BRITISH EXPATS are worried they will lose free access to Spanish healthcare and claim Madrid has done more for them than the UK.
The protest in Malaga was sparked as European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said Brussels will insist on border checks if there is a no-deal Brexit in order to conserve the interests of the EU.
Dozens of Britons marched through the city of Malaga yesterday (Sunday) to underline their concerns about their unsure position as Britain prepares to leave the European Union ahead of the October 31 deadline.
Spain is home to around 300,000 Britons and is the most popular European retirement destination for UK residents, with around a third of them aged over 65.
Among foreign nationals, they are by far the biggest users of Spain’s state-funded universal healthcare system.
According to U.N. Data, the Iberian peninsula accounts for almost a quarter of all Britons living in Europe.
“We feel really forgotten here in Spain,” said Michael Soffe, a 61-year-old businessman who has lived in Malaga for 30 years. “Many here are pensioners – will they lose their healthcare overnight, for example?” he questioned.
Protesters waved European Union, Spanish and British flags and held banners reading “They’re trying to make us leave the EU” and “Take back control: My grandkids’ future”.
Acting Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, who could be replaced following November elections, has strived to assure Britons living in Spain, promising to protect their rights after Britain’s exit from the European Union.
One demonstrator on Sunday said Spain had done more for Britons living in the country than the British government.
“Spain is doing everything it can to protect us,” said Tamara Essex, a 60-year-old from Dorset, southwest England, who has lived in Spain for more than seven years. “The UK government has forgotten us.”
A spokesman for the Department for Exiting the European Union (DExEU) said on Sunday: “The Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay held productive discussions with groups representing the British community in Spain while in Madrid last week and made clear that protecting the rights of both UK nationals in the EU and EU citizens in the UK is a key priority for this government.
“We have made an unequivocal guarantee to EU citizens now living and working among us that their rights will be protected and that they can continue to live here as they do today.
“We urge other EU member states to do the same for UK nationals living in their countries and give them the certainty they need by matching our generous offer.”