EU referendum: Expats want the UK to remain a member of the European Union

James Nickerson
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British Royal Wedding Celebration in Costa del Sol
Expats are overwhelmingly in favour of remaining in the EU (Source: Getty)

People living in the United Kingdom are engaging in an increasingly fierce debate over whether the country should remain in the EU.

But Britons living outside the UK are just as passionate about the outcome, with a recent poll suggesting they will overwhelmingly vote for the country to remain as part of the 28-member bloc.

Research conducted by Angloinfo, the world's largest network of websites for English-speakers living abroad, has found that 73 per cent of global expats are in favour of staying in the EU.

Meanwhile, just 20 per cent of British expats are currently in favour of leaving the EU, and seven per cent were unsure how they would vote, according to the poll of 2,800 users.

Nearly 1.2m UK citizens live in the EU's other 27 countries, while over 5m Britons live abroad in total, indicating that if they could have a huge influence on the result.

Read more: Leave makes gains but Remain still leads while undecideds could swing it

Expats who have been living abroad for more than 15 years are not entitled to a vote. However, a group of them have launched High Court action, so watch this space. This poll is was of people who are eligible to vote.

"These results show just how engaged this huge, and often forgotten, audience is in this important decision. For British citizens living abroad the issues and outcomes involved in both sides of the EU referendum campaign are taken just as seriously as they are for those living in the UK," said James Jackson, chief operating officer of Angoinfo.

"Expats with voting rights can become an "out of sight, out of mind" audience but campaigners in this issue would be wise to remember them and the influence they yield."

Particular expat referendum concerns were around potential changes in the healthcare and pensions provisions, that come with being a member of the EU, for example whether the state pension provisions will be "frozen".

The UK paid more than £670m to EU countries for Britons' healthcare in the year ending March 2015.

That's under the European Health Insurance Card system, whereby countries can claim back health costs from other EU countries if their citizens use medical services abroad.

Read more: Cabinet ministers and top Conservatives clash over immigration and security

Visa concerns and the potential to need to apply for residency were also considerations, as were reductions in income if the exchange rate lowered. Such are the uncertainties that many expats feel they will have to leave their country of residence and return to the UK if it left the EU.

And 84 per cent of expats belive staying in the EU is economically beneficially, while 73 per cent believe that even if the UK left the EU it would still have to comply with EU rules to trade with Europe.

But for those who want to Leave, the main benefit was the belief that leaving the EU will free the UK from the interference of Brussels bureaucrats.

Despite President Barack Obama’s recent and widely reported “back of the queue” comment, 71 per cent think leaving the EU will allow the UK to negotiate better relationships with other economies.

But with under two months to go, over a third of expats feel nobody has properly explained the pros and cons of remaining in the EU, a view echoed by many of those living in the UK.

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