Is it time for Spain to fight the 90/180 rule to keep British tourists and property owners?
Spain, a perennial favourite among British tourists, faces a dilemma as the 90/180 rule enforced in the Schengen area for non-EU residents casts a shadow over the country as a ‘holiday paradise’. British visitors continue to dominate the Spanish tourism scene and are at the forefront of those either owning or aspiring to own holiday homes in mainland Spain, the Balearic Islands and the Canary Islands.
However, the influx of foreign investments has started to chip away at Spain's British tourism and property investor base. Some are eyeing alternative destinations like Cyprus, driven by a growing sense of frustration.
The 90/180-day rule dictates that non-EU residents, including Brits, can only spend three months out of every six in Spain. This limitation is particularly irksome for those seeking to escape the cold winter months in the UK and enjoy a more extended stay in Spain, and those who have lost the freedom to travel to properties they own in Spain when they want to.
Compounding the issue is an additional financial burden faced by British property owners in managed communities, who find themselves paying annual community charges for the full year, even though they are only allowed to use their properties and facilities for half of that time.
In response to these mounting concerns, a dedicated community has emerged on Facebook, known as "180 Days in Spain." This group is actively lobbying for British passport holders to regain the right to use their 180 days a year as they wish, as well as having the freedom to explore other Schengen nations without exceeding the Spanish limit.
The timing seems ripe for Spain to address these issues, as the country holds the EU Presidency for the period from July to December 2023. This would and should have presented an ideal opportunity for the Spanish Government to advocate for a dispensation allowing British passport holders extended stays in the country. However, the ongoing political instability in the country and a lack of decisive leadership have let this opportunity slip through their fingers.
While pro and anti-Brexit factions continue to debate the merits of the 2016 referendum, it is clear that Brexit has led to a loss of the cherished right to unrestricted access to the Schengen area.
Although recent reports in the Spanish press suggest that Spain still intends to request a dispensation from the European Commission for British travellers, given the protracted history of discussions between Spain, Britain, and Gibraltar on free movement, significant changes may be a long way off.
This is despite the fact that such an agreement seemed to be a "done deal" before Britain's departure from the European Union on January 31st, 2020.
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