The British referendum on leaving the European Union is only two weeks away, and it could have big implications for the 2.2 million British citizens who are living and working in other parts of the EU. We’ve outlined some of the issues below:
The right to work within the EU
British teachers are in an excellent position at the moment. Because of Britain’s EU membership, TEFL teachers from England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales don’t face the bureaucratic hurdles that teachers from other parts of the world have to deal with. If you’re a British citizen, it’s pretty simple – apply for your residency and your NIE and you’re set up for life in Barcelona. These rights to live, work and access public services are guaranteed by EU law. But if Britain votes to leave, in the words of the government’s own report on EU withdrawal, “there would be no requirement under EU law for these rights to be maintained if the UK left the EU.”
The best-case scenario is that British teachers would be awarded continued “rights” to work, live and own property by the Spanish government, meaning that the day-to-day reality for many people would remain unchanged. However, the worst-case scenario is that teachers would have to reapply for the right to live and work in Spain, with no guarantee of success and the prospect of repatriation if unsuccessful. A third option would be applying for Spanish citizenship – but this requires ten years of legal residency in Spain and the process can take up to a year.
HSBC have forecast that, in the case of an exit vote, the pound and the euro, currently sitting at 1: 0.78, would reach parity, meaning that the exchange rate would be 1:1. Good news for those of us who earn in euros – we won’t take such a hit on our earnings when we change money for visits home! But it’s bad news for anyone who has savings in Britain – you’ll get a lot less bang for your buck (or pound) in the event of a Brexit. It’ll also make it a lot more expensive for friends or family to come and visit you.
More expensive flights
At the moment Britain benefits from being part of the European Union, a single aviation area giving airlines the freedom to fly across Europe. Since its introduction air fares have fallen by around 40%. But in the event of a Brexit, new air service agreements might have to be negotiated. It is very possible that this would reduce competition, causing fares to rise again. At the moment British teachers are in a privileged position compared to American or Canadian teachers – the plane fare home to visit family and friends can be as low as 100€ if you get a good deal. If prices jump dramatically, it will be much harder to pop back to the UK for special occasions and visits with friends.
Access to healthcare
At the moment, British citizens in Barcelona are all eligible to sign up for a CatSalut card, which means you receive free at the point of need healthcare – just like the NHS at home. If, however, Britain leaves the EU, the right to healthcare would by no means be guaranteed. The government report states that the right to healthcare (along with other rights) would be brought “into serious question, creating difficulty for British citizens that relied on them.” Without rights to access the Spanish healthcare system, the best option would probably be private health insurance – but that can take a fair chunk out of your monthly salary.
How can I vote?
This referendum could potentially have a huge impact on the estimated 1.22 million British people living in other European countries, but the good news is that you can have a say! Provided you’ve lived abroad for less than 15 years, you can register to vote here. You can either vote by a postal vote or a proxy – there’s lots of information on this webpage. But don’t forget – you need to register by Monday 16th of May – so pop it on your to-do list for this weekend!
For more information about studying and living in Spain check out our courses in Barcelona.