Brexit Testimonies

08 October 2019

Chris in Spain

"... the utter unwillingness to address the needs of individual EU citizens in the UK and UK citizens in the EU beggars belief."

Chris wrote to update us about his personal circumstances, his migration from Cyprus to Spain since we had last spoken, and his changing perceptions of Brexit, citizenship and identity. 

I loosely regarded myself as a ‘UK passport holder within a EU citizenship’, at least until up to the 2016 Referendum. Though born in Belfast I was educated in England and spent the greater part, but not all, of my working life in the UK. I have lived and worked in a variety of countries including Italy, Abu Dhabi, S Africa, USA (California and New York), Israel, Estonia and Cyprus as well as travelling through much of the world.

I have never, ever regarded myself as Northern Irish, nor English; at most I was vaguely British – principally because of that UK passport. Nationalism, of any form, has always been anathema to me and being obliged - by governments who fail to hear the common man and woman – to make choices those governments do not comprehend offends (the UK’s Windrush scandal/ineptitude is only one shocking example of governmental ineptitude and thoughtless ‘planning’).

Current status

Marital status: Married, to a Spanish citizen (who retired in 2019)

Citizenship: Irish (passport applied for the day after the 2016 Referendum); UK passport (for convenience and for the ability to return to the UK if this is the only way to obtain my vested entitlements – ie state pension and healthcare).

Strangely, I now feel more identification with being Irish than ever before (NB: Irish, not Northern Irish)


  • According to the UK’s DWP I am a fully paid-in participant for the UK State Pension (commencing in May 2020)
  • I will be entitled – and was expecting - an S1 for healthcare in the EU when that UK State pension (see 1 above) commences (that is, if this still applies)
  • I am still entitled (and registered) to vote in the UK – though I was disenfranchised in the 2017 General Election by my overseas voting papers arriving the day before election day (meaning there was no way to return them in time to be counted)

NB I use the word 'entitlement' deliberately: for example, I have paid into the UK NI and NHS system for more than my necessary years – and that ‘should’ entitle me to receive back what I have contributed to (or, alternatively, an entitlement to receive  a lump sum to buy me out of the UK’s obligations to me).

Employment: Semi-retired, writing on a self-employed basis                   

Location: From October 2015 to October 2019 I was living (and paying taxes) in Cyprus (before that I was in Estonia and Israel); from October 2019 I will move to Spain and seek permanent residence.


My challenges, in a Brexit context, involve the following:

  • Continuing to work throughout the EU (and the UK, if it leaves the EU); because I have both UK and Irish passports this should not be a problem (I am fortunate, so long as Ireland is not ‘sucked out of the EU’ – and that might yet happen)
  • Obtaining local registration status (aka Padrón); not expected to be a problem
  • Obtaining Spanish permanent residence: in theory, with an Irish passport, this should be no problem; nevertheless it remains unclear whether
    • I should apply under my UK passport, in case there are special provisions for UK citizens after a no-deal Brexit (this is impossible to assess in advance)
    • whether having an Irish passport and UK pension/healthcare entitlements (see above) ‘interact’ (or ‘counter-interact’) when they meet Spanish bureaucracy
    • satisfying Spanish income/healthcare requirements-  and what documentation is required and is obtainable
  • Pension provision: my ‘only’ concern here (at present) is about whether, after a no-deal Brexit, the UK will index and continue to pay what it ‘owes me’; I withdrew control of my main pension funds from the UK after the 2016 Referendum – anticipating long term issues)
  • Healthcare: this is the overarching question in the event of no-deal Brexit; will the UK be bothered to negotiate an S1 ‘replica’ with Spain? (Logically it should, but logic combined with consideration of/compassion for the common man/woman are not attributes of modern governments, and the UK is not alone in this). If S1 coverage into the future is not available, what are my alternatives:
    • obtaining Spanish national healthcare coverage – possibly by paying self-employed contributions
    • obtaining reduced Spanish healthcare coverage (no contribution to cost of medicines) – by paying a different contribution (Convenio Especial), if this remains available
    • buying private healthcare insurance (but this almost certainly unaffordable, and will only go up in cost as one ages) 
    • consider returning to the UK (but it is not clear whether my wife could join me/what the inverse healthcare and other implications would be for her)

In assembling the above I have understood my priorities have changed (from when I made my first contribution to Brexit Brits Abroad). Then my ‘thinking’ was bigger picture. Now it is as much about the processes, mechanics and bureaucracy as the broad principles.

While I identified (predicted is to claim too much prescience) almost all of what has happened over the past three years and may happen yet in the future (with the exception of the role that the island of Ireland has played/will play), I have become ever more despondent about the lack of care for the individual by the UK. Windrush and the Hostile Environment are, together, prime indicators. But the failure to move forwards with the Alberto Costa amendment (though in some part that failed because of EU/individual country inadequacies) and the utter unwillingness to address the needs of individual EU citizens in the UK and UK citizens in the EU beggars belief. I foresee my children and their children leaving the UK within a decade – enabled (possibly) by the fact that they can have Irish passports because of mine. I also foresee the gradual reduction, over the next decade, of productive EU citizens as they leave the UK whose tax base will gently crumble - thereby encouraging even more to depart. This will happen, I suspect, in all circumstances except with the withdrawal of Article 50 (ie an agreed Withdrawal will not change this trend).  

I also realise that I am among the relatively fortunate (in a Brexit context). Through no action on my part, I was born on the island of Ireland. I can be Irish, British or both. I now prefer to be Irish, holding onto my Britishness for my pension/healthcare entitlements. (If these go, then I am unclear why I would renew my British passport - unless I could find a way to increase any cost to the UK, for that would be my only recourse; whether this is relevant or possible, only time will tell.)  

I may yet face the choice of having to become a Spanish citizen – should the UK’s pernicious approach in effect oblige Ireland to  leave the EU; while I do not expect this to happen, if it does  I would have no qualms about accepting Spanish citizenship. Having to relinquish my UK passport would almost seem a pleasure.

All in all, for me at a personal level, I am wasting copious time being concerned about issues which should not concern me. For that I blame the small-mindedness of the average UIK politician (there are honourable exceptions - but they do not include Mme May nor the BoJ).


Earlier testimony
Lesley in Spain
Later testimony
Jackie in Italy
Related content

"I also fear for my daughters and their husbands and children. However my guess they will probably vote with their feet when the bitter reality – of reduced lifestyle, income and opportunities – sets in."

Read Chris' previous testimony sent from Cyprus in 2017