Europe has always been one of the favourite places for Brits to retire with Spain, France and Portugal the main hotspots.
According to data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and Eurostat; between 2008 and 2015 there were, on average, 56,832 UK nationals moving to EU states every year.
The figure grew after the Brexit referendum, jumping to an annual average of 73,642 for the 2016-2018 period.
But Brits were not only looking to relocate.
Eurostat and the OECD also saw a 500% increase in UK nationals seeking citizenship in their host EU nation.
An example of this is Germany, which saw a 2,000% rise with 31,600 people from the UK naturalising there since June 2016.
Interest still high
“With regard to what we have seen in the market, there was an immediate slowing down in enquiries after the public vote on Brexit in June 2016,Jason Porter, business development director at Blevins Franks, told International Adviser.
“Momentum gradually built up again, until September 2016 when it had returned to normal levels, but then instead of us seeing the normal peaks and troughs, enquiries and business was higher than previous years, and remained so throughout 2017 and 2018.
“In many cases, people were bringing forward their plans to leave the UK before they had originally planned.”
But as the first Brexit deadline approached, people started sitting on the fence again.
Porter continued: “From Christmas 2018, most things slowed, including enquiry levels and overseas property show attendances, as the expectation was the UK would leave the EU on 29 March 2019.
“That said, business actually remained high as this reflected the fact it represented people who had predominantly already moved, and were rearranging their financial affairs for their new country.”
Time after time
From March 2019, changes to the exit deadline have left many people in a limbo as they did not have enough time to plan for the big move.
“Since then, it has been an interesting market,” Porter added.
“The almost piecemeal extensions of the Brexit negotiations period meant there was never a sufficient period of extension each time to allow people to plan their exit from the UK – sell their UK home, find and buy a home overseas, and move.”
But when Boris Johnson won the general election on 12 December 2019, that gave hope to people looking to migrate to the EU as they had 13 full months to prepare.
The covid freeze
And then the coronavirus pandemic arrived.
“Early 2020 saw a considerable increase in activity, and it has only been covid which has put paid to probably this year seeing the biggest migration of UK nationals to the EU on record,” he said.
“As lockdown has eased, the increase in enquiries has been tremendous, and we expect the rest of 2020 to be very busy.
“But we are also already thinking of 2021, and what this might mean in terms of overcoming obstacles like residency permits, and other administrative aggravations Brexit and a potential no-deal might throw up,” Porter added.
Greece and Cyprus also on the list
Robert Mancera, director and general manager at Blacktower Financial Management, told IA the firm has also seen increasing demand from future expats.
“The interest to leave the UK post-Brexit is real; we talk to future expats on a daily basis seeking advice and support on how best to move away from the UK.
“They continue to look for locations that can offer a better climate; good lifestyle whilst retaining easy access back to the UK. Locations that are seeing most UK expats are the likes of Portugal, Spain and France.
“Other locations that are increasing in popularity include Cyprus and more recently Greece.”
Additionally, the way EU countries have dealt with the coronavirus outbreak has become another contributing factor to leaving the UK.
Mancera continued: “The recent covid-19 pandemic has not impacted people’s plans to relocate; in some instances, it may have slowed them down based on the restrictions in the other country. Mostly, though, it has accelerated the desire to leave the UK.
“You can now add to ‘reasons to leave the UK’ the covid-19 situation; as new expats also seek out those locations that have not been as hard hit by the pandemic or have shown greater results through their efforts.”