British expat community in Spain torn apart by Brexit

Published:  14 May at 6 PM
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May 9 was Europe Day, a celebration of everything the European community stands for, but UK expats affected by Brexit might not have been celebrating.

The general feeling across the expat community in Spain is that Brexit has fragmented the formerly cohesive, strong British presence in the country. Almost a million Britons are now living in Spain as part of what used to be a friendly, supportive environment deliberately chosen for its lifestyle by business people, retirees and families. Brexit has been the cause of gaping divisions in the community caused by fear of what the future may hold.

Since the shock of the referendum result, Brexit debates have focused mainly on EU expats living and working in the UK, with little attention paid to Brits in the same situation in Europe in general and Spain in particular. As negotiations drag on, EU migrants are beginning to leave the UK and Britons are leaving or thinking of leaving Spain. Both expat groups are grappling with their dual identities as European and home country citizens.

University of Birmingham research with UK pensioners living on the Costa del Sol uncovered resentment and anger over the issue, especially amongst those denied the vote due to the 15 year rule. The research confirmed that Britons are reluctantly returning home, thus verifying a recent report that the numbers of Brits in Spain has dropped by 40 per cent, leaving a fragmented fearful community divided into Remainers and Leavers. Some will undoubtedly give up being British and go for Spanish citizenship, but the majority will still have to confront their British identity and decide whether living in post-Brexit Britain is possible.
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