For Brits in Europe, Brexit has become the overriding political concern in the last two and a half years. There are officially 308,000 Brits registered in Spain, although some estimates for the total population of Brits in the Iberian nation range up to one million.
A recent study of 18-35 year-old Brits in Spain shows that while more elderly, settled populations are extremely vulnerable to Brexit, in the case of younger British citizens “a strong sense of familiarity with uncertainty was spoken of with a sense of adventure and freedom.”
While “others taking part in the research appear to be primarily concerned that Brexit threatens their ability to continue their lives on the same terms as previously, for these younger citizens, there is a far stronger sense of detachment from feeling personally affected by Brexit,” states the report by Brexit Brits Abroad.
Nearly 80 per cent of UK citizens living in the EU are of working age and under. “Brexit is spoken of as a cloud on the horizon which threatens to destabilise lifestyles based on mobility and flexibility,” states the study.
Younger British citizens tend to have less concrete plans and mainly “lament the loss of potential fluid futures.” Many respondents identified themselves as travellers and thus engaged in a “temporary” relationship with their host state. More than 60 per cent of respondents had been in Spain less than a year.
“There was little sign of making a long-term commitment to Spain nor of financial or emotional investment,” add the study’s authors Mike Danby and Karen O’Reilly.
More settled British communities face concerns about future residency, pensions, housing and employment, among a plethora of life-altering changes. Younger, more transitory populations are affected by “employment or housing contracts, university courses they were enrolled on, or potential changes in relationships or family situations.”
Spain is the most popular destination for British students looking to study in the EU, according to a survey cited by the Times Higher Education.
“Any time I’ve had plans for the future they’ve always changed. It’s very difficult to say,” says Frank, a 31-year-old English teacher.
While many young people rejected “fixed plans” as a “negative” – instead “embracing an adventurous sense of the unknown” – Sarah, a more settled respondent acknowledged that: “It’s like a cloud on the horizon, it’s a threat and no-one really knows what form it’s going to take, no-one knows exactly what it’s going to do.”
Young people find themselves more able to cope with the “uncertainty” of Brexit because of their flexible life conditions, yet many are engaged on an “abstract or political level.” Brizts interviewed for the report spoke of “shame” in relation to friends who are EU citizens; “feeling unwelcome” in their host country after the referendum, or simply “sadness for the effect it would have on others.”
Spain hosts many mobile Brits aged 35 or less, yet 32.7 per cent of the registered British community in Spain is aged 65 or over, according to data from Britain’s Office of National Statistics (ONS).