Sunday, February 14, 2016

 

Consequences of a Brexit

There will be a referendum in the UK this summer - apparently - and while it will affect those two million Britons who live in Europe, only a very few of us will be voting, or able to vote, to influence the outcome. This is of course the consultation over whether Great Britain should leave the EU, the choices being: staying, which is Good for Business, or leaving, which is Good for Nothing.
The 'Stay Vote' is interested in exports and not expats. A good example of the joys of Europe comes from a box of Kleenex tissues. You will find that the contents - paper handkerchiefs - are written in every language where the product is sold. Paper handkerchiefs, mouchoir de papier, pañuelos de papel and so on down to languages so obscure and peculiar, the good people at Kleenex HQ must have a job correcting the syntax. Meanwhile, if an Englishman buys some Kleenex in Bulgaria... well, good for him. End of subject.
The 'Leave Vote' seems concerned about the glories of the past. When Britain, with its two Trident subs, ruled the waves and Johnny Foreigner knew to doff his hat as we passed. In these days of finding those guilty of our falling standards, it's easily provable that the foreigners settling in the UK are to blame, taking our jobs and our womenfolk. That's about it, I think. Did I miss something?
While the debate rages in the British Media (controlled and owned by Moguls who have their main residence in the Cayman Isles), we read that 'Those Britons who have moved to Europe (there are two million of us) have lost any rights to influence British policy'. Oddly, the British are much more generous with the Gibraltarians (30,000 of them) and the Falkland Islanders (2,900 of them) than they are with us expats.
It must be something to do with the land. The British are not to be swayed by questions of applied freedoms. We should remember how Downing Street gave a British Island in the Indian Ocean, Diego García, to the Americans back in 1968 for purely strategic reasons, sending the entire population of 2,000 into a forgotten exile.
What, if anything, will happen to the British expats living in Europe in general - and Spain in particular - if the UK votes to leave the EU?
Short answer - nobody knows; and no one in a position of power either wants to tell us, warn us, discuss it with us, or indeed to worry about such an inconsequentiality. So let us explore the possibilities ourselves.
If the UK were to leave the EU - if 'Brexit' became a reality - then one of the chief demands of the 'outers': the UKIP, the right wing Conservatives and the grist and mill of the Nationalists and Britain First along with assorted closet-racists and elitists, would be to attempt to winnow out the foreigners. Hard, of course, with the Commonwealth citizens, but easier with the Europeans. There are 200,000 Spaniards living and working (but not retiring, never retiring) in the UK, and 500,000 Frenchmen. In all, around two million Europeans are said to be there - including plenty of Poles, Romanians, Estonians, Bulgarians and what not. Any inconvenience handed to them - from withdrawing medical rights, or insisting on work permits, and down to deportation - would immediately be answered by Madrid, Paris and Berlin in similar terms. Events happening in far-off London, or Birmingham or Glasgow, could suddenly be felt in Fuengirola, Marbella, Mojácar, Altea, Jávea and Ibiza.
The expats might find that Madrid would be treating us as they currently treat non-Europeans, or (for those who remember) as we were treated before Britain joined the EU. We could expect the return of visas, convertible accounts and those hard-to-obtain work-permits (we have over 30% unemployment in Andalucía). We would lose all and any voting rights if we stayed in Spain - in European and local elections as we have now (not that the former do us any good - there are twenty million unrepresented Europeans currently living in another European country without a voice in Brussels). We would lose Spanish health privileges and that over-65 bus pass. The demand for property would fall, and property-values in expat towns like Bédar, Benhavís and Benissa would crumble.
If the racists really took over in the UK and deportations became a reality, we could even be subject to the same treatment. Spain, they say, would never throw out the British because it makes too much money from our presence in those small towns in forgotten parts of the coast previously mentioned. Madrid is already inflicting the Modelo 720 on us (a declaration to the tax-authority of our world-wide ownings), declaring some/many of our homes in Andalucía to be 'illegal', supporting the Valencian 'Land Grabs', curtailing our pin-money rental plans and, in general, either ignoring us or treating us without much enthusiasm. We have no voice in Madrid and little anywhere else beyond Mijas and Calpe. Helen and Len Prior, whose home was demolished eight years ago in Vera, Almería, and who have lived ever since amongst the ruins of the villa, are our most famous members.
I don't think that the UK will vote for a 'Brexit', but the possible plight of two million Britons in Europe, and 750,000 in Spain, is certainly not going to influence the vote in any way whatsoever.

Comments:
Those British citizens who have lived continuously outside the UK for less than 15 years are able to register to vote in general elections and referendums held in the UK. I suspect that at the very least 50% of British citizens resident in the EU fall into this category - if eligible it is a very straightforward matter to register (via the gov.uk website). A period of residence in the UK "resets the clock". For those who have resided abroad in excess of 15 years contiunously that will not be possible, but then they most probably pay no UK tax either and retain their British citizenship more for their own convenience than that of the UK. It is open to anyone living in Spain to apply for naturalisation after a certain number of years - perhaps some long-term British residents might consider doing so, if they are truly worried about what might happen should the rather unlikely Brexit occur.

I do live in the UK, but have a holiday home in Spain, and will be voting in the upcoming referendum whenever it is held, but have not yet decided how I shall vote. Although old enough, I was not in fact able to vote in the last referendum on EEC membership in the 1970s, because at that time expatriates could not vote in UK elections at all (with some exceptions for the armed forces and diplomatic service I believe) and I had lived abroad for some years then, indeed by the time such rights were established I had already lived abroad for too long to be eligible, until for a brief period after the time period was extended I gained the right, before returning to live in the UK again briefly when the "clock was reset" for me, after which I returned to live abroad for some years. Most of my time abroad was spent living in countries not members of the EU then or now. However, I have always been pro-EEC/EU and still am to a large extent, although in recent years the flaws in the EU-system have made me much more equivocal about the benefits of remaining - once the full terms agreed are known and analysed I will make up my mind how to vote.
 
The pressure of two million Brits abroad will certainly have an impact, especially if they speak about their potential plight with their friends and family back in the UK. Get everyone voting, it's the only way we can be confident of winning! I'd also encourage you to sign the official petition for UK expats to be able to vote in the referendum: https://uktostay.eu/2015/11/21/expats/

Every little bit of pressure helps :)
 
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