Adios el Sueño! say British expats leaving Spain

Gillian MerronAs everyone (even, we hope, the Sunday Times) now realises, there has been no “mass exodus” of Brits from France. The situation in Spain is different, and as UK consular affairs minister Gillian Merron (pictured) has brutally put it, “For many who’ve gone to the Costas the dream has turned sour.” Estimated at the beginning of the year (2012) as numbering around 750,000, British residents in Spain, many with little more than a state pension, have been badly hit by the collapse of the pound against the euro and have often been victims of widespread corruption and incompetence in local government. As one man, now back in Taunton and living with his wife and small daughter on jobseeker’s allowance (€90 a week), starkly warned, “Don’t even think of going there.”

What’s striking among those who’ve decided to stay on is their involvement in politics. They’ve set up a party, the Centro Democratico Liberal, closely modelled on the UK LibDems, and aiming to tackle corruption, urban planning abuses and limits on social benefits for expats. Currently, they’ve got 37 members on town councils and hope to eventually get an MEP into Strasbourg. This contrasts with the political indifference of our own community. Well, maybe that just reflects that we’ve not get much to complain about. And bad news for Labour. Brits in Spain are registering with a new energy to vote in next year’s British general election. As one man said, “Brown’s been in charge of the till for twelve years and the pound has lost a fifth of its value. We want to help get rid of him.”