Britons could forfeit their right to live, work and do business across Europe in the event of a Brexit vote, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy warns.
A UK withdrawal of the EU would forego free movement rights, which would be “negative for everyone and from every perspective,” he says.
“Leaving the European Union would mean that British citizens would lose their right to move freely, work and do business within the largest economic area, the largest market in the world,” Rajoy told Spanish international news agency EFE.
“It would be very negative for British citizens: the European Union is based, ever since its foundation, on principles of freedom of movement of people, goods, services and capitals.”
About 400,000 British citizens live and work in Spain, while 100,000 Spanish citizens live in the UK, Rajoy says.
Many British expats in Spain, about 35 percent of whom are retired, have expressed concern about access to healthcare after a potential ‘leave’ vote, the Guardian reports.
While UK citizens are entitled to healthcare from the Spanish government under EU law, Spain would not be obliged to continue to offer free medical services to non-EU citizens.
The value of pensions, the right to study overseas and the ability to own property are also reportedly among the fears harbored by British citizens abroad.
Rajoy’s warning comes as Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte warned Brexit campaigners’ plan to enact a point-based immigration system would mean British citizens face barriers to travel and work in Europe.
He said other European countries would react by making it harder for Britons to live and work on the continent.
“It would be unavoidable, inevitable for us and I think for many of us in Europe to follow the same proposals to implement a points system also in the rest of the European Union,” he told the BBC.
Leave campaigners have argued that new rights for British citizens to live and work in other EU countries could be negotiated after Brexit.
Migration is one of the key issues being debated in the lead-up to the June 23 referendum.
A new poll conducted by Vote Leave found almost half of those surveyed think the level of migration from other EU member states has been bad for the UK, against 26 percent who think it has benefited Britain.