When my wife and I retired to Jávea nearly five years ago, we had done our sums. We reckoned we had enough pension income, both state and private pension, to enable us to live inexpensively but fairly comfortably. Then David Cameron unleashed a chain of events which we could not have foreseen.
The decision to call a referendum, done purely for party political reasons to appease the right wing of the Tory party, was passed through Parliament without any proper scrutiny – hence the referendum result with no idea at all about the details or what would happen next. The leavers, and then the government, said that prophesies of bad news were just scaremongering. Well, for pensioners like me living in the Eurozone it has been disastrous. This time last year the Pound was round about 1.40 Euros; it is now not much more than 1.16, following a huge drop almost immediately after the referendum result. This is about a 20% reduction in real money for the many thousands of us whose income is in the UK and monthly transfers of euros are sent to Spanish banks. So as a starter, a reduction of 20% in our standards of living.
But it does not end there – far from it. We have already felt the massive fall in the value of the pound begin to hit prices in the streets of Britain. This will push the pound even lower. However, this is just the beginning of how the government is going to hit pensioners generally. We now see from the Tory manifesto that they will end the triple lock on pensions, so no more 2.5% increases in state pensions. But that may be academic for those of us in Spain because assuming we are out of the EU, with or without any agreement, and if the Tories win the general election, they may decide to cap state pension rises altogether for UK citizens in the EU, as happens with some Commonwealth countries, so that pensioners in Spain may never get an increase, and will be stuck for what may be decades on the same state pensions as now, while inflation continues around them.
Then factor into this all the other uncertainties of all of us pensioners in Spain over rights to stay here or to return here, and about access to health care – we become not just poorer financially but also very stressed about the future.
Then we now see further attacks on pensioners in the UK, with the Tory attack on winter fuel payments, and on people needing long term care. The Tories have traditionally relied upon pensioners for a large proportion of their votes; what a way to repay loyalty?
Now some pensioners in Spain may say that the government will surely look after us – we are British, we are ex-pats! No, we are immigrants, just like the ones in Britain whose entry into the country the government wants to stop. We must understand – the Tory government has no interest in looking after us at all. We are on our own. I see that the Spanish government are sending 16 additional members of staff to the UK to assist Spanish immigrants in the UK over Brexit. There are a lot more Brits in Spain than Spanish in the UK, but do we see the government sending staff to help us? No, because despite their hot air they do not really care about us, we are just another pawn in the Brexit negotiations.
So long as the Tories stay in power, we pensioners in Spain have much to fear; as watchers of Game of Thrones may say – winter is coming.