Ekonomus has interviewed Natasha Meah , director of Europe Business Finance (EBF) Consulting and member of the Lanzarote Chamber of Commerce, and Daniel Trigg , president of the Lanzarote Business Association, which brings together most of the British businessmen on the island.
In recent months, various surveys, both public and private, show that the majority of Britons regret Brexit . In the latest barometer in the United Kingdom , 58% of citizens regret the decision to disassociate themselves from the European Union. At an economic level, the negative effect on macroeconomic figures is between 3 and 6% of British GDP .
For the British residents of Lanzarote , the largest community of foreigners on the island, the concern about Brexit is not so much focused on macroeconomic issues, but rather on the difficulties that leaving the European Union has generated in their day-to-day lives . Obtaining a work permit , validating the driver 's license , paying double taxes on their properties, or that their children cannot participate in the Erasmus program , are also a consequence of Brexit.
Natasha Meah was born in Shropshire, near Birmingham, and has been in Lanzarote for half of her life. Daniel Trigg is from London and arrived 36 years ago. Like four million other Britons who had been outside the UK for more than 15 years , they were unable to vote in the referendum, but they are witnessing how Brexit has changed the lives of their compatriots in Lanzarote.
The new limitations are progressively affecting the British who have grown up in Lanzarote, such as when leaving Erasmus . Spanish law does not allow the children of British parents to take Spanish nationality at birth. “A friend's son, who grew up on the island with a British passport, is studying in Seville and when he reached his third year, he wanted to do an Erasmus in Germany, but he couldn't do it because, not being an EU citizen , also Germany puts that 90-day limit on it in the last 180 ”, explains Meah.
Greece has signed a direct agreement with the United Kingdom whereby a Briton can arrive in November and return to the United Kingdom in April ”, explains Trigg, who stresses that this is not possible in Spain due to the 90-day limitation.
"It could be changed" in Spain too, and "it would be progress," he continues, although he wonders if politicians will be able to solve it. "If they still have not been able to solve the validation of driver's licenses ... " . With the exit of the EU, the traffic agreements ceased to be valid for driving licenses issued by the United Kingdom. Now only a bilateral solution would be possible.
The biggest difficulty is getting a work permit.
But the greatest difficulty among those they report is obtaining a work permit . The current legislation makes it extremely difficult for the British who arrive in Lanzarote to work. “We are seeing problems in the academies and in the schools; The councils had signed an agreement so that native Britons could be assistants in English classes in schools. That has stopped”, explains the director of EBC Consulting.
Meah points out that this situation "exacerbates the problem of many catering businessmen who cannot find workers ". An even bigger problem for "those who require native English speakers," he points out.
¨The economic wheel is going to start to slow down¨
Regarding British investment, Meah points out that, as reported by the latest barometer from the British Chamber of Commerce in Spain, " corporate investment from the United Kingdom has continued to increase in recent years" despite Brexit. However, with a focus on the British middle class, Trigg explains that the purchase of homes in Lanzarote for less than 200,000 euros by British people has fallen by 45% .
"The British with properties in operation in Lanzarote now have to pay 24% on the income generated, without the possibility of deducting any expenses," explains Meah, who points out that before Brexit they paid 19% on the difference between income and expenses. . Trigg calculates that the legislative change for his compatriots ends up assuming that they pay “double taxes” .
Trigg anticipates that in the coming months there will be "a lot of housing in Lanzarote that cannot be sold ". “One or two-bedroom apartments, bought by the British middle class, many retirees, to stay 8 months a year. When they died, those flats went back on the market and could be bought back by working people in the UK at normal wages.”
“The economic wheel is going to start to slow down.” "Those people can no longer buy them," Trigg clarifies, because " without half a million euros of investment in housing they won't give you residence and if you don't have 60,000 euros in your bank account, you can't get a non-profit visa." The non-profit visa allows residence in Spain for one year, renewable every two years, but does not allow its beneficiaries to work.
Meah believes that Spain could create an exceptional visa for people who have property in the country and thus reduce this problem. Despite the fact that a negative effect on tourist figures has not yet been noticed, since British arrivals to Lanzarote continue to be around 55% of the total, Meah and Trigg agree that Brexit will end up implying a reduction in British tourism to the island.
Trigg believes that the virtuous cycle by which in the past "a Briton would arrive on holiday and then decide to stay to work or set up a business" will no longer be possible, which led to "visits by friends and family, who in turn decided to stay ”.
Meah has his particular vision in this regard, since he considers that if the spending capacity in England continues to decline, it could paradoxically also have a positive impact on Lanzarote. “ Fewer all-inclusive tourists will arrive ” and “travellers with greater purchasing power” will have more prominence, spending on all kinds of activities, in line with the strategy of the Cabildo and businessmen in the sector.
"Brexit is temporary"
Meah finds it difficult to make a forecast on whether the United Kingdom will return to the European Union: "I don't know, I don't think anyone really knows, first they will have to admit that they have been wrong and they are very proud" (referring to the members of the British Government).
Trigg is clear that although “ there will never be another referendum, I can assure you of that ”, there will be “integration, which will take place slowly, over the years” in the style of Switzerland's agreements with the European Union.
“ Brexit is temporary ,” adds Trigg, “everyone has realized that basic things can't be solved now , so there have to be high-level deals. "In a decade we will be within the economic system" of the EU, and "there will be free movement of people in 15 years."