1 Oct, 2021 @ 08:00
3 mins read

EXCLUSIVE: Meet the Brexit refugees who fled Britain for a new life in Spain

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BRITISH expats living in Spain watching events unfold in the UK in recent days may be forgiven for feeling a certain Schadenfreude as critics of the government lay the blame with Brexit. 

As British petrol pumps run dry and with the threat of empty shelves by Christmas, The Olive Press sought out the views of those who made the move to Spain as Brexit loomed.

Wanted freedom of movement 

Essex couple Ian and Eve Honeywood, from Chelmsford already had their ‘small but sufficient property’ that they used as a holiday home, so making the jump wasn’t so huge.

Spain was their escape from long, stressful hours working in supermarket logistics and they always planned to retire here.

“Being here in Frigiliana (Malaga) was our heaven, all our stress was left at the airport,” explains Ian.

Ian Honeywood 3
IAN & EVE HONEYWOOD: “Leave lied, Remain had a poor campaign”
IMAGE COPYRIGHT: Olive Press Spain

The 64-year-old knew that when Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and Jacob Rees Mogg announced they were backing the leave campaign, it ‘would be riddled with lies’.

“I completely understand why the UK voted out – ‘Leave’ lied and ‘Remain’ had a poor campaign,” he insists.

“On the morning of June 24, 2016, I decided I wanted to leave the UK.

“I watched the country deteriorate over a period of time and no longer wanted to live in a place I believed was sinking.

“I wanted to be European and I wanted the freedom to roam, work and live where I wanted … within weeks we had left the UK.”

They quickly settled into the Spanish way of life and gained residency after just a year.

Wife Eve, 61, admits: “I haven’t regretted the move for one single day. We’re the lucky ones as living here before Brexit guaranteed our right to remain.”

“I feel desperately sorry for all those people in the UK that have had a lifelong dream of moving here in retirement now become very complicated, if not impossible.”

She continues: “The rights of the young British people have been taken away and I hope things will change for them in the future.”

Hate what the UK has become

David Waters doesn’t mince his words. “I hated what the UK had become after the Brexit vote, particularly as we lived in an area where the majority were Brexiters,” the retired policeman explains from his new home in the Canary Islands.

Citing a lack of freedom of movement in Europe and a weak withdrawal agreement, he and his wife Anne couldn’t ‘wait to get away’.

David Anne Waters
DAVID & ANNE WATERS: “If not now, when?”
IMAGE COPYRIGHT: Olive Press Spain

“We sold up, lock stock and barrel and moved to Lanzarote” he continues.

While the Lancashire couple couldn’t move until the end of the transition period, they had to get visas which are reviewed every two years until they’re both accepted as permanent residents.

The 64-year-old, who is now writing a blog about his experiences, adds: “Although it wasn’t an ideal time for us, we thought ‘if not now – when’?

Halfway through cancer treatment

Shaz Hopson
SHAZ HOPSON: Now cancer-free
IMAGE COPYRIGHT: Olive Press Spain

Shaz Hopson, from Nottingham, made the leap to Spain despite being halfway through cancer treatment.

The ex-public sector worker made the brave decision as she and her husband, Frank, were so sure it was the right place to live.

“I wasn’t going to let cancer stop me,” the 58-year-old insists. “I was halfway through chemotherapy treatment when we left, and Spain then took over my treatment schedule.

After two major surgeries, radiotherapy, immunotherapy & hormone therapy in Spain, she has been classed as “cancer free” since October 2018.

“We knew we wouldn’t be able to do it if we waited until afterwards, so I took early retirement and we moved to Pliego (Murcia) in 2018.”

“Try doing that post-Brexit,” she quips.

Shaz now spends much of her time working as a voluntary counsellor for the MABS cancer charity, and walking her 14-year-old dog, Jess.

Worry free life as a pensioner

Helen Singh made the incredibly brave move from Yorkshire to Spain after the Brexit result.

Helen Singh
HELEN SINGH: Brexit was decisive
IMAGE COPYRIGHT: Olive Press Spain

The Remain voter, from Harrogate, took the decision after seeing what was happening to the UK, post-Brexit.

“I always wanted to live in warmer climes, [and] the Brexit result was a decisive moment.”

She eventually moved and gained residency in 2019: “I sold up, moved to Mazarron (Murcia) alone and have never looked back.”

Now retired and “living life to the full,” she continues: “I would never have had a life as a pensioner in the UK.”

“Here I have made friends and can afford a worry free life – I definitely made the right choice.”

“I knew I would never go back, it depresses me to see a government that is destroying my country and I cannot forgive them for that.”

READ MORE More British expats tell of their one-way trip to Spain to avoid the Brexit “nightmare”

If any other Olive Press readers have similar tales to tell, please tell us via [email protected]ç

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