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Inside Spain’s most British town where expats say the UK is a mess

MADRID – Quiz nights, birdwatching, beekeeping and Church of England services give Arboleas a certain “Little Britain” feel.

It could be a village in the heart of rural England but instead is a semi-desert town in southern Spain, near where Clint Eastwood filmed spaghetti westerns like The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.

Fifty-three per cent of the 4,450 residents are Britons, the highest proportion anywhere in Spain.

After a change in UK electoral law this year, it means a record number can vote in Thursday’s general election.

Most of the Britons who live in this arid town just over an hour’s drive from Almería are pensioners who retired to Spain decades ago.

Some have voted via post in the general election on 4 July but others have turned their back on events in their native country despite regaining the vote.

David Keymer, 71, a former electrician from Manchester who has lived in Arboleas for 20 years, said he was unaware he could vote again.

“I have not voted but if I did, I would vote for the Reform Party. People want a change but the question is how to do it? The whole thing is a mess. Do you believe any of [the politicians]?” he told i.

“Immigration is the biggest problem [in the UK]. We are not doing anything about it. We talk the talk but we don’t walk the walk.”

Steven Conway, 49, from Wakefield, Yorkshire originally but who has lived in Spain for 20 years, works as a tourism councillor for the nearby village of Albánchez, where about 12 per cent of the population of 660 are British.

“I have not voted because I live here. But I could understand why people would vote for Reform. People want a change but I don’t think that the two main parties are going to bring it. That is not to say I would vote for them,” he told i.

Trisha Dugmore, 70, a retired driving instructor from Staffordshire, who lives in Albánchez, travelled back to the UK to vote for the Conservatives.

She voted against Brexit but hopes that the present Tory government can try to improve the situation in the UK.

“I am not happy but I can see a way forward with the present government. In the past few years it has knocked everything back,” Mrs Dugmore said, referring to the pandemic and the cost of living crisis.

Janet Downing, 65, a retired civil servant from London who also lives in Albánchez, said she would have voted Conservative but did not send her postal vote in time.

“Despite Rishi Sunak’s wealthy background, he has a good grasp of finances,” she said.

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