What impact could Brexit have on British EU property owners?
Among the many contentious areas the Brexit debate has thrown into the mix, is the fate of the estimated 2.2 million Brits who live in the EU, and the additional 1 million who own holiday homes there. While for many, freedom of movement is perceived as one of the many drawbacks of the Union, for a significant number of Brits it is seen as a wonderful benefit that has afforded greater freedom and life opportunities. For those Brits who currently reside within the EU, this is a period of real concern and uncertainty. Likewise for those who have decided to invest sizable sums into property on the continent, who at present, are facing more questions than answers. This is not simply because no answers have been forthcoming, but because such answers don't exist and cannot be answered until (should a Brexit occur) the day of reckoning arrives.
At this point, it’s all just hypothesizing, and the difference between theory and reality could have a huge impact on the lives of those Brits who have chosen to live or invest in the EU. Should the UK exit, then it is entirely within the realms of possibility that those Brits will have to apply for the respective visas they require. There is no telling exactly how demanding or intrusive such an application process would be, since no EU member has since come forward to stipulate any details. Of course, depending on the severity of the demands imposed, may Brits who had previously qualified or been accepted, may find themselves in a situation where they don't qualify for the new visa pre-requisites imposed. The prospect alone of having to go through the entire application process will be enough dissuade Brits currently residing in the EU, that Brexit is not a good idea on any level. Of course, before the inevitable cries of ‘scaremongering’ ring out, we of course accept fully that UK citizens are more than likely to be remain free to purchase and own property within the EU, just as any other nationalities are. There is no shortage of Americans in the South of France for example, or Russians for that matter. Where the uncertainty does lie however, is over issues like taxation or inheritance, which at present are markedly different for EU and non-EU citizens. There is simply no telling what the outcomes could be following a post Brexit negotiation.
Another area of real uncertainty is just how easy it will be for Brits to get a mortgage for a property in the EU. The main reason for this is because the European based banks consider non-EU citizens to be higher risk. This means that in the event of a Brexit, Brits looking to buy that overseas property may well have to borrow more to buy that property, as well as put down larger deposits to secure the deal.
A potential outcome that will be of particular concern to many, is the propensity that many feel exists for a political tit-for-tat situation arising in the event of a Brexit. If EU citizens are penalized by Britain’s exit in terms of their citizens being denied access to the UK’s job market and/or the benefits that come with that, (which to a large extent they undoubtedly will be), it is highly possible that EU nations, particularly in Eastern Europe would respond in kind. While it’s reasonable to say, that there won’t be too many Brits with holiday homes or property in Romania or Bulgaria. It’s the votes that MEP’s from these nations would cast in Brussels that could potentially hit the UK where it hurts. There is little doubt that one of central issues, proponents of Brexit advocate in their ‘leave’ manifesto, is detaching the UK from the ‘freedom of movement’ for all EU citizens. The leaders of multiple EU nations have already expressed their objection to what they consider a core value to the European project being called into question. The leaders of Eastern Europe in particular are acutely aware of the economic advantages this brings to their citizens, and indeed their homelands, as many of their citizens working in countries like Britain, repatriate their earnings back home, contributing to economic growth.
It would be naivety in the extreme for anyone to assume that we could deprive certain nations of some of the benefits the EU affords their citizens, and expect them to not to respond by depriving our citizens with some of the benefits the EU affords them. Never underestimate the ability of politicians to descend to the puerile.