Brexit may stop Brits owning second homes abroad and people are upset

Without freedom of movement, Britons will be limited on how long they can stay in an EU country.

The UK is currently in a transition period of its EU membership. Despite exiting the club in January 2020, it has continued to be treated like an EU country. The point was to avoid any abrupt changes to laws, trade and travel, and to give politicians time to come up with a post-Brexit deal. Once 2021 hits, however, the transition period will be over and Britain will no longer be bound by any EU rules (unless they agree to follow some under a new deal).

One of those rules is the freedom of movement clause, which says all EU citizens have the right to travel, live and work in each others’ countries with no restrictions. From January, Brits will instead only be allowed to spend 90 out of each 180 days in an EU country, unless they apply (and are accepted) for a specialist visa. This change has been bad news for Britons who usually like to spend long periods of each year in the EU. The Telegraph suggested it could even be the “end of the road” of Britons owning second homes on the continent.

There are currently about half a million UK citizens who own second homes in another European country. Although properties abroad are often cheaper than a UK equivalent, second-home owners tend to be a relatively affluent group. So unlike some other Brexit-related issues, like increases in food prices or decreases in economic migration (moving countries for work or money-related purposes), this is not a situation that will have a large impact on economic inequality. It might, however, have negative economic effects on the individual owners (who might not be able to get full use of their asset or be around to notice and fix property problems before they get worse) and also the local economies where the second homes are situated, because the less time owners spend there the less money they will probably spend there too.

Some second-home owners will likely respond to the new rules by selling their EU house. That could be considered a desirable outcome by people who are against multiple property ownership, on the basis that it takes accommodation away from locals and can also push up prices as wealthier folk bid against each other for prime real estate.

Read our explainer on: home ownership

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