British expats’ support for Brexit ‘a blow to Cameron’
IT HAS often been presumed Britons living in Spain would never vote for Brexit for fear of upsetting pension and health arrangements – but in their haven of Alicante opinion is more evenly divided.
Wendy Simpson, a former executive with the Confederation of British Industry, is among those prepared to follow her “gut feeling” and vote to leave the EU.
“So much of what comes out of Brussels is unnecessary and hampers business,” said Mrs Simpson, 69, whose ex-employer in London has backed remaining.
The prospect of expats opting to leave Europe is a blow to David Cameron and the Remain camp who have banked on the majority of expats voting to stay after embassies organised voter registration drives.
But Mrs Simpson is backing Leave despite concerns: “Would Britain continue to pay into the Spanish health system for our treatment? What would happen with pensions?” Other expats feel the same, saying Remain camp claims that they could become “immigrants overnight” are exaggerated.
John Deacon, 75, who retired to Jávea, said: “There is no reason to change sensible arrangements.”
There are up to one million British expats in Spain plus four million elsewhere in Europe. Some, such as pensioner Brian Reynolds in the resort of Calpe, say fears of a Brexit tax backlash in Spain will make them vote to remain in the EU on June 23.
The ex-marketing executive said: “The Spanish don’t have a great track record of being nice to foreign residents.” While Penny Thompson in Benalmádena said officials were already getting tough, refusing her baby a health card despite her being a legal resident.
“People in the bureaucra- cy here are basically saying to us ‘Why don’t you go home?’ It’s the uncertainty for us expats. Overnight everything is going to change.”
Spanish government sources said, in the event of Brexit, dealas would have to be renegotiated on expats’ access to healthcare and other services.
But Mr Reynolds warned: “People in Britain are worried about a million people from Syria. What about a million Brits coming back – people with more rights to benefits? Brexit is a nightmare waiting to happen.”
Home or away: expats are not as keen on Remain as was thought