British expats’ anger and fear escalating as time runs out

Published:  4 Feb at 6 PM
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Spain’s 300,000 British expatriates are still living in anger, fear and desperation just weeks before Brexit day.

During the past two and half years, the focus of possible Brexit damage and destruction to expats’ lives has concentrated on retired pensioners on the Costa del Sol, but the majority of Brit expat business owners are still in an impossible situation. The problem for many of those with the most to lose is that Spain does not allow dual citizenship. In order to allay healthcare and pension worries by securing Spanish citizenship, the only way forward is to relinquish British citizenship. Although a good few are now so disenchanted by the way expats in Spain have been used as pawns in Brexit’s losing game that they’re more than willing to become Spanish, the rest aren’t so overjoyed by the prospect.

One typical dilemma is that of wedding planner and tour guide Michael Soffe, whose successful Malaga business is now threatened by the ongoing uncertainty over post-Brexit heathcare provisions. His partner is still receiving treatment for cancer, and could lose his right to public healthcare at the end of March. Due to his ongoing condition, there’s not an insurance company which would touch him. Michael’s pension is also at risk, as he’s been in Spain for 30 years and a possible ending of the EU agreement to share welfare credits would leave him with much-reduced savings. His only plus-point is that his business would probably survive as it’s not dependent on British tourists.

Healthcare and pension concerns are now coming to a head in all Spain’s expat communities, not just in the usual retirement havens. Contrary to popular belief, the majority of Spain’s 300,000 Brits aren’t expat retirees living it up in the Costas as at least two-thirds of that number are working, either in Spanish companies or as self-employed small business owners. Many also have families and are worried about their kids’ education and future prospects as regards recognition of qualifications earned. An increasing number are now fully aware they and their lives were used as political pawns in what is now seen as total chaos with almost no chance of a sensible outcome.

Alison Cutis is a relatively new arrival in Spain, having emigrated just three years ago, just a few months before the referendum took place. She, along with thousands of others, didn’t believe for a moment that Leave would win and now have no idea what to do for the best. Her daughter and grandchildren are also in Spain, and Alison’s situation a a cancer survivor means that, without guaranteed, affordable healthcare, she’ll be forced to return to the UK. For many others, it’s a choice between giving up on their chosen lives or risking staying where they may not be welcome in the long-term. Sadly, given the way they’ve been treated by their home country’s lawmakers, giving up their British nationality is a step too far for many.
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