​Will British expats be sent home after Brexit?

Last week, a journalist for London’s Daily Telegraph asked whether it was possible that UK prime minister David Cameron really thought that British expats would get sent home, if voters called for a Brexit. Here, on the final day for registering to vote in the EU referendum, Dubai-based business development director for Forth Capital Alan Turner, pictured, considers this and “other recent rhetoric” from the UK prime minister on the subject, and finds that among those most likely to be affected are not necessarily those who have emigrated but those “with plans to do so” in the future.   

(This column originally appeared on the website of the Federation of European Independent Financial Advisers, as well as Forth Capital’s own website.) 

According to The Telegraph’s Michael Deacon, David Cameron was asked, during a recent visit to Luton Airport to visit the staff of easyJet and answer their questions, about whether he could guarantee that British people living in EU countries could remain in these places if the UK voted to leave the EU. Cameron, Deacon wrote, said he couldn’t guarantee this.

What Cameron was then reported to have said was this: “If we were to leave, I think it’s for the Leave campaigners to explain what it is that they would do. If they’re going to put a restriction on the number of Spanish workers who come and work here, then what would the Spanish do in response? Would it affect the rights of British people who own property in other European countries?

“All these things are very clearly set out if we stay, but I think they’re all very uncertain if we leave.”

False fears over Brexit? 

As Deacon’s article rightly points out, at no point does the prime minister actually say that expats would have to come home. In other words, he is simply sowing the seeds of anxiety in voters’ minds.

Cameron’s critics will no doubt call this another example of his cynical opportunism and scaremongering.

There are potential threats to an expat in Europe if Britain exits, for sure. But the suggestion that everyone is going to get immediately deported from Marbella back to Romford is completely ridiculous.

There is potential that exit may make it more difficult for Britons to seek employment in the EU than it is at present, true. But I suspect that this is a bigger concern for those yet to emigrate but with plans to do so – and realistically, as long as we’re talking about skilled people, then I doubt major barriers will be erected (and anyway, there’ll be plenty of jobs in the UK available, because we will have stopped all the Poles taking all the jobs, right?).

There are plenty of other possible fall-outcomes that I could cite too. But one of the biggest could be the potential for a weaker pound against Europe’s major currency, the euro. This is, of course, among many expat’s very worst fears about potential Brexit effects: because if you’re an expat in France and your pension/savings devalue overnight, thus slashing your future income, this is far more of a concern surely than whether or not you might be able to consider moving to Germany in the future.

If this were to happen, and all of a sudden we were to have a flood of repatriating Britons trooping back to the UK, what drain might this then place on the nation’s services, housing and fiscal resources?

Most expats, I think, will be voting to ‘stay’ – but possibly not for the reasons that the scare-mongers believe.

For more information on the referendum, or to find out about registering to vote, click here.  Anyone wishing to vote must register by the end of today.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Helen Burggraf
Helen Burggraf is the editor of International Investment. A US-trained journalist, she has worked in Rome, New York City and London, covering everything from the fashion and retailing industries to the global drinking water and water-treatment sector, private equity, and most recently, the international cross-border financial services/advice industry.

Read more from Helen Burggraf

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