The British are divided between themselves: those who favour leaving the EU versus those who would like to remain. The Brexiteers (or ‘Quitlings’) are on one side, the Remainers (or ‘Remoaners’) are on the other.
Well, good for them.
Here we are in the expatriate community (where we worry more about if we are ‘ex-pats’ or ‘immigrants’, rather ignoring the point that we are just ‘Europeans’). Brexit isn’t an exercise in freedom versus slavery (or however you want to phrase it), Brexit for those of us who live in the other 27 countries of the EU is about our potential loss of privilege.
We may shortly have to face obtaining a visa, or a work permit. We may need a convertible bank account, or ‘sufficient funds’ to remain. We might lose our health cover or certain pension rights. We would probably forfeit the right to a local vote (and lose, too, our few brave Britons working in local politics). Of course, no one knows, or if they do, they aren’t saying. It is however (as we should remember from our times in the UK), never a bad idea to bring along an umbrella when the sky is looking stormy.
So, what can we do? Being Britons, of course, many of us are quite frankly that strangest of beast – a Continental Quitling! Yes, they say, it’s better to heave the immigrants out of Blightly since they just cause problems and mooch off the State. We’re different – we bring badly needed funds to Spain.
Yep, they really say that!
Others think we should ignore the issue since somebody (ahh, somebody) will sort it all out for us.
Our own ex-pat newspapers – the ones that are left in piles outside estate agents and cafés – have singularly failed to help us so far, with some columnists frankly spouting the Brexiteer cause.
The British Government is interested, very interested, in European business. The Embassy too, must spend its time on building Trade. The few unorganised Brits scattered about on the Continent in uninteresting villages or busy with their professional lives in large companies in the cities of Europe are not going to be of any consequence. They are more of a hindrance to the free movement of commerce if anything.
If the Spanish are worried about the whole thing, it’ll be about their citizens in the UK, who may get work permits, visas and the rest of it, or they may not. Again somebody should do something. Some Spaniards – if we are to believe the press – are already being given their marching orders by the British Home Office. Spain is less concerned about the apparently small number of Brits here (see the padrón – we are around 270,000) than we ‘expats’ like to think. We need to attract their attention.
Tourism won’t fall thanks to any Spanish action following Brexit, although EU regulations will put the cost of non-EU flights up, and there will be extra visitor formalities to be undergone. We, again, need to focus the attention on the expatriate community in Spain – known disparagingly by the authorities, as those who practice ‘residential tourism’. We are the ‘Foreign Residents’, at best. The ‘Guiris’ at worst. You’ll rarely see mention of us in the Media here or on the TV. We are dismissed as living in ghettos in some ghastly place built by a corrupt local politician. Best forgotten.
As Leicester fans invade the Plaza Mayor in Madrid, we need to create our own separate identity. We are not like the hinchas británicas, the hooligans. We are Europeans. Second-class Europeans perhaps, as the Brexit menace pursues us, and we need some help.
We have created some associations to try and publicise the Brexit threat – ‘EuroCitizens’, ‘Europats’, ‘Bremain in Spain’, ‘Brexpats’ and so on. A leader, acceptable and known to both the Brits and the Spanish has yet to emerge from these groups.
Supposing we were offered the choice: British passport only, and to be treated as a non-EU foreigner – or to hold two passports: double nationality, allowing us to retain our Britishness and, at the same time to continue with all current EU privileges (and even throw in a few we don’t currently hold, like full emancipation)? Sounds good? That’s what Spain (and by extension Brussels) is offering Gibraltar. If the citizens of the Rock, once again besieged by larger forces, saw the advantages of the deal, there would be thirty thousand new British Spaniards. Perhaps there would be room, at that time, for a few more...