Being a British expat in Spain and commuting to Gibraltar. Brexit: how it affected us.

Brexit. Yes, it has even made its way into an essentially lighthearted travelling blog, and whilst I cringe at the political mess in the UK parliament which is currently reminiscent of a primary school playground, this is not a rant, merely a reflection on the impact that it had on our little family.

From a rooftop pool in Gibraltar.
From a rooftop pool in Gibraltar

Three years ago when the referendum took place, my family and I were living in the Costa del Sol in Spain where I was a teacher at an international school and my husband worked as a finance manager. The key link between Brexit and our situation, was that my husband worked in Gibraltar, and along with 15,000 others, did the daily commute to get to work across the border. We could not afford to live in Gibraltar, so this gave us the perfect opportunity to enjoy the low cost of living and open spaces of Spain, balanced with the security of my husband’s employment. Being an international teacher afforded me a lot more flexibility in terms of getting an English speaking job, although we had welcomed our second child two months after arriving in Spain, so really, it took me almost two years to get my career back on track when I secured a job at a lovely school in Marbella.

Life was generally merry. Apart from the growing undercurrent of negativity that would eventually turn into more of a tidal wave: Brexit. It was the core of many a debate in the staff room; as British expats we all had a keen interest in the predicted outcome, although at the time, it was perhaps disregarded as ‘a storm in a teacup.’ I must admit, I checked my phone on the morning of June…. and actually felt a little bit sick inside. A metaphorical dark cloud hung over our end of year staff breakfast that day.

‘Stop being melodramatic!’ I hear you say. Well the implications were this: we lost 20% of our savings overnight as the pound did a nosedive and more importantly, there was the very real chance that crossing the border every day was going to jeopardise my husband’s job. One of Spain’s first reactions was to reiterate its desire to ‘take back’ Gibraltar. Further down the line Rhodri’s company did suggest that its employees moved to Gibraltar, but due to my job and the kid’s schooling, that was untenable. Who knows what will happen at that border beyond October 31st, but we did not hang around to be part of it.

Brexit alone did not make us move back to the UK, but it certainly played its part. I often get asked why we moved back, and some of the main reasons that I cite is the my husband’s double taxation, wanting the kids to do at least four years in the UK schooling system, and the massive property taxation for buying a house in Spain. But it it does have a place in our top five.

View from a mansion at the top of the rock in Gibraltar.
View from ‘the rock’

Now don’t get me wrong, I love being back in England after a decade away. I try to avoid arguments by not discussing Brexit, but I do wonder: in a year’s time, will Britain be Great once more? I will leave it for you to decide…

5 Comments Add yours

  1. Hey, this is a great read. I get how you feel. When Brexit was announced we took the opportunity to move to Spain to at least get an experience of living aboard. It has been the most amazing experience that we’ve been able to give our children.

    1. I am glad that you ate having a great time Matthew; Spain has a lot to offer for families. And for kids, travel alone is such a great education…

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