“It began with a dream…” was the opening sentence in the first chapter of my first book, which told the story of how my partner, David, and I found ourselves living and working in the Costa Blanca and the Canary Islands after careers as teachers in the UK. Like so many before us, we needed a change of pace and lifestyle and some sunshine; Spain was beckoning and had been for several years.
That was over twenty years and fourteen books ago. It was a time when many British people were seriously considering utilising the equity built up in a relatively modest property, or a pension payoff, to look at buying a good value property in Spain, France, or other European destinations. The pound-euro exchange rate was very strong in those days, which made even a meagre UK state pension go a long way. Living and working in the European Union meant that visas and work permits were no longer needed. It had all become so very simple to start a new life in a country of choice, and gave many the opportunity to ‘Live their dream’.
Time has moved on; Brexit has now become a large part of the concerns that present-day British immigrants living in Europe are continuing to deal with. Due to my previous work as a columnist and reporter in Spain and the Canary Islands, I still hear from many British immigrants who continue to share their concerns about their lives in Spain, as well as expressing fears for the future. Issues relating to health cover, finance, employment rights, pensions, motoring, and property are just some of the issues that continue to give many British immigrants sleepless nights. I know of some for whom the continual stress has been too much, and they have become ill and returned to the UK. For others, a return to the UK is no longer possible, because they are either too sick and reliant upon the Spanish health service, or no longer have the funds to be able to return to the UK.
Spain has always had a generous policy towards British immigrants during this challenging time, but much depends upon reciprocity with the British Government. Much depends upon the government of the day; nothing is guaranteed or certain now that the UK has left the EU; that protection is no more. These are issues that are likely to continue for many years and far beyond the remaining lives of many immigrants currently living in Europe.
It is some of these issues that have prompted many British immigrants to return to the UK. For some, recognition that their Spanish dream has come to an end has been a painful and daunting process as they try to begin a new chapter in their lives. The dream of living in continental Europe is, of course, still possible for those with sufficient funds and determination, but is nowhere as easy or secure as it was in a post-Brexit Europe.
Despite current challenges, there will always be those who will seek the freedom to live and work in a country of their choosing and not of their birth. People will continue to have dreams and seek to turn them into reality. Life is short and so it is up to all of us to ‘Live Our Dream’ in the best possible way.
© Barrie Mahoney 2023
To find out more about Barrie and his books, please click here