Can I Go and Live in Spain After Brexit?
14 August 2019 | by Başak Bakırcı

Can I Go and Live in Spain After Brexit?

Life in Spain

The short answer: Yes.

The long answer: The finer details of residency rights of British nationals will depend upon a condition of reciprocity and the guarantee of the same treatment enjoyed by Spanish citizens who are resident in the United Kingdom (UK). As the only change of Brexit impacts the British, the policy of Britain’s immigration laws to Spanish nationals will be at the heart of the residency rights British nationals will enjoy in Spain.

The Spanish government has prepared a new law (decreto ley) outlining contingency plans for British residents in the wake of a no-deal Brexit. British nationals have until the 31st of December 2020 to apply for a foreigner identity card.

As part of the new law, all rights and privileges extended to British nationals will be on the condition of reciprocity with the UK and the guarantee of the same treatment of Spanish citizens resident in the UK.

Spain’s cabinet approved legislation for British nationals living in Spain under a reciprocity agreement. Spain’s Prime Minister said that Brexit would not change the status of British nationals living in Spain as long as the same reciprocity is also extended to Spanish citizens in the UK.

Under the plan, Britons living in Spain will have to apply for a foreigner identity card before December 31st, 2020 to prove their legal residency status. Media reports mention that the process would be streamlined and seamless for British nationals with existing permanent residency.


The clock starts twenty-one months after the official Brexit date based upon a Spanish contingency regulation allowing British nationals to switch and/or apply for residence permits in Spain.

Medical Care

The Spanish government has issued a decree that guarantees access to continued healthcare for British residents and tourists after Brexit, as long as certain reciprocal conditions are also extended to Spanish citizens in the UK.

In summary, British expats will enjoy the freedom to reside where they currently live in the EU. However, British expats may lose the right to move – or even travel – within the Schengen Area until the UK can establish separate reciprocal long-stay residence agreements with each EU member state.

How Expensive is it to Live in Spain?

The costs of living in Spain are one of Europe’s lowest with the bonus of also being one of Europe’s sunniest countries. The sunniest location in Spain is in the southern city of Malaga in the Malaga province of Costa del Sol in Andalucía.

According to AARP’s estimates, a modest lifestyle in Spain will cost approximately $20,000 USD per annum. For a “comfortable” lifestyle, $25,000 per annum would be required. Spain’s greatest value area lies within the sun-soaked south of Costa del Sol in the Málaga province of Andalucía. Costa del Sol is an expatriate hotspot due to costs of living, the 300 days of annual average sunshine, a comfortable Mediterranean climate, and the highest number of blue flag beaches in the world.

A Tale of Two Cities: Málaga vs. London

Comparing costs in the city of Málaga to the city of London, you would need approximately £4,600 in London to maintain the same standard of life that you can have with £2,377.95 in Málaga (assuming you rent in both cities). The comparison in “standard of life” does not take into consideration the favourable Mediterranean climate Málaga offers compared to London. This calculation uses Numbeo’s Cost of Living Plus Rent Index to compare costs of living between the two cities and assumes net earnings (after income tax). Rent and grocery prices in Málaga are 66% and 23% respectively lower than London.

A contributing factor to the lower grocery prices in Spain is due to the favourable warm climate that is ideal to produce a large variety of fresh produce for domestic consumption (and exports, especially to the UK). Spain’s long growing season allows farmers to grow the regular basic food items, in addition to select gourmet items such as baby artichokes, cherimoya, and doughnut peaches. These produce items attract premiums in colder European markets given they are imported and only available in certain seasons.

Where is the Cheapest City to Live in Spain?

According to Numbeo, a website that compares the costs of living across cities in different countries; Málaga is the cheapest city to live in mainland Spain. But if you want the cheapest city in the territory of Spain and you don’t mind the island life off the coast of Morocco and the Western Sahara, the Canary Island’s city of Santa Cruz de Tenerife is the cheapest city to live in Spain (albeit only marginally), where would need approximately €2,300 in Santa Cruz de Tenerife to maintain the same standard of life that you can have with €2,600 in Malaga (assuming you rent in both cities).

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