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Opinion on Brexit divided among Britons living abroad

Published 15/05/2016

Next month the UK decides if it wants to remain in the EU
Next month the UK decides if it wants to remain in the EU

June's EU membership referendum will have an impact felt far beyond Britain.

Hundreds of thousands of Britons live elsewhere in the European Union, many of them for many years.

They range from young economic migrants to those who have retired to a warmer climate.

The Press Association spoke to Britons on the Costa Del Sol to see if they backed a yes or no vote to remaining in the EU.

:: John Langton, 58, bar owner

John Langton would vote to remain in the EU at the referendum if he was allowed to.

Those who have lived abroad constantly for 15 years or more are barred from voting. It means that the Newcastle native, who has run Johnnies Bar in Benalmadena, near Torremolinos, for 22 years, cannot take part.

Neither can his daughter, who was born and raised in Spain. But his sons, who both went to university in England, are eligible to vote.

It is a situation the Geordie engineer-by-training is far from happy with, saying: "A prisoner on remand got a vote, but I was born in England, my father fought for the country and I can't have a vote because I've been outside the country for (more than) 15 years. I've paid all the taxes here but I'm a foreigner here and a foreigner in England."

Mr Langton came to Spain as an economic migrant when times were tough in England.

He believes his bar would be OK even if Brexit happens, because he gets a lot of customers from places like Ireland and Denmark that are still in the EU.

He said that some other British expats supported Brexit, but added: "I've had three businesses over here and it takes a long time to build it up and you are a foreigner, you have to adjust to this country. But is the divide going to be much bigger, is the Spanish Government going to help Spanish companies, or European companies, much better than they will the English?"

He said he plans to vote remain partly because of the disruption an out vote would cause back at home - citing things like commodity prices, border controls and arguments with French air traffic controllers.

He added: "I would vote to stay in because I think going backwards and forwards … it's like the United States, it's just another state. England's just another state and if we stick together, have transit, Ryanair flights, Easyjet flights, everything is built up for Spain.

"You dial a number to the police if you get your handbag pinched here and you get an English speaker, you get a translator. Is that going to stop and be German or French? People don't realise what they are going in for, I don't think."

:: Gary Walker, 45, property owner

Gary Walker is a convert to the No camp and blames Prime Minister David Cameron personally.

The London taxi driver owns two apartments on the Costa del Sol. Like his brother Graham and father Joe, with whom he was enjoying some afternoon beers when we met, he makes around a dozen trips a year from his home in North London to the Mediterranean coast.

Mr Walker said the "Prime Minister had "let us down" with recent rhetoric about the negative impact of leaving the EU.

He said: "I was all ready to vote to stay in the EU, but where Cameron frightens you every single day, or tries to frighten you, now I'm voting out, because I wouldn't trust Cameron.

"I don't trust anything that comes out of that man's mouth, I think that everything he does is a lie.

"I think he just builds things up to suit his own purpose, every single day there is something to frighten us about staying in. Whereas the people who want us to leave, they are happy to let things flow. But he is trying to frighten us and that's why I'm voting out."

He said he did not have fears about his property in Spain should Britain vote to leave the EU and was also relaxed about the possible effect on business and trade.

"If you look in any business throughout the world, anyone that will have a deal will get on and that's the way that I think it will be," he said.

"If Britain wants to have a deal, they'll get on, if they don't want a deal then they won't get on."

:: Brian Hayhurst, 75, retired.

Former publican Brian Hayhurst said the EU referendum could be "the biggest decision of our lives".

Mr Hayhurst, from Huddersfield, said his biggest fear was losing access to the "brilliant" Spanish public medical system if Britain quits the EU.

He cited its cheap prescriptions and well-trained doctors and said that having to pay for private medical care would hit him and his wife Elaine, 70.

Yet like Mr Langton the grandparents of four are ineligible to vote, having lived near Fuengirola for the last 17 years. "It's the biggest decision of our lives I reckon and for us it could change everything," Mr Hayhurst said.

"We may have to go finish up going back, it depends on how the Spanish treat us - depends how the English Government treats us too."

Mr Hayhurst said that political problems in Spain were also an issue.

A general election in December left no party in overall control of the country and voters are due to go back to the polls in June.

The country is split between several right and left-wing parties and Mr Hayhurst said there was uncertainty over who would take power and what their attitude to Brexit would be.

"I'd like to ring (prime minister) Mariano Rajoy up and say 'look I've got a few questions for you, can you answer this one: if we were out, would we have to have a visa? Would the Gibraltar border be closed? Would we be allowed to stay here?'

"(They are) big issues, massive issues and it's just unknown. Everybody has some strong views but no one knows."

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