European investors have little to fear from a Brexit – but we can only guess, says legal specialist

Peter Esders
EU Referendum - Signage And Symbols
Is trouble brewing in the European property market? (Source: Getty)

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Traditionally, British people buying properties abroad have tended to favour Europe, purchasing in the key markets of Spain, France, Portugal and Italy, as well as Greece, Cyprus or Malta.

There are very practical reasons that make European destinations attractive to British buyers.

Importantly, there are no visa requirements for UK citizens to travel across the EU, with countries typically enjoying robust economies, excellent education systems and a generally strong grasp of the English language.

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Also, unlike some countries outside Europe, UK purchasers have the right to buy properties freely, with few restrictions on the number of homes they can own. In a business sense, for true expatriates, there are no restrictions on the ability to set up a business within Europe or to retire there, which is a huge draw.

That then leaves the question ‘Could the possibility of a Brexit put an end to all that is good about buying property in Europe?’

Firstly, no expert can definitively say which way this is going to go and I’m no different. However, for the purpose of this, and the fact Judicare specialise in advising on what can go wrong when purchasing property overseas, I’ll focus on what could happen if we were to leave the EU.

Realistically it would be difficult to unravel all of the advantages that we have at the moment and it is likely that new regulations and agreements would have to be brought in quickly, which mirror those in place to retain the status quo.

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It is hard to imagine a situation where UK citizens don’t have the freedom to travel across Europe, own property there, transfer money, retire and so on, with very little hassle.

There are so many UK citizens already in the system, approximately a little over two million, it would be near impossible to do this. Brits abroad feed so much into local European economies that it would be of no benefit to the various countries they occupy to suddenly throw them out or invoke legislation making it difficult for them to stay.

It is likely that there are already plans in place to deal with a British exit from the EU, if it comes to that, because it makes no sense for either the UK or various European governments to want to see these advantages disappear.

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The question is when these negotiations would take place and how the transition is dealt with. For better or for worse Britain is a major player in Europe, through tourism, trade, business, property, and the EU would not want to completely turn its back on us.

If the outcome is a British exit from the EU come 23 June I find it very hard to believe that every British person who is living in Europe will suddenly have to sell their property and return to the UK and then the subsequent movement the other way out of the UK by Europeans living here.

If we were to imagine the UK’s relationship with EU countries became similar to that with those on other continents, then the future may simply mean more rigorous purchasing processes, a more complicated taxing system and potential rental restrictions – but certainly not a mandatory sell off of European properties.

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