Spain’s Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has issued a dire warning to British expats; a Brexit vote could mean losing the right to live and work in Spain.
“It would be very negative for British citizens” if Britain were to leave the EU, because they would no longer be able to move freely around Europe, the acting PM said on Wednesday evening.
More than 400,000 British citizens live and work in Spain, in comparison to 100,000 Spanish citizens who live and work in the United Kingdom, he claimed.
Speaking to Spanish international news agency EFE, Mr Rajoy said: "I have no doubt whatsoever, as I have repeatedly stated, that it would be very negative if the United Kingdom left the European Union.
"Negative for everybody, for the United Kingdom, for Spain, and for the European Union," he warned.
"But, above all, it would be very negative for British citizens: the European Union is based, ever since its foundation, on the principles of freedom of movement of people, goods, services, and capitals.
"Leaving the European Union would mean that British citizens would lose their right to move freely, work and do business within the largest economic area, the largest market in the world.
"Over 100,000 Spanish citizens work and live in the United Kingdom. Over 400,000 British citizens work and live in Spain.
"If the United Kingdom left the European Union, it would be very negative for everyone and from every perspective."
Rajoy's comments come as fresh polls show British voters more in favour of quitting the European Union.
Just over three weeks before the June 23th referendum on pulling out of the EU, a Guardian/ICM poll showed Tuesday the "leave" vote at 52 percent against 48 percent for staying.
Officially, just over 283,000 Britons are registered as residing in Spain, but many do not bother to sign up and it is estimated 800,000 to a million live in the country - working or retired.
According to Britain's Migration Observatory, of all UK-born residents living in the EU in 2011, the largest number was in Spain.