The Daily Telegraph - Money
Is the expat retirement dream dead?
Sun-seeking pensioners no longer have the same rights following Brexit – making settling down in a new home a pipe dream. By Jessica Beard
Dreams of retiring to sunnier climes have been dashed for many following Britain’s exit from the European Union. Bureaucratic complications, combined with the pandemic, have forced retirees to reconsider their plans, amid worries about losing state pension rights and access to healthcare.
Wannabe expats have been tripped up by continued uncertainty. The Government confirmed in January that anyone moving to the EU or Switzerland after Brexit would carry on receiving their British state pension as normal and would also get subsequent increases. However, it has since made changes to the way the pension is calculated. This will result in lower weekly payments for some.
All expats who relocate to the European Union and have previously lived in Australia, Canada or New Zealand will be affected and could have their state pensions dramatically slashed.
Andrew Tully of Canada Life, a pension provider, said: “The pandemic and the hangover from Brexit has quelled the appetite for many who harboured desires to retire abroad, certainly in the short term.”
Retiring to popular retirement destinations such as Spain or France has become harder, and requires more planning and the patience to tackle bureaucracy. Mr Tully said it is important for retirees to check whether a residence status in another country or a visa could have an impact on their tax status.
Many British pensioners living abroad have returned in recent years, in part due to the pandemic. Official figures show there were more retired expatriates coming home than moving to the EU in 2020. There were 1,900 fewer retirees from Britain living in EU countries at the start of this year, according to the Department for Work and Pensions. The number of British pensioners living in EU countries peaked in 2017 at 475,000 and has since dropped by around 8,000 to 466,920.
‘I’ve been given an ultimatum on my retirement flat’
Complications caused by Brexit have landed Phil Hamlani with a short deadline to pay off a mortgage on a property in Cyprus that he hoped would become his retirement home.
Banks in some European countries have changed lending terms for British citizens since Brexit. Mr Hamlani and his wife Melanie, from South Shields, were told at the start of 2021 that they would have to pay the final instalment in 2025. “The idea was to spend as much time as we wanted out there when we retire, but we might have to sell it now,” added the 50-yearold. “We have always talked about retiring abroad and still hope to but there’s a lot more to it now.
“We need to get more clarity on our rights and find out if we are going to be in a position to do that
financially. All European countries’ rules are changing and it’s still up in the air at the moment.”
Mr Hamlani can retire in four years and will weigh up the options in the meantime. He was also concerned about access to healthcare in Cyprus.