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Spain's 'Little Britain' braces for Brexit


AFP Orihuela (Spain)
On the sun-drenched eastern coast of Spain, British retirees, workers and small business owners are bracing for an uncertain future after Britain leaves the European Union on Friday.
"It is worrying what happens now," said Karen Watling, 73, who moved to the Orihuela Costa in Alicante province with her husband after she retired from her teaching job 17 years ago.
Like many other British retirees in the region, dubbed "Little Britain" because of its huge British population, she is relieved that those already living legally in Spain have been guaranteed access to the public healthcare system and the right to stay after Brexit.
But she worries Brexit will hurt the British economy and further erode the value of the pound, which has slumped since the June 2016 vote to leave the

European Union, cutting her pension once it is converted to euros. "We have really lost a fair bit of money over the past three years and that could get better, that could get worse. We really don't know," said Watling, adding that many Brits in the area were already eating out less because of the weaker pound.
She and her husband are also concerned about declining property values in the region, in part due to lower demand from British buyers.
The couple sold their home in central England to buy a three-bedroom house with a swimming pool in Orihuela Costa and now "have nowhere to go back to" if life becomes unviable in Spain.
"If we sold here we would probably not get anywhere near what we paid for this house," Watling said, echoing the concern of other British retirees interviewed by AFP.
By the end of 2019, Spain was home to 378,139 Britons, interior ministry figures show -- more than any other EU country. Many are pensioners, drawn by Spain's warmer climate and much cheaper cost of living.
Tens of thousands more British retirees spend part of the year in Spain. Orihuela Costa, a sprawl of dozens of large housing estates with low-rise pastel-coloured buildings 110 kilometres (70 miles) down the Costa Blanca from the resort of Benidorm, is one of the largest British enclaves in Spain. Britons account for 8,000 of a population of some 28,000, according to municipal statistics.

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First Published: Jan 31 2020 | 8:20 PM IST

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