Expats anxiously wait, as UK votes on Brexit

Millions of British expats across the world are anxiously waiting to learn the result of the UK’s Brexit referendum, with concerns over the possibility of a plunging pound running high.

Worries about changes in the way they are taxed, domicile issues and the possibility that British expats living in Europe may see their UK pensions “frozen”, the way they are in certain other non-EU countries, are also on the minds of expatriates, as voters back home mark their ballots.

Experts say their choice is certain to have an impact whether they opt to Remain or to Leave – not just across the Eurozone but around the world. Few are likely to be as affected as retired British expats currently living in expat communities, and relying on pensions that are paid to them in pounds sterling.

Nigel Green, chief executive of the deVere Group advisory firm, thinks such retirees are right to worry. He is predicting a dramatic drop in the pound in the event of a Leave win.

“The vote is still incredibly close, with perhaps more swings likely,” he said. “However, the markets have seemingly now already called it in favour of Remain and are, as a result, pricing this in.

‘Short-term shock’

“Whilst I hope they are right – and believe they are – polls have been wrong before. If they are wrong this time, and ‘Leave’ wins, there is likely to be a significant short-term shock for equities and the pound, triggered by panic-selling.”

The market response to a Remain vote is, says Green, likely to be positive, but relatively mooted compared to a Leave vote, which could see a drop in the value of a pound against the dollar of as much as 27 cents.

“I’ve seen estimates of a rally in sterling to $1.50 if we stay (ie, up 3 cents), while a fall to $1.20 if we leave (down 27 cents from a current $1.47),” adds Green.

“Financial markets appear to have already priced in a Remain outcome in the Brexit vote – but this leaves lots of potential downside if they are wrong, perhaps especially for sterling and the FTSE.”

Gibraltar tensions

Elsewhere, in Gibraltar, tensions are running higher than in many other jurisdictions, owing to its fractious relationship with Spain, the southern coast of which it is attached to. Britain has claimed sovereignty over the Gibraltar penninsula since 1713, but  Spain regards it as Spanish territory.

As if anyone needed reminding of Spain’s claim, a group of pranksters said to be from a right-wing Spanish political party crossed the border into the territory earlier this week and unfurled a giant Spanish flag on the side of Gibraltar’s famed “Rock”, much to the annoyance of the already-tense locals.

Tweeted one Gibraltar-based journalist, Debbie Bartlett, reflecting the mood of many other Gibraltarians: “Royal Gibraltar Police have now removed a Spanish flag which had been unfurled on the Rock, which has been British 300+ years.”

The stunt followed a declaration by the Spanish government last week that Gibraltar would “remain Spanish”, whatever the result of the Brexit referendum.

Result tomorrow

The result of the referendum is expected in the early hours of Friday morning, according to UK officials.

The UK Electoral Commission has said it expects the final results to come through at 7am, although the result should be clear a couple of hours before that unless the voting has been close.

Many expats have already voted by post, or have assigned their vote by proxy to someone based in the UK. UK expats across the world have the right to vote in elections, as long as they have not been domiciled outside of the UK for more than 15 years.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Gary Robinson
Deputy Editor, International Investment and Head of Video at Open Door Media Publishing. A fully qualified journalist and filmmaker with more than 20 years' financial services experience, both as journalist and originally as an IFA.

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