s Spanish Desk. They explain the impact of Brexit, and its associated red tape, on their practice.
Our Spanish Desk has been dealing with UK-Spanish cross-border matters since it was created in 2015. One of the most frequent questions we get in our daily jobs, and even in our daily lives, is whether Brexit has had much of an impact on our work.
The answer is obvious. It has. But, as usual in our profession, there is no point in wallowing in the negative aspects of such a significant change or looking back with nostalgia to the days when a British person could circulate freely around the EU. We rather concentrate on adapting to the new times and finding solutions to the challenges ahead.
One of the main challenges we have been facing lately is the 90 days rule. If you are British, this means that you cannot stay in the Schengen area for more than 90 days within a period of 180 days without a valid visa.
This affects those retirees who used to spend the colder months of the year in Spain and the warmer months in the UK, while remaining tax and habitual residents in the latter.
The solution for this type of problem has been to look into different types of visa, from the famous Golden Visa (only available for those who purchase a property worth more than €500,000) to the most popular Non-Lucrative Visa. However, the latter, although allowing the visa holder to spend as much as time in Spain as he or she wants, also makes the said person tax resident in Spain.
This leads to another area where we have seen a noticeable increase in instructions: Spanish nationalities. Brexit prompted many British of Spanish ancestry to apply for Spanish nationality and a Spanish passport.
The applications are made at the Spanish Consulates in the UK (Edinburgh, London and Manchester) and the process can easily take a year. It is no surprise that many applicants have instructed law firms to help them with their applications.
At the same time, we saw many Spanish nationals living in the UK applying for British citizenship after having lived in the UK for more than five years, hence acquiring the same rights as a British citizen and ensuring that they could remain and work in the UK.
Some reasonable doubts as to how the UK would be treated by the EC Regulation on Succession 650/2012, commonly known as Brussels IV, prompted a surge in the preparation of Spanish Wills, especially for those British living permanently in Spain who wanted to ensure that their Spanish Wills would prove tax-efficient and enforceable after their deaths.
Complexity for companies
It is not only individuals who have been affected by Brexit: UK companies are no different. Many companies trading with Spain, or with the EU, have opted to open a subsidiary or a branch in Spain for part of their business operations.
This has led to the need to provide holistic advice to these companies in a variety of areas, ranging from corporate work to employment, immigration and taxation.
A place in the sun
Contrary to many scaremongers´ opinion, Brexit has not stopped the British from buying property in Spain. However, one thing is certain: there is much more red tape.
The paperwork required to buy a property in Spain was much simpler a few years ago than it is now. Take, for instance, Spanish Powers of Attorney, a common document granted by British clients appointing a lawyer to deal with their property purchase or sale in Spain.
Most Spanish Powers of Attorney these days require an attached full copy of the grantor´s passport, which makes the cost of the document higher than before.
Another area where there is more red tape is the enforcement of civil court orders in Spain post 31st December 2020.
Up until the time at which the UK ratifies the 2007 Lugano Convention (applicable to civil and commercial proceedings between the EU, Norway, Iceland and Switzerland) the recognition and enforcement, for instance, of an English court order in Spain will be regulated by either of two different laws:
- By the 2005 Hague Convention on Choice of Court Agreements, if the parties have agreed to apply the said Convention in their agreement (which is usually much quicker).
- Or by Spain´s internal procedural laws, namely law 29/2015 of International Legal Cooperation in Civil Matters, if no choice was made in this respect in the agreement between parties.
There is no doubt that Brexit made an impact on Spanish legal matters, with immigration the area where the greatest effect has been seen. But it is not all grey skies, and more than 12 months down the line it is encouraging to see that the British are still travelling, doing business and buying property in Spain.
Clearly, and in spite of some pessimistic predictions and the increased red tape, the British have not lost their interest in Spain and are likely to keep adapting to the circumstances and challenges that leaving the EU may bring.
- Connect with Claudia Font via LinkedIn
- Connect with Antonio Guillen via LinkedIn