Marbella, Andalusia, Spain (pic: Getty)
EMERGENCY evacuation plans for Brits living in Spain and Portugal are being drawn up amid fears of the euro collapsing.
Brits who invested their savings in their adopted countries may not be able to withdraw cash and could even lose their homes if banks call in loans, worried ministers are warning.The drastic proposals emerged as a former Security Minister warned expats could be left stranded and destitute by the break-up of the single currency.
The Foreign Office is preparing to bring them back from Spain and Portugal if the two countries are forced out of the euro, triggering a banking collapse.
A million Brits live in Spain and 50,000 in neighbouring Portugal – plus a million in the other eurozone countries.
And Baroness Neville-Jones, who only stepped down as a minister in May, called the situation “very, very worrying”.
The Tory peer – who once chaired the Joint Intelligence Committee for MI5, MI6 and other security agencies – said: “Spain is clearly a vulnerable area. If that happens, one of the things that will happen in a crash of that kind, is that the banks would close their doors. You would find that there are people there, including our own citizens, a lot of them, who couldn’t get money out to live on. So you would have a destitution problem.”
British planes, ships and coaches could be sent to pluck our citizens from debt-ridden Spain and Portugal
Commenting on the evacuation plans, she added: “I think they are right to be doing that. I think this is a real contingency that they need to plan against – very, very worrying.”
Officials are braced for a nightmare scenario where thousands end up penniless and sleeping at airports with no means of getting home. Planes, ships and coaches could be sent, with some expats being brought out through Gibraltar.
The Foreign Office could offer small loans while piling pressure on the banks to give Brits access to their funds.
Spanish and Portuguese banks guarantee the first 100,000 euros deposited by savers but many put limits on withdrawals in a crisis.
A powerful credit rating agency downgraded 10 Spanish banks last week, while another warned over the weekend the debt crisis was threatening to spiral out of control.
Top Tory Boris Johnson yesterday became the first senior politician to predict the eurozone will break up.
The bungling London Mayor even joked about Greece being forced out, which would threaten a credit crunch.
“Ouzo will be substantially cheaper,” he told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show.
He claimed letting the single currency collapse might be the best thing for Europe – but Deputy PM Nick Clegg warned it would end up hurting Britain.
The Lib Dem leader said: “I hear a lot of people sort of breezily predicting almost with a sense of glee that the eurozone is going to fall apart. I don’t think witnessing the break-up of the currency block in our European backyard would do us any good at all.”
Expat Doreen Peplow keeps most of her money in a British bank account
Doreen Peplow, 68, who lives between Marbella and Fuengirola, says: “I am worldly wise enough to have made sure I have kept most of my money in my British bank account.
“Until now I have been getting my pension paid directly into a Spanish account. I might change that now.
“I cannot imagine there will be an evacuation; people retired to Spain and Portugal before Britain entered the Common Market and they managed.
“I have lived here 15 years. I don’t want to go back to Britain as the weather is dismal and it is overcrowded.
“But if it comes to it I am prepared to sell up and buy myself a retirement property near my son in Dorset.”