• Spain's news in English
Survey: Could Brits in Europe put the brakes on Brexit?
Photo: Leon Neal / AFP.

Survey: Could Brits in Europe put the brakes on Brexit?

The Local · 22 Apr 2016, 07:00

Published: 22 Apr 2016 07:00 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Britain’s upcoming referendum on whether to remain in the EU will have a huge effect on the 2 million Brits living in Europe - and many of these expats have a right to vote.

But will they, and if so, how? The Local surveyed more than 2,700 people across Europe to find out what these expats were thinking.

Our survey revealed that, with over two months to go until the referendum date, 94 percent had already made up their minds: 67 percent were firmly in the ‘Remain’ camp, while 28 percent were planning to vote ‘Leave’.

"This survey shows the overwhelming consensus among Brits living abroad for remaining in Europe," James McGrory, chief campaign spokesman of Britain Stronger In Europe told The Local.

Expat Maura Hillen, a former Surrey resident and current local councillor in Albox, Almeria, told The Local that a top concern for Brits in Spain is what a Brexit would mean for them financially - what would it mean for their pensions or paying taxes? How would they navigate buying property in Spain as non-EU citizens?

"It’s a much tougher decision-making process for a British person who lives abroad… It potentially impacts expats more heavily," said Hillen.

"If we lived in the UK we might think differently, but when you live abroad, I think the financial risks are bigger."

Hillen is herself an Irish national, married to a British man who "certainly made sure he registered to vote", but is also the leader of the AUAN group that advocates for the rights of British homeowners in Spain.

"A lot of Brits own property here," Hillen said of the southern Spanish region she has called home for roughly a decade.

"There’s a lot of uncertainty about how it would pan out."

When contacted by The Local, a Vote Leave press officer said she was not in a position to comment on expat voters or the impact of the referendum on Brits living abroad.

A spokesman for the Better Off Out campaign, who did not wish to be named, said that their group hadn't had any contact with British expats.

"I can't make a judgment on how expats would be affected by the referendum result - individuals can make their own minds up,” the spokesperson said. “We are concentrating on making a positive case to all voters and hope that those who wish to vote will recognize the benefits for the UK."

Hillen said that there are many Brits in Spain who lean towards the Leave side because they're worried about uncontrolled immigration, even though they are also immigrants.

"There is a lot of concern generated about the impact of immigration in the UK and I think that that gets a knee jerk reaction from people, even though they themselves are immigrants and don’t always speak the language here," she said. "There are many ironies in that debate."

As a full EU member, British people can travel, live and work freely across Europe, and they’re entitled to free healthcare if something goes wrong.

"If we left, no-one can guarantee that would continue," McGrory (from the Britain Stronger in Europe campaign) said. "The Leave campaigns’ plan for Britain – to pull the UK economy out of the single market altogether – could see every British ex-pat’s automatic right to live abroad thrown into doubt."   

Will people actually vote from abroad?

In order to be able to vote in the referendum, expats need to hold a British passport and to have been resident in the UK within the last 15 years.

But just under a quarter of our overall respondents fit the criteria - a total of 673 people. And of those who had the right to cast a vote, an overwhelming majority (86 percent) said they were planning to do so.

Story continues below…

For those in the survey who were not planning to vote, the main reason for abstaining (selected by 49 percent of the non-voters) was that it was too complicated to register.

Meanwhile, 11 percent felt that their vote did not matter, while seven percent didn’t think they would be affected by the outcome of the referendum and a further seven percent did not understand enough about the issue.

Of those who intended to vote in the referendum, only 75 percent had already registered - and of the remaining 25 percent, a majority (68 percent) did not know how to vote.

If you are an expat living in the EU and want to have your say in the referendum but don't know how, read our ten-point guide to registering here

Some 58 percent of survey respondents said they would be trying to persuade others to vote in a certain way - so don’t be surprised if you find the referendum an increasingly popular topic among your expat contacts.

The most popular method for trying to sway their friends’ votes was in conversation (84 percent), while 46 percent said they would take to social media to spread the word.

"Whatever decision people make, they should make it by being clear-headed and informed,” Hillen said, “and what's most important is to vote, of course."

Reporting and writing by Catherine Edwards and Emma Anderson

For more news from Spain, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

The Local (news@thelocal.es)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Spain worries about tourism future
Photo: Josep Lago / AFP file picture

After basking in its best tourist summer season in 15 years, Spain now sees dark clouds on the horizon as popular destinations reach saturation point and holidaymakers are more thrifty, industry experts say.

Spain’s Socialists lift veto on conservatives
The Socialists have decided to lift their veto on the minority conservative government or not. Photo: Gerard Julien/ AFP

Spain's embattled Socialists on Sunday voted to lift a long-standing veto that has prevented the conservatives from forming a minority government, in what should finally end a ten-month political impasse.

Spain's 'Napflix' aims to bore viewers to sleep
Photo: Screengrab/ Napflix

A Spanish video platform called Napflix, designed to put people to sleep with dull content, was launched this week and its founders are on the lookout for more "monotony and repetition."

Recipe: How to make fabada - traditional Asturian bean stew
Photo: Flavio Lorenzo Sánchez/Flickr

The hearty Asturian dish is a perfect lunch on a cold day... and don't forget the crusty bread and cider!

Brit 'paedo' held on Costa del Sol after Most Wanted appeal

One of Britain's most wanted fugitives was arrested on the Costa Del Sol following a tip-off from an expat just hours after his face appeared on a public appeal.

Spain's parliament approves deficit reduction measures
Photo: Images Money/Flickr

Spanish lawmakers approved on Thursday measures to reduce the public deficit and keep it under the target agreed with the European Union.

'Cubism and War' show opens at Barcelona Picasso Museum
Pablo Picasso Harlequin and Woman with a Necklace. Photo: MP

Barcelona's Picasso Museum unveiled an exhibition on "Cubism and War" on Thursday depicting how one of the most influential artistic styles of the 20th century survived the First World War.

Why this bionic limb pioneer doesn't believe in disability
Hugh Herr has been award Spain's top science prize. Photo: FPA

The Local speaks to Hugh Herr on winning Spain's top science prize and how being an amputee doesn't make him disabled.

Dine in the buff at Spain's first nudist restaurant
A buffet of organic food will be served on "human tables". Photo: Innato / Facebook

Spain's first naked dining experience is to arrive on the island of Tenerife following the success of a similar venture in London.

Spain's top court overturns bullfighting ban in Catalonia
Photo: AFP

Spain's Constitutional Court on Thursday cancelled a bullfighting ban in Catalonia in what is likely to exacerbate tensions between Madrid and the separatist region, and between animal activists and fans of the tradition.

Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Madrid parish church faces fine over 'too noisy' bells
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Celebrate expat life at Madrid’s THRIVE convention
Fury after kids told to bring their own loo roll to school
Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Disney announces plans for Don Quixote action movie
Activist tells 8-yr-old matador wannabe with cancer 'just die'
King to make last minute push to avoid third vote in Spain
Amazing photos of Catalonia's 'human tower' contest
What's on in Spain: October 2016
'No way, Jose! You'll never get your hands on our Rock'
Recipe: How to make a classic Spanish tortilla de patatas
Chorizo in paella? Go back to cooking school Jamie Oliver
Spain in eye of a perfect storm after 10 months without govt
Thousands share clips of life for 'Spain in a Day' film
Ten incredible Spain locations for Game of Thrones season 7
Analysis & Opinion
Why moving to Spain could be the best decision of your life
Seven reasons why autumn is the very best season in Spain
Spanish study finds four types of personality. Which are you?
New search underway for civil war grave of poet Lorca
Bison found decapitated on Valencia nature reserve
Forgotten Voices: What Brits in Spain think about Brexit
One dead and 14 injured in blast at Spanish resort
Game of Thrones want extras 'with muscles' to film in Spain
Thousands march in Madrid to push for bullfighting ban
jobs available