Will Spain and France drop the post-Brexit 90-day travel rule for Britons?

Since the UK quit the EU, Britons have been restricted in how long they can stay in European countries without a visa and are liable for hefty fines if they overstay.

Before 2016’s Brexit vote, Britons had freedom of movement in the Schengen Area, but they are now only allowed to be in an EU country for 90 days in any 180-day perion, with the rule taking effect at the end of the transition period on 31 January, 2020.

According to Euronews, those who are found to have overstayed in Italy and Spain can face fines of up to €10,000.

Some EU countries, however, have started lobbying the 27-member bloc to drop the restrictions on travel for UK residents wanting to stay for longer periods.

Which countries want to axe the 90-day rule?

Earlier this month, Spain joined France in calling for an end to 90-day rule, saying it was negatively affecting the economy as Britons with a second home in Spain aren’t staying as long as they used to before Brexit.

UK residents visited Spain more than any other country in 2022, according to the Office for National Statistics, making 15.6 million visits to Spain last year, a decrease of 14 per cent from 2019.

France and Italy were the next countries to have been visited the most by UK residents, according to the statistics. According to the National Institute of Economic Studies and Statistics, 86,000 properties in France are owned by UK residents.

Britons who have a second home in France could automatically be granted long-stay visa rights in the country after the French senate this month backed a bill amendment to be debated by the Assemblée nationale députés (similar to MPs in the British parliament) in December.

Since the end of the Brexit transition period, UK citizens require a long-stay visa if staying in France or a French overseas territory for more than 90 days.

British homeowners who have a residence in France and who are spending between three and six months a year in the country have to apply for a temporary long-stay visitor visa.

Those who spend more than six months a year in France must apply for a long-stay visitor visa.

Long-stay visas can last between three months and a year and Britons must start a new application from scratch once the visa has expired.

Will the rule be changed?

The details of how any new law would work are still to be given. They could see, for example, Britons showing a document at the French border that proves they own a second home in France.

If the “automatic visa” plan is approved, Britons who own a second home in France would be given the right to visit France and stay in their homes for as long as they wish, without the current formalities.

However, it is not just up to individual countries.

Héctor Gómez, the Spanish minister for tourism, said: “Unfortunately, the rule is not something Spain has established by itself or can get rid of.”

The EU must approve any change with the agreement of all 28 countries of the bloc.

“It is in our interests to lobby and convince the EU that we can try to work an exception with them,” Mr Gómez said.

Mr Gómez held a meeting with Jennifer Anderson, the UK’s director of consular affairs at the Foreign Office, during which he said they “discussed issues of interest regarding the stays of British tourists in Spain and collaboration projects for future seasons”, The Times reported.