Brits in Spain still divided over Brexit and the UK's future relationship with the EU

Pro-EU protesters in Malaga in September.
Pro-EU protesters in Malaga in September. / MIGUE FERNÁNDEZ
  • There is a mixture of relief that citizens' rights have been protected, grief that Brexit is really happening and joy that the UK is finally leaving the EU

Just as there is mixed opinion over Brexit in the UK, British residents in Spain sit firmly on both sides of the debate. While many don't think that their lives will be directly affected by the UK's departure and especially in view of the inclusion of citizens' rights in the Withdrawal Agreement, opinion is divided on issues such as the relationship between the UK and EU as well as future travel and working arrangements.

Retired Scottish resident Joyce Harvey, who has lived in Torremolinos for 45 years, said she was not pleased that Brexit would finally take place on Friday.

The former British Airways employee, who claims she had become "pretty bored with the whole thing", could not vote in the referendum, but declared that she would have voted to remain if given the chance. She believes that Theresa May was "treated badly", and that the "eccentric" Boris Johnson now needs to prove his ability to lead the country after Brexit.

"Boris Johnson had no competition. Time will tell whether he knows what he is talking about," she added.

Although she no longer resides in Scotland, Joyce claims she would back another vote for Scottish independence.

No worries

Financial consultant Steve McGann, a resident of Benalmádena for the last 15 years, is extremely pleased that the UK will finally leave the EU today.

He is aware that the process is not expected to be completed until the end of this year, but he believes that the UK could have secured a deal quicker if the government had have received backing from members of parliament.

"I did not vote because I was in the Middle East at the time, but I would have voted Leave," said Steve who added that he was "fed up with the lawmakers not respecting the referendum result and trying to reverse the decision".

Steve is not particularly worried about the effect Brexit will have on expats living in Spain, as he feels the Spanish economy depends heavily on tourists and expats.

"It may be different in Madrid, but on all the Costas, the British expats are an integral part and I don't think the Spanish government, national or regional, will want to harm the economy.

"The issue is mainly one of currency: Sterling has fallen but it is recovering from the lower levels. People with pensions and income from the UK will see an improvement. However, if you are selling property here, the value has increased in sterling terms," he said.

Steve believes that the British People made the right decision back in 2016, and he also thinks that Boris Johnson is the "right man for the job".

"Without doubt, the people made the right decision to leave. The detachment of Brussels from the realities of the people, not just the British, was becoming more and more evident and the referendum result showed it."

He does not, however, believe that Brexit is reason for another vote on Scottish independence.

"How many times can you hold a 'once in a lifetime' vote on independence. The majority of Scots want to stay in the Union. Sturgeon is making a Horlicks of running Scotland," he concludes.

Cross-border issues

For Hayden Burge, who is a cross border worker based in Barcelona, there is a "lack of clarity" on whether he will be able to continue to work in IT services in different countries and even if he is, the additional paperwork and cost might make him "uncompetitive".

He is uncertain about his rights should he need to return to the UK in the future to care for elderly parents. For Hayden the worry is about the implications of moving to the UK without guarantees of settled status for his partner. "I have no clarity, despite having read the Withdrawal Agreement, that my Spanish partner would be able to come with me and work in the UK. Currently I have the right to move back and have my EU citizen partner join me and work."

Hugh Whittam, who has lived in Malaga for 14 years, voted to leave. He says he is "happy with the Withdrawal Agreement" and is "positive" about Britain's future outside the EU. "We should all get behind our government now, as we should have done after the referendum, instead of being so doom-laden and negative," he said.