Saturday, May 30, 2015

The Threat of Brexit

A bit like the 'Big One' which threatens California, Britons living in Europe are worried about the distant rumblings of a possible retreat by London from the EU known as 'the Brexit'. What would the departure of the United Kingdom from the European Union mean for the two million or so Britons living in Europe, and, does anyone in the UK care?
The answer to the second question is easy enough. They don't. This is because we Britons living in Europe have no voice, no champion, no representation.
If London left Europe, then the Britons living in France, in Spain, in Germany or in Poland would find their lives changed considerably, but worst of all, no one knows by how much. It would not even be a decision made by the British as to what would happen to us, after all, they would no longer be a part of the European Parliament. In Spain, we would expect to be treated as non-European citizens with the return of work permits. We would have convertible accounts at the bank and a visa in our passport. We would lose medical coverage and social security. We would of course lose the vote locally (many of us have already lost it in the UK) leaving us even more 'voiceless and forgotten'. Even the Gibraltarians have more rights that we do.
Would we be thrown out of Spain? The eccentric Mr Farage, leader of the 'euro-sceptics' thinks not – we are such a benefit to our Spanish hosts, pumping in money to the country by the hour. I don't agree.
Britain is a country, that like any other, is ruled by opinion and experience. We, the 'ex-pats', are neither popular nor appreciated. But the looming referendum is not about us, it is about the future of Britain itself. What to do with all these pesky Europeans who are filling up the country, taking our jobs and our women? Particularly the Eastern Europeans, who will work for half of what any self-respecting Briton would expect.
Back in the sixties, a leading member of the fascist National Front and cousin of my mother, told us that they only wanted the support of the little people, the workers, the unskilled and unschooled. These are the people who follow our philosophy, he cried, thumping the table, these are the folk who hate the foreigners... (We left the UK shortly afterwards).
So, if Britain decides against staying in Europe, despite the inevitable loss of earnings by the chocolate factory who sells sweeties to Poland, or the paper handkerchief manufacturer with twenty four languages squeezed onto the box, the battle is not about British industry, it is to do with the immigrants.
If the bigots win, then the Poles and the Lithuanians and the Romanians will need to leave. But so, of course, will the 200,000 Spaniards living in the UK, and the 350,000 Frenchmen. Despite this, does anyone seriously think that Madrid or Paris would nevertheless accept Farage's nonsense and allow us all to stay?
Which begs the next question. Where would Whitehall put us all? Tents on Salisbury Plain?
Perhaps Brussels should take care of us (as currently, we are still Europeans) and draw up a plan to create a kind of Nissan Passport to give those of us about to be defenestrated by the British voter special rights as Europe's first full citizens.
But, putting fantasy to the side for a moment, the bottom line for a possible departure of Britain from the European Union leaves this all-important uncertainty – no one speaks for us, therefore, we receive no answer.
What is going to happen to us?


Grahame Pigney said...

Interesting piece Lenox.

One thing we don't have to worry about is UK expatriates resident elsewhere in the EU or people from the other EU countries resident in the UK being forced to leave.

EU law will govern the exit agreement and both parties would have to respect that.

As the UK expatriates will still be living in countries that are part of the EU I would hazard an opinion that they would actually be in a better position, certainly the permanent residents and property owners, than the citizens of the rest of the EU residing in the UK.

However that is taking an unnecessarily pessimistic and gloomy view of things.

The majority of people who have expressed and opinion one way or the other in the UK want to remain in the EU even as things stand at the moment.

If pro-EU people join groups such as "UK Citizens in the EU - Say Yes 2 Europe" and help organise, recruit and campaign the current rather slender majority in favour of staying in the EU will grow.

That is by far the best way to address the concerns thaht people have at the moment.

Grahame Pigney.

Roger Boaden said...

The Referendum Bill is published and that assures us that the vote will be based on what is termed 'a General Election Franchise', in other words all those who are eligible to vote in a Parliamentary Election at the date of the Referendum. For the moment, until the promised Votes for Life Bill is published, that 'General Election Franchise' can only apply to those who will have been out of the UK for less than fifteen years. If any reader falls into that category, they should start the registration process now at For those away for more than 15 years you will have to wait until we see the wording used in the Votes for Life Bill, but once we know, do not waste any time in regsitering as and when we do.