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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 April 2019

Could Brexit encourage more Britons to retire in the UAE?

Under a no-deal departure, retirement in the EU will be more challenging for most Brits

John Felton and his wife Heinke Felton at their apartment at the Cayan Tower in Dubai Marina. Pawan Singh / The National 
John Felton and his wife Heinke Felton at their apartment at the Cayan Tower in Dubai Marina. Pawan Singh / The National 

For many Britons reaching retirement age, the thought of living out their twilight years in rainy Blighty is not appealing.

That is why many British nationals look to other countries in the EU to retire, often attracted by warmer climates or a more favourable tax jurisdiction.

About 180,000 British pensioners live in other EU states. Many choose to settle in Spain, which is home to 70,000 retirees from the UK.

Those retiring in the EU can enjoy many of the same pension benefits as those in the UK and receive health care in their chosen country funded by the British National Health Service. But the 2016 Brexit vote has somewhat complicated matters.

The continued uncertainty over how the UK will depart the EU has left many reaching the end of their working lives wondering whether they will be able to have the retirement they had planned.

Chris Ball, a managing partner at Abu Dhabi advisory company Hoxton Capital Management, told The National there is a surge in inquiries from British expatriates looking to retire to the EU.

“A lot of people had their heart set on retiring in the EU – in Spain, Portugal, Cyprus,” Mr Ball said.

“And for a lot of people that might not happen now, depending on what happens with Brexit.”

If we become disabled, we could get economical care in our own flat, which we wouldn’t be able to afford in the UK. If the problems in Europe get more severe, it becomes a more attractive thought to come to Dubai

Dubai retiree John Felton

Under a no-deal Brexit, it is unlikely that many of the benefits UK nationals living in the EU receive will continue as planned.

The British government has said its nationals living in Europe will continue to receive their state pension but it is unclear whether they will receive yearly increases, meaning inflation will make the income worth less every year.

And anyone moving to the EU after Brexit will no longer be entitled to free care funded by the National Health Service.

With the risk of a no-deal Brexit, some British expatriates are looking at alternative destinations that might be able to offer a similar quality of life.

“Malaysia’s been one recently," Mr Ball said. "They’ve got quite a tax-favourable regime. Australia, Canada and the US as well.”

For some Brits, staying in the UAE could offer the good weather and tax relief they sought in countries such as Portugal and Cyprus.

Last year, the UAE announced a new five-year retirement visa for non-Emiratis aged 55 or over to encourage a "silver economy".

Retired British lawyer John Felton, 78, has been living in Dubai with his German wife Heinke, 73, a retired teacher and examiner, since 2006.

The couple, who had considered retiring to France, say Brexit has made them even more committed to staying in the UAE.

Jumeriah Beach Residences in Dubai. Jeff Topping/ The National
Jumeriah Beach Residence in Dubai. Jeff Topping/ The National

“The health care you have to pay for but if you search for it correctly you can find good health care," Mr Felton said.

"If we become disabled, we could get relatively economical care in our own flat, which we wouldn’t be able to afford in the UK.

“If the problems in Europe get more severe, with registrations and no health care, it becomes a more attractive thought to come to Dubai.”

Mr Felton said he was unsure as a Brit what his access to Europe would be like after Brexit and conversely, as an EU passport holder, what his wife would have to do if they decided to move back to the UK.

At the moment it is fairly easy for Brits to acquire residency in another EU country but if the UK crashes out of the bloc without making a deal on reciprocal arrangements, the process becomes a lot more painful, said Nicholas Rollason, head of immigration at UK law firm Kingsley Napley.

“If we don’t get a deal, then Brits will potentially be in the same position as people from other countries seeking to retire,” Mr Rollason told The National.

“If they do not have residence before we leave, or before we leave without a deal, they would have to meet the normal immigration requirements, which are usually quite complicated.”

France offers a visa for those retiring from non-EU countries but it expires after one year.

Mr Felton said that while Dubai could be expensive, it was not as pricey as it was perceived in the UK. He said that he and his wife were able to live comfortably without breaking the bank.

“There is a new atmosphere in Dubai encouraging expats to retire here,” he said. “Will Brexipats make this a flood?”

Updated: April 15, 2019 11:46 AM

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