2 Oct, 2021 @ 08:00
3 mins read

EXCLUSIVE: “Time to get out of Dodge” – meet the Brexit refugees making a new life in Spain (part 2)

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Continuing on from our recent feature on Brits that have left their homes in the UK to start new lives in sunnier climes here in Spain as Brexit approached.

EXCLUSIVE: Meet the Brexit refugees who fled Britain for a new life in Spain (Part 1)

Getting out of Dodge

Sarah O’Neill has travelled for most of her adult life and was living in Malawi, Africa, in the three years running up to the referendum.

Sarah Oneill 1
SARAH O’NEILL: “Devastated by Brexit”

So to see her country suddenly wrenched from the bulk of Europe by Brexiteers who had been fed so many lies was extremely upsetting.

“I was devastated by the 2016 result,” explains the 49-year-old charity worker, originally from London.

“I came back to the UK in August 2017, hoping to return to the charity/non-profit sector, but there was nothing.

“No-one knew what was going to come with Brexit, and there was belt-tightening and freezing of employment everywhere.”

A family apartment in Nerja (Malaga) was her one golden opportunity to ‘get out of Dodge’.

“I moved in May 2018 to get all my ducks in a row before the Brexit deadline.

“I learnt Spanish, obtained my residency and swapped my driving license over.”

She continues: “Before Brexit, I came and went as I pleased, and I had plenty of visitors from all over Europe.”

“But then of course, Covid happened, and then the true outcome of a hard Brexit.”

It has certainly not been a bed of roses, she insists, however.

“I have often wondered if I’ve done the right thing. Life here is not easy, and the earnings are much less than the UK, employment is scarce, and the TEFL industry (Teaching English as a First Language) is particularly awful.

“We have sunshine, of course, but I do miss my friends and family.”

Not returning to the Dark Ages

Cliff James vowed never to return to the UK after leaving for foreign shores following the referendum in 2016.

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UTOPIA FOUND: Cliff James with husband, Alvaro

“The result was a huge shock, like a bereavement,” the 49-year-old from Cambridge explains.

Cliff 2
CLIFF & ALVARO: Having fun in the sun

“Overnight, it felt like the country had returned to the Dark Ages of ignorance and hatred.”

He continues: “It was always clear that the basis of the debate was about racism and xenophobia, rather than economics or sovereignty.

“All this nonsense about the colour of passports and ‘taking back control’ was just an excuse to retreat to some feudal ideal of ye olde England, where power is concentrated in the hands of the political classes.”

The former journalist adds: “I had been searching for something better, somewhere more hopeful and forward-looking, a utopia maybe.”

After travelling for a year, taking in Himalayan temples, peace projects in Israel and Palestine, and serving at refugee camps, he met his future husband, Alvaro, in Buenos Aires.

The pair are now settled in their ‘utopia’ in Fiñana (Almeria), where they run a farm, making olive oil.His Brexit ‘odyssey’ provided inspiration for his book, Life As A Kite, a political travelogue about leaving the UK because of Brexit and looking back at the country as things went from bad to worse.

New job, new friends!

Amelia still jokes that she must be the only person in the world to be thankful of Covid.


She says she was ‘terrified’ living in England on her own during the pandemic, largely because of the way the UK government handled the crisis.

In contrast, the 30 insists attitudes were so much better in Granada, where her mum Diana lived.

Just as the end of the Withdrawal Agreement was looming, the 30-year-old moved to Spain in August 2020, and started learning the language.

Despite having the support of mum, the lack of available jobs made the move difficult.

But Amelia eventually got all her papers sorted, and now lives and now helps run a Dutch bar in Benalmadena on the Costa del Sol.

“I have absolutely no regrets, I’m exactly where I’m meant to be,” she exclaims.

“I’ve got new friends. I enjoy my work. We all have fun, we all moan, and it does get stressful.

“Yes, hard work I have never been happier. The quality of living is so different in Spain compared to the UK. 

“I feel truly blessed to have found an amazing job and live in a beautiful country.”

If other Olive Press readers have moved to Spain largely because of Brexit, please share your experiences with us via newsdesk@theolivepress.es


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