Written by Ricky Bean,
Last Modified: 17th November 2016

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The possibility of a Brexit following the upcoming referendum is of major concern and interest to British people living in Spain, whether they are retired or not. A quick poll around a lunch table by our expat on the ground produced an interesting result.

Whenever you meet British people here, the subject for discussion these days is the EU Referendum and the possibility of a Brexit, just as it is in the United Kingdom. The other day, I was with a group of 20 expats for a tour of Gala’s Castle at Pubòl in Catalonia (Gala was Salvador Dalí’s Russian wife). Our guide, Nik Duserm, kept us entertained and informed for over two hours, after which we all went to lunch together at the restaurant opposite the castle.

I was surprised at the strength of feeling some people expressed, both for staying in Europe and for leaving.

Inevitably, the conversation turned to Brexit, and so I asked the assembled company if they were willing to do an anonymous poll to see what the general opinion may be, and they kindly agreed.

Who were in the group?

The group was made up of 99% retired British people. Some are residents here in Spain, while others have second homes here but are resident in the UK. The age range was 55–75, all active and involved in many associations and clubs in Catalonia. Quite a few of the expats present speak very good Spanish; the majority have some knowledge of the language, and two speak Catalan.

General - Election or referendum in Great Britain

It clear that expat British people here are as divided about the subject as those back in the UK .


There were people there of all backgrounds, from teachers, to taxi drivers. Nearly everyone was retired; some very recently, while others had moved here many years ago, taking early retirement, or becoming resident once they had retired. One English lady is married to a Catalan and has been living here for 43 years. Those who have lived away from the UK for more than 15 years have been denied the right to actually vote in the referendum on 23rd June.

Strength of feeling

When I approached everyone about doing a poll, I was surprised at the strength of feeling some people expressed (even though I said it would be anonymous), both for staying in Europe and for leaving. Several people said they wish they had more “real” information, rather than the statistics massaged by both sides of the argument. Some said that, as they lived in Spain, they would vote for purely selfish reasons, while if they lived in Britain, they might well vote differently.

How did we do the poll?

We divided some paper into 42 small pieces, 21 with the word “yes” on them and 21 with “no”. Everyone was given two pieces of paper, one with each of the possible answers. A cap was then passed around the table and each person put in a paper corresponding to their voting intentions.

The result

I was surprised when I counted out the papers into making two piles, one for “yes”, stay in Europe, the other for “no”, leave Europe. The result was ⅔ wanting to stay in and ⅓ wanting to leave. 14 “yes” votes and 7 “no” votes.

The result was ⅔ wanting to stay in and ⅓ wanting to leave.

Obviously this was a very small number of people, but the idea to do this poll was random and spur of the moment. I am certain that everyone chose the paper that really reflected their voting intentions.

For those of us who live in Europe, the Referendum is perhaps even more of an issue than for those living in Britain. It clear that expat British people here are as divided about the subject as those back in the UK and everyone holds strong opinions. No one, at least on that day, was “undecided”.

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