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UK expats in Spain show little interest in election back home

Mannequin with their heads decorated with Great Britain's union flag display fashion designers clothes in a tailoring shop in Barcelona, 25 June 2016
Mannequin with their heads decorated with Great Britain's union flag display fashion designers clothes in a tailoring shop in Barcelona, 25 June 2016 Copyright AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti
Copyright AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti
By Jaime Velazquez
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Spain hosts the largest British expat community in Europe. In the seaside town of Rojales, many UK citizens say they feel at home, but Brexit has complicated their lives.

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As UK voters prepare to elect a new government on Thursday, many among its expats in Spain have expressed apathy towards the vote.

In the seaside town of Rojales, many UK citizens say they feel at home, but Brexit has complicated their lives.

The day begins slowly on the Costa Blanca. Some choose to go for a round of golf, while others prefer a long chat over coffee. This is how life is for the 300,000 UK citizens, mostly retired, who have chosen Spain as their home.

"We've worked all our lives, so we want to have fun," one of them says.

In the cafes, people read English newspapers, which feature stories about a country that seems very distant from where they are.

The 4 July election could change the political landscape in the UK, whose economy continues to be constrained by the consequences of Brexit.

The UK's exit from the EU has already forced many to return to their country every three months or 90 days — the length of stay non-EU citizens are allowed within a single six-month period.

Yet, Brexit and its consequences barely get a mention in the run-up to the vote.

"It’s curious that Brexit is not being discussed in the electoral campaign," says Millán Requena, professor of International Law at the University of Alicante.

"It’s like an elephant in the room. If the Labour Party wins, which is also being very cautious on this issue, there will likely be a closer approach to Brussels and the European community," said Requena.

'It's not worth the hassle'

Most UK citizens living in Rojales say they will not vote.

"I don't do politics. You know", one expat told Euronews. "It's not worth the hassle. It's not worth the hassle".

But things haven't been easy for those who wanted to vote, either. The snap election's short notice has prevented some from registering on time.

"I have tried to vote," another UK citizen said. "And yet again, because I'm in Spain, it has been very, very complicated, and I have to have a proxy vote. So I have to get someone in the UK to vote for me. But the time has now passed in order for me to get that in place".

As the UK prepares to go to the polls in a crucial election, these British citizens don’t feel that the results will have any impact on their lives.

"I would particularly want the government to look at freedom of movement, but that's tied up with immigration. And I think people are getting the wrong end of the stick, and they're so set up with immigration that they can't see, which is why we had Brexit in the first place."

The election will decide the composition of the House of Commons, with each of the UK's 650 constituencies electing its own member of parliament.

About 4,000 candidates are campaigning for office, and the leader of the party that wins a majority of the 650 constituencies is usually the one who becomes the PM and forms the government.

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