Bri­tish ex­pats’ sup­port for Brexit ‘a blow to Cameron’

The Sunday Telegraph - - NEWS - By James Bad­cock in Madrid

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

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