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British expat group Eurocitizens tells Spanish media of its Brexit 'uncertainty' fears
BRITISH expatriates in Spain have spoken to the Spanish media about their Brexit fears, saying nobody is prepared to give them answers on how the UK's departure from the European Union will affect them.
The association Eurocitizens, which has members from all over Spain, says March 29 was 'a very sad day' for UK nationals living in EU countries, and describe themselves a 'hostages' and 'bargaining chips' in Britain's negotiations with Brussels.
They fear their rights as EU citizens will expire the day Brexit materialises on March 29, 2019 – or before – and that their future in Spain is 'uncertain'.
Eurocitizens was created six months ago, and is one of several groups representing Brits in Spain and other EU member States along with Bremain in Spain and The 16 Million Rising, referring to the 16 million Brits who voted against Brexit.
As Eurocitizens points out, Brits in EU countries hoped, overwhelmingly, that the UK would remain in the 'club', but the majority did not even have a say in the matter.
Like European nationals living in the UK – who include over 100,000 Spaniards – British nationals who had lived outside the United Kingdom for more than 15 years were barred from voting in the In/Out referendum.
This, says Eurocitizens, accounts for the majority of British-born expatriates in Europe.
Of the few who were able to vote, many said they did not even receive their voting slips – in fact, one British husband-and-wife couple say one of them got the paperwork in time and the other did not, despite their having applied at exactly the same moment.
Those limited voices that were able to be heard voted almost entirely to remain in the EU, although they had no way of checking that their ballot paper reached its destination – either on time, or at all - even if they sent it back the very day they received it.
“Our future is uncertain, because we don't know what will happen with our jobs, our studies, our pensions, our healthcare cover and, in some cases, even our families,” says Eurocitizens.
They recall that many have children born in Spain, or who moved there with their parents when they were very young, and that some have gone to university in the UK, meaning problems could arise in the future depending upon where they decide to settle and if either parents or children need to travel to one country or another for emergencies.
Others are concerned that if, one day, they need to spend an indefinite period in the UK to care for elderly or sick family members, or if their own family members need to travel to Spain to care for them, problems could arise – such as residence being revoked if they spend too long out of the country.
“We've become hostages, bargaining chips in the Brexit ministry's negotiations – and if the UK leaves the EU without reaching any agreements, as Theresa May has threatened, all our rights as Europeans will be extinguished in one fell swoop,” Eurocitizens explained to the Spanish media.
Although May has promised to guarantee the rights of EU nationals in Britain and Brits living in the EU, Eurocitizens does not believe this to be any more than platitudes.
“We've met with two different ministers from the UK, and did not get answers to any of our questions – including healthcare, pensions, and whether there is any way we could choose to remain EU citizens,” the association says.
“In any negotiations, the people should come first. People are the most important, and officially, nearly 309,000 Brits live in Spain alone, and almost 110,400 are non-resident property owners here.”
Eurocitizens' secretary Camilla Hillier-Fry says: “What worries us most is the lack of response, and the lack of interest, on the part of the British government.
“In my case, I've lived in Spain for over 30 years, my children were born here and we've been paying taxes here all that time, so I'm going to have to take Spanish citizenship – something I never thought necessary before, but which I might have to do to continue being co-director of a company in Spain and being able to access the Social Security, such as healthcare and a State pension.”
She says most British pensioners in Spain will probably be too frightened to think about taking citizenship, since they will have to take two exams, in language and sociocultural knowledge, which is a scary thought for former secondary-mod pupils and those who have not sat a written test in 50 or 60 years or more.
They now worry about whether they will be able to continue getting their UK pensions in Spain, whether these will be frozen as is the case for British pensioners living in non-EU countries such as the USA, Canada and Australia, and whether the healthcare agreement by which the British government pays Spain €4,300 a year per head will continue.
“Even for non-pensioners, this uncertainty is still stressful, just as it is for Spaniards living in the UK, since neither of us knows whether we'll need visas to remain where we are, or how our healthcare cover will be affected,” Ms Hillier-Fry concludes.
Giving an interview to the Spanish media was partly to try to debunk myths which exist among Spanish society.
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