British expat community in Spain are ‘British people’ too

Published:  17 Jan at 6 PM
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Last Tuesday evening, Brit expats were gathered at their favourite bar, watching the crucial parliamentary vote on May’s Brexit agreement.

As the result of the vote was announced, the silence in the bar was deafening. Subsequently, half the small community were in favour of Brexit whilst the rest disagreed, but no-one had anticipated the massive rejection of May’s deal. In the discussion that followed, opinions shot back and forth, but everyone agreed they’d got more clarity now about the conflicting issues of Brexit or no Brexit. A few days later, the community is in agreement that, whatever happens, uncertainty is still dominating their lives.

Spain’s British expat community is roughly split down the middle between retirees and expat professionals either working for large companies or running their own businesses whilst raising families. Older expats mostly choose to live along Spain’s Mediterranean coastline with its mild winter weather and hot summers, and younger, working expats live mostly in Barcelona or Madrid. All will be affected should the worst Brexit scenario become a grim reality, even although the Spanish government has just issued a notice promising the right to stay under certain circumstances.

The effect of the ongoing uncertainty is now being felt all along the Spanish coastline, with British bar and restaurant owners the first to feel the pinch. Expats are staying home far more than in the past and, when they go out, they’re spending far less than they used to. Expat SME owners believe it’s not just a reaction to Brexit, saying it’s also down to the sharp depreciation on the value of sterling, which is only going to get worse once Brexit kicks in. Brit-run businesses which serve the expat community are cutting back as numbers of customers and the amounts being spent dwindle, with the real estate sector now in a slow decline.

The lack of ease of travel post-Brexit is having its effect all along the coast, as is the uncertainty surrounding future tax arrangements. British restaurant owners providing a taste of the home country to Brits are now scared by the very real possibility of higher transport costs and import duties impacting on their shrinking revenues. All in all, this is the reality of Brexit, in whichever form it finally arrives, and those who’d built their new lives on their hopes of a secure retirement will be left to pick up their broken dreams and repatriate to an equally broken Britain.

This community, and many like it, are as much May’s ‘voice of the British people’ as are those back in the UK – it’s a pity she’s never listened to them.
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