Cameron's EU referendum unsettles some British expatriates in the Spanish sun

Mon Oct 12, 2015 1:42pm EDT
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By Sarah Young

FUENGIROLA, Spain (Reuters) - For some sun-seeking Britons, a cloud has formed over the whitewashed villages, beach bars and golf courses of Spain - the risk that Britain will drop out of the European Union.

Over the last three decades, hundreds of thousands of Britons have used the EU's right to free movement to settle in Spain, drawn by warmer weather, cheaper property and a new life.

But the implications of a referendum on EU membership that Prime Minister David Cameron has promised by 2017 are troubling some of the 800,000 Britons who have made Spain their home.

They worry about what a British exit from Europe, or "Brexit", would mean for health care, pensions, work permits and whether they will have to consider taking Spanish citizenship. The answers are far from clear.

"It's very scary, I've been here 31 years," said Valerie Luber, 75, a retired British nanny, at a coffee morning held by British-run Age Care in Calahonda on Spain's southern Costa del Sol.

To the west of the ancient city of Malaga, an imported British way of life is evident along the 80-plus miles (130 km) of sandy beaches which are framed by hillsides dotted with olive tees sloping down to the Mediterranean.

There are English pubs with darts leagues, fish-and-chip shops and pawnbrokers offering "cash for gold" in coastal towns, where news-stands sell English language newspapers. Another attraction for some is that alcohol is cheaper than in Britain.

There are 12 British schools in this region, almost as many daily direct flights from Britain to Malaga as there are trains between London and Manchester, and "For Sale" signs in English mark empty building plots.   Continued...

British migrants show petanque balls as they play boules at The British Society in Benalmadena, near Malaga, southern Spain, September 30, 2015. REUTERS/Jon Nazca