Brexit three years on: Pensioners – 'I was wrong'
Gary Parkinson

As Brexit discourse hardened into dogma and mutual loathing, the cheap and shallow accusation took hold that anyone voting Leave was hovering close to a hatred of foreigners. But that would be an outrageous oversimplification. 

Some who voted Leave did so while loving Europe. Some even lived there. One example is Joe, a pensioner interviewed by CGTN Europe in 2021 about his views on Brexit. Since retiring, he and his wife had often spent months at a time living on a caravan site in Benidorm, Spain.

However, after Brexit, UK citizens faced the same restrictions as others outside the EU: they were only allowed to visit for up to 90 days per six months without applying for a visa. By the time Joe spoke to CGTN in 2021, this was having a fearful effect on the ex-pat caravanning community. 

"People are panicking to sell their properties purely because they're going to be away from their properties for 90 days," he said. "Nobody explained or probably thought about people like ourselves. There was nobody looking after it or telling us – they forgot about the people abroad."


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It's three years since the UK officially left the EU, so how does Joe feel now? He tells CGTN that the 90-day rule is bringing huge costs for those in his situation. 

"People like myself, they're selling the caravans for nothing," he says. "Because they've still got to pay £5-6,000 ($6,150-$7,380) rent, they've got to tax the car for a year. You're actually staying now for six months a year and not a year, so everything has doubled in price – and don't forget, we're pensioners."

Joe and his wife were among many ex-pat pensioners living on a caravan park – but many are now selling up. /CGTN
Joe and his wife were among many ex-pat pensioners living on a caravan park – but many are now selling up. /CGTN

Joe and his wife were among many ex-pat pensioners living on a caravan park – but many are now selling up. /CGTN

By that, he means that many who previously split their later years between Britain and a place in the sun can no longer afford to do so – with knock-on effects on the local economy.

"Unfortunately, the bubble has burst – there's so many people now selling up in Spain, pensioners just cannot afford to live there," he says. The extra travel involved in observing the 90-day rule brings its own costs: "The insurance alone for me to travel 90 days and back with my health, it's £2,300 ($2,830) insurance on top of the £6,000 you pay in rent.

"It's not worth going, it's not worth buying," he says. "We're going on holiday twice a year, like we used to. So unfortunately, I was wrong in going to leave England. I was wrong."

Unsurprisingly, Joe has joined the list of people who regret voting Leave – and in another referendum, he would vote against the move. 

"I wouldn't even consider voting to come out in Brexit," he says. "It was all about stopping people coming into England – forget the trimming around the edges. Our Prime Ministers and others were telling us all these pretty things, which like a fool, we fell for it. 

"I wish I was on the other side of the fence."


Interview by Elizabeth Mearns, video produced by Thomas Triebel

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