4 Feb, 2016 @ 08:30
2 mins read

What would the Brexit mean to European expats?

Brexit e
Paul Drecheler CBE, President of the CBI


Paul Drecheler CBE, President of the CBI

IT has been dubbed the ‘most important issue of a generation’.

But what would Britain leaving the EU – better known as a ‘Brexit’ – really mean? And what would an independent UK mean to expats in Spain?

It all depends on who you listen to and – more importantly – who you believe.

Eurosceptics talk about a brave new world with the UK cut adrift from the EU, while Europhiles (EU supporters) warn of a dark and isolated existence should Britain cut ties with Europe.

Now the boss of the UK’s most powerful business body, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has thrown his weight behind the ‘stay in’ campaign, arguing that ‘nothing’ about a Brexit ‘would be better for economic growth’.

In no uncertain terms, Paul Drechsler added there was ‘not one benefit’ to leaving, dealing a massive blow to those hoping for a Brexit.

“We have to be careful we don’t think there’s a great new world out there for us,” he warned. “Brexit means a significant period of uncertainty.”

And that is exactly it. Drechsler hits the nail firmly on the head when he talks of ‘uncertainty’ as nobody seems to know the true economic or social fall-out should it happen.

The problem is there are so many contradictory theories and opinions in the media, and even the government itself, it is hard to build up a clear picture.

While questions remain unanswered (and they must be answered before a referendum is held), scaremongers have been insisting that a Brexit would be bad news for expats.

According to former attorney general Dominic Grieve, an EU exit could make ‘two million Britons abroad illegal immigrants overnight’.

And it is easy to see what all the fuss is about. But, in reality, it is very unlikely to happen.

While Europhiles claim it could lead to a mass exodus of Europeans from the UK and British expats from Europe, their claims have no legal grounding.

In fact, it is quite the opposite. According to the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties 1969 expats have now ‘acquired rights’ in their home countries, which they should hold onto in the case of a Brexit.

Generally speaking, expats should retain their free movement rights within Europe and will retain all their rights following a withdrawal.

That said, this has not been confirmed in the European Parliament – and will need to be discussed should David Cameron set a referendum date – but precedent suggests that all EU citizens should keep their rights after any Treaty changes.

This, in fact, was the case when Greenland withdrew from the EU in 1985 and it can be safely assumed that the same would apply to a Brexit.

The most obvious problem therefore would not be Brits already living abroad, but Brits wanting to move abroad – which, of course, would have an impact on expat businesses as the steady stream of Brits heading to Spain to live could become in danger of drying up.

Only time will tell the true impact of a Brexit.

If you run a business or just want your say, send your opinion of what a Brexit would mean to you and your business to [email protected]

Gibraltar says stay!

GIBRALTAR is strongly against a Brexit.

The possibility of losing privileged links to a market of half-a-billion people is a major concern to its leader Fabian Picardo.

Plus it could give Spain the opportunity to ramp up its continued claims for sovereignty.

Certainly, it is set to be one of the biggest talking points on the Rock this year, and some have gone so far as to say Britain leaving the EU poses an ‘existential’ threat to Gibraltar.

However, the Chief Minister is not quite that worried. He has stated that Gibraltar would push for a ‘different degree of membership’ should the UK opt to leave the EU.

He said: “The only existential threat to our economy is one where we are pulled out of the EU against our will and denied access to the single market.”

Rob Horgan

DO YOU HAVE NEWS FOR US at Spain’s most popular English newspaper - the Olive Press? Contact us now via email: [email protected] or call 951 273 575. To contact the newsdesk out of regular office hours please call +34 665 798 618.


  1. Basically no one knows. As for the expat exodus, it has already been underway for quite a while without the threat of a ‘Brexit’. The model of expats has changed a lot over the past few years. People that I know now tend to use Spain as a long-term holiday destination and reside for less then 183 days so that they can extricate themselves from Spain’s mad (and expensive) tax system and the terrible bureaucracy. After all, there are no jobs, so unless residing here all year round if you are of working age is a non-starter.

  2. A useless article but perhaps that’s what the author wanted.

    What’s the point of introducing someone’s opinions if you don’t before hand, state clearly their bias.

    Lots and lots of words from Paul Dreschler – not one benefit – so where is the factual information to substantiate his words. Oh I get it because he is a VIP we should be impressed – I am never impressed by b/s, only stupid serfs are.

    Mentioning precedents is irrelevant. So Greenland left in 85, very sensible but hardly important to the structure of the EU. The UK leaving is very important – we are the second biggest funder of this corrupt and undemocratic institution, if we leave who is going to make up this enormous difference in funding. An intelligent and unbiased writer would have almost immediately asked this question.

    I live now in France and I see ongoing shop closures every time I visit the big city. The health system whilst extremely good (I know I have been using it for 4 years now) is hugely in debt. The State pension scheme has a nightmare waiting to happen in the near future. Indeed most European States have this future waiting for them, not least Europe’s most successful economy, Germany and they are now taking on another huge load of mainly unhealthy elderly immigrant people – so who’s going to pick up the UK’s tab – got any answers.

    Why are the EU’s leaders trying desperately to keep alive the founding clause of ‘free movement of capital and labour’ – because this was the real reason for the EU in the first place. It was only ever complete b/s – to stop Europeans killing each other. The EU was created to facilitate big business.

    The bought and paid for bureaucrats have never bothered that an awful lot of funding has been grafted away not only in corrupt southern Europe but in the infamous CAP, which only benefits the big farmers and agribusiness. Yesterday, there were huge farmer demonstrations all over France. Farmers are committing suicide in France, the UK and elsewhere – Brussels does’nt care because it’s masters profits would be smaller.

    The Vienna Convention, precedents – all mean nothing, history has clearly shown us that. Eastern Europe, all of Eastern Europe should never have been allowed into the EU until they had shown clearly and decisively that they had changed, the same goes for one of the founder members, Italy and we all know about Spain.

    The argument about falling populations ( very, very good for the environment and resources) and the need for immigrants is completely spurious. Human society has been in continuous change since we fell out of the trees, that is not an opinon it is a fact.

    Societies all over the planet have unfortunately developed whole classes of parasites who cream off the most. By rationalising basically parasitic industries like finance and insurance will release an enormous amount of people to look after the bulge of elderly along with population control will see a welcome drop in numbers, which will also mean that a lot of hugely expensive infrastructure projects become irrelevant. Anglo-Saxon capitalism is destructive for all but a handful – it is these parasitic interest groups that are for the EU and A/S capitalism.

    If you think that a positive and creative society can exist and prosper without a profit motive then you are completely away with the fairies but there is a huge difference between a healthy profit which is re-invested for the future and greed and both Europe and countries like the USA have seen the result of greed only to clearly.

    The EU serves no one but the elites and big business, corruption and lies were it’s foundation, it must be dismantled and be rebuilt from the ground up. This is never going to happen and Britain staying in will achieve nothing at all. A Brexit will hasten the day when the EU collapses.

    Ordinary Europeans do not want to kill each other, they would rather sit down and break bread together, the problem as always is the elites and what we allow them to do. Consumerism and mortgage and credit card debt keeps the serfs in line, a Brexit and collapse of the EU might make a difference – vamos a ver.

  3. I think the IN campaign is going to have its work cut out. The average Brit in the street is sick to the back teeth of the EU and seen one dreary Eurocrat too many droning on in a monotone voice and meddling in situations where they should not and not intervening when they should – the so called illegal building situation in Andalucia being a case in point. What have the EU done to help any of these people?

    We also have situations where we are told that we have to keep murderous, barbaric hate preachers at the taxpayers’ expense by the ECHR yet they do very little to intervene in situations where they should – a separate entity I know but nonetheless, it muddies the waters and people find it a huge turnoff.

    It is a mistake to think that it is only the UK that is disillusioned with the EU. Other member states are too and if the UK does vote to leave, it will be a damning indictment of the EU and I think it could signal the end of the EU as we know it. As others have said, it would leave a massive funding gap because the UK is the second largest contributor.

    The EU is no longer fit for purpose, it is too bureaucratic, inflexible and an outdated model and the Euro crisis is from over. The Euro might have seemed like a good idea at the time but it is a monumental failure and rumour has it Greece is going to need yet another bailout which could signal the end.

    It will be up to Spain (and each individual member state) what they decide to do about Brits if there is a Brexit – what Grieve said is rubbish because there would be a transitional period. As I said on another post, Brits who are already resident will probably be able to remain resident but Spain will have to decide what they are prepared to do for new entrants and how long they are prepared to let Brits stay in Spain as non-resident visitors.

    As Fred has said, the days of Brits moving to Spain lock, stock and barrel are long gone. Most simply have holiday homes because there is no work and most find it very difficult to sustain a business in Spain. Retirees have been put off by all the so called illegal building problems that are still far from resolved. As for the draconian tax laws, don’t go there.

    After all this speculation, there is the possibility that people are blowing hot air and will decide to vote to stay in. Others are waiting to see what Dave comes up with. Has anyone decided how they are going to vote yet?

  4. Spot on with your 2nd sentence Jane, the average Brit in the street is totally pi55ed off with the whole EU disaster, money-pit, the pay and obey culture, inability to control our own borders as we wish, the drain on crumbling infrastructure, NHS, Social Security etc etc The GREAT left Great Britain years ago and Ca-moron has weakened it further.

    Definitely going to vote OUT, weak mishandling and lies by Ca-moron, trouble is he has backing of powerful industries but hearing poor arguments for from failed boss ex CEO Rose of M and S gives me some hope there!

  5. This subject appears to be far more important to Brit expats resident in Spain than it does to us indigenous Brit UK residents. I’m a believer that the Cameron concessions have already been agreed but a story of tough talking is just a double bluff that leaves both parties with street cred,

    As for the Brit reservation dwellers in Spain, they have bigger concerns as their MASA built ‘dream homes’ continue to self destruct, than the politics of a UK exit from the EU. My experience of UK expats living in Spain is of life’s losers attempting to convince themselves that they are living the dream, I’ll settle for luxury beach front rental accommodation a couple of times a year.

    The wife and I will fare no differently if we are in or out of the EU, the UK is a very kind place to live taxation wise if not weather wise However the Spanish authorities will be able to rid themselves of the worst of the Brits if we exit the EU. With only circa 230,000 Brits registered on the Padron they are hardly propping the Spanish economy up.

  6. Absolutely right Stuart Crawford and Jane G. Lets stop squandering our money on this gigantic sinister corporation and return to our own prosperous, free and familiar way of life. Vote LEAVE on Thursday 23rd June 2016

  7. What would happen to the expat Brits living here in Spain in the event of a Brexit? For a start, it would be the Spanish authorities (and not the British) who would be deciding what to do with us. Leave us alone, no doubt. We bring in lots of money. However, if London made any move against the Spaniards working in the UK (said to be 200,000 of them), then we can be sure that Madrid would be forced by public opinion to retaliate. Remember, that money we spend here didn’t stop the Modelo 720, or the demolitions of British-owned houses in the countryside.

  8. The other things that worry me are more Countries joining as and when that may be, more 3rd world dictatorships, Turkey etc. When I speak to people in the UK, more want to leave than stay. Cameron’s negotiations are a farce, I think you would have to be a little demented to think he has achieved much. 300k to 400k more people coming in than leaving at the moment, you should see how many cars are on the Roads in the South East, you need a Ferrari to pull out on a roundabout now, the cars are going so fast and there is a 0.3 of a second to get on the circuit.

  9. Lenox – not very good with economics are you. There are around 400,000 Brits living in Spain. If the Spanish kick them out, they will lose a lot of tax revenues, whole communities will collapse and we can stop all the chemical laced produce from plasticland entering the UK and buy elsewhere. Then the 200,000 Spanish returning home will need social security payments. They will go cap in hand to Brussels but Brussels will say sorry, we’ve got nothing to give you.

    There are over 500,000 French living in London, if they have to go home that will break the French economy. The same can be said for Poland,Hungary, Slovenia, all the small Baltic States. Much of Dutch and danish agriculture will collapse as well.

    But it gets better – in the UK, all the BTL scum will go bankrupt and the price of property, commercial as well as residential will crash – great for ordinary Brits. The pressure will be gone from the NHS, schools and social services.

    If the stupid Labour party had really explained what ‘the free movement of capital and labour’ had meant back in the 70s – we would never have joined.

  10. The Brits (and other foreigners) do not play as important a part as they assume in Spanish policy. Its a mistake to assume rational economic and democratic discourse influences Spanish politicians; politicians care about doing and saying what they need to in order to retain their offices, thus control over, corporate and illegal enterprises benefiting them – not the imagined ‘rights’ of emigrants.

  11. ” My experience of UK expats living in Spain is of life’s losers attempting to convince themselves that they are living the dream” A rather unfair representation by David of my friends and myself, who live here in a small town in Almeria.
    Living the dream never came into our vocabulary or decision to move to Spain. Just as in our previous move from Northern Ireland to England some 45 years ago, we made the move to make a better life for ourselves in a healthier and friendlier climate.
    Here we enjoy an active social life with Spanish and Brits alike and have a much healthier lifestyle with more more time spent outdoors. This was never the case in England where saying hello to a stranger would often get you an aggressive look as if to say “Don’t talk to me, you don’t know me”. Maybe we moved to the wrong part of England but that was our experience. Of course we made friends but not on the scale we have here and many were work colleagues, who, when retirement came, drifted away.
    We have no regrets about moving here and yes, Brexit is obviously on our minds but que sera, sera. We are not stupid enough to think that we are that important to the Spanish economy, that they will bend over backwards to look after us. They will do what is best for them as Chas says.

  12. Even forgetting the damage a Brexit will probably do to us ex-pats (work permits, visas, no health coverage, a savage fall in the pound and so on), it will also create enormous problems for the UK – not the least being the hostility from Britain’s 27 ex-partners.

    • Depends also if the UK stays in the EEA. If it does, expats will have less to worry about. All unknowns at present, and likely to be unknown for a long time even if Brexit occurs.

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