There is a sad and indeed pitiful video doing the rounds of some of the British ex pat communities living in the Spanish Costas. In it, we see some of the estimated 108,000 pensioners currently living in Spain, the majority of whom live in ghettos, not integrating with the few Spaniards who remain, not bothering to learn the language and living entirely British lifestyles. They say they are happy with their lives in Spain, away from the grim greyness of the British maritime climate, but I am not so sure. But even if they are, they and other ex pats across the European Union must be very worried.
As things stand, the NHS reimburses the medical costs of ex pats to countries across the EU. This plainly won’t be the case post Brexit as we leave the EU, what will they do? There are two alternatives if they don’t wish to become citizens of the countries in which they live. The first is that people take out private medical insurance and the second is that they come home, not really an option given the escalation of UK property prices. Having dual-citizenship is not an option in Spain because the country doesn’t allow it.
Now I have heard the arguments. Why the hell should the British taxpayer fork out for Brits who don’t live in this country anymore? They’ve made their beds and they can just go and lie in them. I don’t agree with that, but then I don’t agree with just about anything that will happen in the post Brexit landscape.
Many of those who have emigrated to EU countries – and they number many hundreds of thousands – have worked all their lives in the UK and paid taxes and National Insurance accordingly. My view is that there should be an element of entitlement. I agree strongly with the idea of contributory benefits, where generally you get what you pay in for. I don’t see why ex pats should be excluded from this principle. But maybe they won’t have a say in things?
It’s the uncertainty, isn’t it? Personally, I cannot see the attraction of emigrating to sunnier climes if it means leaving your family behind, but we are all different. But imagine you are one of those people living in the sunshine and you see your health care being put at risk, as well as Britain leaving the clear skies partnership with EU which will see air fares rise steeply and the continued decline in the pound further eroding your pension. It’s a grim prospect and it’s why Theresa May should stop playing politics with people’s lives.
By not allowing EU citizens who work here to remain and to use them as negotiating fodder does our ex pats no favours. Does it not occur to her that the rest of the EU will do the same thing? We are not talking about goods and services here: we are talking about human beings. It should not matter if it is Spaniards working here or Brits living in the Costas. We should rise above that.
I have friends and family who live and work in various EU countries and some are very worried about the future and I feel for them, I really do. I suppose it is because I am an internationalist and see everyone as equal, unless they develop an interest in extreme religion, that is. I think it’s good that people can live, love, work, study and travel freely across Europe and I find it hard to believe that 52% of the British people are opposed to that, especially if they enjoy those very freedoms themselves.
Whether Brits are living in their own ghettos or embracing foreign cultures and integrating is beside the point. I still think freedom of movement matters whether or not we remain in the EU.