And at the time of the Brexit referendum – when immigration became a key issue – there were more than twice as many Britons resident in Spain as Spaniards living in the UK.
And while Britain exports its over 65s to live out their days on the costas in the sun, those Spaniards moving in the opposite direction are younger and take up jobs in the education, healthcare and catering industries.
A joint report published by the Office for National Statistics and Spain’s INE recorded that there were 296,000 British citizens who had been living in Spain for more than 12 months in 2016, and 40 percent of them are over 65.
Meanwhile the UK was home to an average of 116,000 Spanish people between 2013 and 2015, less than half the number of Brits making their home in Spain.
And while around 40 percent of Britons in Spain are retired, a figure that has more than doubled in the last decade, the Spaniards relocating to Britain are a whole lot younger.
Around half of the Spanish citizens resident in the UK are aged 20-39 and 59 percent of the total 116,000 have permanent employment.
According to the report, 78 percent of Spaniards working in Britain are employed in three sectors; education and health; banking and finance; and hotels and restaurants.
The ONS/INE report is the first in a series commissioned in a bid to learn more about the British population in other EU countries in the run-up to Brexit.
The exact number of British expats living in Europe is unknown with estimates for those living in Spain ranging from the official 296,000 registered with their town halls up to 1 million who own property and spend a significant amount of time there..
Since the Brexit vote, Brits in Spain have feared being used as bargaining chips in negotiations and urged Theresa May’s government to set out clear guidelines concerning EU nationals living in the UK and their British counterparts living abroad.
In a speech to the British parliament on Monday, May laid out the UK’s offer to EU nationals living in the country after Brexit with key pledges on pensions and health that will be of interest to British nationals living in Spain and other EU countries.