Pedro Fernández believes that a 'soft Brexit' would be the best option for the UK
Pedro Fernández believes that a 'soft Brexit' would be the best option for the UK / Álvaro Cabrera

Seminar analyses the possible effects of Brexit on Costa del Sol residents and businesses

  • Pedro Fernández, a partner with Garrigues law firm, insists that the negotiations must honour the principles of the people living in Spain and the Spanish nationals living in the UK

Brexit and how it could affect British people living or owning a business on the Costa del Sol was the subject of a seminar hosted by Linea Directa and SUR in English in Torremolinos last Friday.

Pedro Fernández, a partner with the Malaga-based law firm Garrigues, said that the negotiations now beginning between the United Kingdom and the European Union would be the most difficult recorded in history.

Fernández, a specialist in international tax law, claimed that a ‘soft Brexit’ was the best option for both the UK and the Costa del Sol, where there are numerous important British businesses and thousands of foreign residents.

Referring to people that believe there is still time to “stop the clock”, Fernández claimed that, although there were many things we do not know, one of the few things that can be said is that Brexit is definitely going to happen.

He insisted that the negotiations must honour the rights of the British living in Spain and the Spanish nationals living in the UK.

Outlining how Spain had always welcomed the British and their business ventures, he suggested that business relationships would probably not suffer as much as we are sometimes led to believe.

“The English approach to business is so practical and the English language is of great importance, and no matter what happens, I don’t see London losing its status and relevance in the world of business. London is the centre of finance and I think it is going to remain so regardless of what Frankfurt or Paris want,” Fernández said.

He stressed his belief that the EU should not punish the UK for its decision to leave Europe, claiming that negotiations should be entered into with a “sensible attitude since there is a lot at stake”.

The expert referred to recent tensions that flared when guidelines were published that proposed giving Spain a veto over any deal involving Gibraltar’s future.

Making reference to Theresa May’s comments, which claimed that the UK will not negotiate away Gibraltar’s sovereignty as part of Brexit talks, Fernández said: “I really don’t like to think that we are going to bargain with Brexit and Gibraltar. I don’t see the purpose; is that really going to help us here? Would it not be better to have a good deal with the UK and smooth out whatever is coming?”

Looking at the possible consequences of Brexit from the angle of the Spanish tax system, Fernández said the situation will only be clear once an exit agreement has been reached, but he added that coming out of EU could put the British who live in Spain in a worse position.

Exit taxes on gains would be imposed on foreigners who have decided to return to Britain, but perhaps more important would be the changes in inheritance tax, affecting especially those living in areas other than Andalucía.

Business challenge

One of the biggest dilemmas caused by all the uncertainty is affecting business and trade, and Fernández showed concerns for this: “For those of us helping people establish businesses or buying properties, it is going to be a very, very challenging time. Of course, this is not good news, because, uncertainty is the main fear of investment and trade.”

However, the general feel of the seminar was positive and Fernández gave British expats a little reassurance that things are not going to be that terrible. There will obviously be issues created by the UK’s exit, but in general, for the vast majority of British citizens who live in Spain, he believes life will not be that different.

The formal exit notification has no immediate impact on the legal arrangements between the United Kingdom and the European Union. Its effects will begin to come into force after two years, and this period might even be extended by mutual agreement if more time is required.

However, for the entire period over which the exit is being negotiated, the UK will continue to be an EU member and all rules of the union will continue to be applicable to British residents.

The seminar was one of several organised during the II International Home and Leisure fair held in Torremolinos last weekend.