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Brits Abroad: Is the Dream Over? Tonight

Brits Abroad: Is The Dream Over? ITV at 7.30pm Photo: ITV / Tonight

Over one million Britons live and work in other EU countries but until the Brexit negotiations get going, it seems very uncertain what their futures may be.

Many expats moved to Europe hoping for a blissful retirement in the sun. Others chose to settle abroad to work, raise families and to run their own businesses.

Officially over 300,000 Brit’s have set up home in Spain, with around one third of them retirees.

Fiona Foster headed to the Costa Blanca with the Tonight programme to meet musicians from Just Brass. For over a decade the band has been performing some very British-style music, from its base in southern Spain - and its members have graced many of the UK’s top brass bands. Tonight wanted to know whether things have changed for them since last year’s referendum vote for Brexit and, crucially, how they feel about the future.

Fiona with Just Brass Credit: ITV / Tonight

Those in the band who are pensioners said they have seen a reduction of roughly 15% in their incomes due to the fall in the value of Sterling.

And for those still working, there remains a mix of worry and some hope that things will be OK.

We were going to buy a house but we’ve put that off. You don’t know whether to splash out on a new car, to go on holiday, to buy furniture for your house. We just don’t want spend anything in case we have to move.”

– Jayne, Just Brass

Currently British pensioners living in the EU have their pensions linked to inflation. So far, the British Government hasn’t said whether it will continue to increase pensions in line with inflation for them, after Brexit.

Academic, Brendan Burchell heads up a research project at Cambridge University looking into the information available to Expats in Europe.

While he hopes things will become clearer in the coming months, he’s concerned by the current attitude of the UK Government.

Brendan Burchell Credit: ITV / Tonight

When I talk to people in other countries about these things the response I often get is ‘Of course we’re not going to throw people out or withdraw their rights, we’ve had good relationships with the UK for many decades now. I wish there was a little bit of that sort of thinking coming from the UK, to make sure that people can continue to live their lives in a decent way and the way that they planned to.”

– Brendan Burchell

Most Expats told Tonight their biggest worry for the future is affordable healthcare.

Currently, any British citizen living in the EU has the lion’s share of their medical costs paid for by the British Government. This adds up to an NHS bill in the region of £670 million each year.

Karen and her pensioner husband William met and married in Spain eleven years ago.

Their only income is William’s pension, but they also receive both Carers’ and Disability Living Allowances from the UK Government to help with the cost of caring for mum.

Credit: ITV / Tonight

They receive around €10,000 worth of health care, which they currently get for free through the reciprocal health agreement between the UK and Spain. Their main worry is that this may stop following Brexit.

Karen and William say expats like themselves have been given no meaningful reassurances about their future.

We’re at the bottom of the barrel in getting any support from the UK at the moment. Certainly anyone that we speak to feels exactly the same. So it’s not that we feel abandoned, we’ve been abandoned, we’ve been abandoned already because no one’s prepared to stand up for us."

– Karen

Chair of Bremain In Spain, Sue Wilson, said if people were forced to repatriate, it would cost the NHS more than it costs them currently.

Sue Wilson Credit: ITV / Tonight

If they are having their healthcare paid for, it is because they have paid into the system in the UK long enough. They are entitled to a pension and free healthcare.”

– Sue Wilson, Bremain in Spain

Businessman and entertainer, Mark Connor is well settled in Spain and he believes the Spanish Government understands the value of British Expats to the local economy.

I’ve been here for ten years. We pay our taxes, we pay our Social Security, we employ people. We’re keeping a part of the economy here in Spain going. We are a positive thing.”

– Mark Connor

The UK Government has promised that protecting the rights of British Expats will be the first thing to sort out during the negotiations, yet many remain deeply worried.

See more at 7:30pm on ITV as Fiona Foster investigates Brits Abroad: Is the Dream Over?

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