The Guardian reports on the concerns of British migrants across Europe regarding the affects of Brexit. Our own members have a strong voice which can be viewed below – You can read the full article on The Guardian site here.
‘It terrifies me’: Britons in Europe on how Brexit is going to affect them
British citizens who have chosen to work or spend their retirement years elsewhere in Europe fear their pensions, healthcare and right to remain will disappear post-Brexit.
“We were not even allowed to vote in the referendum that could turn our lives upside down,” said Denise Hope, a retired translator living in Italy. “I feel very bitter about it, as do other expats.”
Hope is one of 1.2 million Britons living elsewhere in the EU whose lives have been thrown into disarray by the prospect of Brexit. Rights to property and to own a business are protected under international law, but automatic reciprocal rights to pensions, education grants and healthcare are not.
Up to 20 groups have now sprung up across Europe to campaign for those rights to be protected. Some individuals have considered changing nationality but, as Jane Golding, a British lawyer living in Germany, said, that too could have unforeseen consequences.
Countries such as Spain do not recognise dual nationality, so if any of the 300,000 British people registered in the country opt to swap their passports will they deny themselves the future right to return to Britain?
Others worry about the value of the state pension, guaranteed under EU law, but not post-Brexit, such as Sue Wilson, Chair of the Bremain in Spain campaign.
The estimated 450,000 retirees drawing a British state pension from elsewhere in the EU have already seen a drop in their income because of the collapse of sterling and fear that it could fall further when the UK withdraws.
Under EU law, the pension, is effectively index-linked, said Golding, who is campaigning to ensure the rights of UK citizens in the EU and EU citizens in the UK. Unless a replacement guarantee is in place when Britain quits the EU, this could be frozen, she said, adding: “These rights need to be settled before the triggering of article 50.”
Healthcare is another thorny issue with different systems across the continent. Campaigners have complained that the government barely grasps the issue. Expat Citizens Rights in EU (ECREU), a pan-European group, wrote to the House of Lords EU justice committee to tell them the government appeared to confuse health arrangements for tourists with healthcare for Britons living abroad.
Under EU law, UK pensioners are entitled to receive healthcare as though they were nationals of that state.
“Without that health support, it may well be the case that great numbers of citizens aged over 65, would need to return to the UK. Many could not afford to make that return and would become isolated, poor, and even destitute,” said ECREU in its submission.
Britons in Ireland are also affected, despite earlier assumptions that they would be protected under joint Anglo-Irish laws giving nationals from both countries more rights than EU citizens in each other’s countries, including the right to vote in general elections.
It emerged in a House of Lords report earlier this week that while Britain could guarantee the rights of Irish people settled in the UK, Ireland will not have the power to reciprocate without the agreement of other EU members.
The Department for Exiting the European Union declined to say if it was looking at any solutions or any potential models to resolve the uncertainty.
“We are determined to deliver the best possible outcome both for people living in the UK and for UK nationals living in EU countries, and that is why we are preparing for a smooth and orderly exit from the EU and an arrangement that works in the mutual interest of both sides,” said a spokeswoman.
Jo Chipchase, 44, photographer, Granada, Spain
“If we had to go back to the UK would my boys be picked on by leave neighbours?”
I was born in Newcastle and have owned a house near Granada for the last 10 years. My kids, who are nine and 10, are attending a Spanish school, where they are doing well both educationally and socially and I worry about the impact on their future. They were born EU citizens, I always thought we would be EU citizens, and I loathe the idea of that being stripped away.
We don’t qualify for citizenship yet because in Spain you have to be here for 10 years and my biggest fear is that we would be forced to leave. I don’t want to leave because I don’t like the idea of living in England. My family are staunch leavers and this has caused a lot of friction.
My eldest son is a promising goalkeeper on a local football team and they are both bilingual. They have settled lives here. Imagine if we had to unwillingly start again in the UK, with all those leave voters literally on our doorstep telling us to “suck it up” and how “unpatriotic” we are because we lived in Spain. Would my boys be picked upon, because they speak fluent Spanish to each other? I feel that anything is possible, the way “Brexit Britain” is heading with diminishing levels of tolerance and respect towards others. From the outside looking in, it is a big step backwards for society.
I don’t think the Spanish will march us off to the nearest port or that they will want us to leave because the British are contributing to the economy, whether they are retired here or running businesses. But no one knows and when you have teenage children it’s terribly worrying.
Malcolm Perry, 45, entrepreneur, Granada
“We worry what would happen to our dogs. Will the European pet passport work if we have to return to the UK?”
We took the jump after my husband, James, was made redundant. I’m originally from Kent and worked for 20 years in learning disability and gave up my job to start a new tourism business here in Spain.
Just as our life was getting better, this has happened and it has taken the wind from our sails.
We are totally immersed in a small community here, we have a small mortgage and if we had to leave, we could never get on to the property ladder again in Kent. It would be very difficult to go back into a job for me as I’d have a four-year gap in professional development.
We pay social security, our taxes and regional taxes here and have access to the healthcare system. We are also paying into the pension system here. When Britain leaves the EU we will be in a catch-22 situation. Could we afford private healthcare? What will happen to our pension? We don’t know what the Spanish government is going to do.
It sounds silly but we also worry what would happen to our dogs? They currently have European pet passports. Would they work in the UK? If we do have to return would they be able to come with us?
My big fear is the European Union I’ve grown up in will no longer be there and generations of British citizens will miss out.
Sue Wilson, 63, Chair of Bremain in Spain, Valencia
“My Spanish friends are shocked and mystified by the Brexit decision – and offended – and are happy I am fighting it.”
My Brexit fears centre on the loss of the freedoms I have enjoyed, specifically the freedom of movement and the benefits that come with being a member of the European Union. I am very fearful of the attitude of the British government and of the change in nature of British society, which has become an intolerant and inward-looking one.
In Spain, multiculturalism is to be admired, not abhorred. We are welcomed by the local communities, we haven’t suffered any racism or ill-treatment. It would be fair to say that the Spanish are shocked and mystified by the Brexit decision – and offended. They actually take it very personally that we wish to leave a union that they value so highly and my Spanish friends are very happy that I am fighting it.
On a personal level, worries include those over the future of our pensions. You can draw a British pension anywhere in the world, but within the EU it is linked to inflation or the cost of living. Will this now be frozen for pensioners?
Pensioners, especially those on low incomes, are already suffering because of the exchange rate changes since the referendum and are having to live on less.
Gemma Middleton, 43, film producer, Valencia
“I hate that my children in Spain will not have the freedoms to work and travel in Europe that I had.”
We’ve lived here in Spain for seven years with my two children, 19 and 14. they were both born in the UK and none of us are eligible for Spanish citizenship because you have to have been here 10 years. The Spanish don’t offer dual nationality, so the worry is whether we will be able to stay post-Brexit.
It terrifies me that my children will not be getting the same opportunities I have had. When I was 19 I backpacked around Europe with no complications. I worked in bars, did au pair work along the way and I’ve always considered myself European. I hate the fact that my children can’t have that now through no fault of their own.
It’s a narrowing of choice and will probably mean having to apply for work visas every time they want to work in Europe. I can’t bear to think they just can’t hop on a train and travel. That’s not something our generation had to even think of and that’s just been snatched from them.
All their friends are Spanish and my youngest is more or less Spanish now. There’s very little English about him. He’d be quite prepared to give up his British citizenship, but the older one, he would find it harder.
I wouldn’t hesitate in renouncing my Britishness, it doesn’t bother me in the slightest. My family voted to leave: my parents, my sisters, my brother-in-law, my cousins, everyone. Some of my family were due to come here in October but we cancelled. It would have been world war three.
Kathryn Dobson, 39, magazine publisher, Poitiers, France
“I worry that our 15-year-old will not now have the same options as her older sister.”
“We left the UK 14 and a half years ago because my husband and I were both facing redundancy. I was offered a post in Geneva and we came to France and worked with Procter & Gamble in Switzerland. We had three children aged five, three, and under one, and after three years we decided to stay in France and try something completely different.
With three children in French schools and having worked in an international situation, I saw how beneficial it was having two languages. So my strong motivation for staying in France was so my children could be bilingual and culturally flexible because we are all EU citizens.
I felt severe shock on 24 June, as if part of my identity was being forcibly removed. I am nearly 50 and grew up in the EU. My family took full advantage of the EU, yet overnight we have risked those rights being taken away from us.
On social media, I see people in the UK calling families like us traitors, but we came here because there wasn’t work for us in the UK. Our children are now 19, 17 and 15. My middle daughter has just started university in Rotterdam and has received a Dutch grant because she is an EU citizen.
When she applied for her course, we had no idea Brexit would happen. She is doing a degree in business studies and forming bonds with 500 other international students and many go on to do a masters, but this is now at risk.
We can apply for French citizenship but it takes two years and may not come through in time. I also worry that our 15-year-old will not now have the same options as her older sister and that they cannot get the life choices as we had including as a result of freedom of movement. Brexit is not a personal economic issue for me, it’s about our children – and not just mine, but all children and generations to come.