Bremain in Spain Comments on Devolved Parliaments and Brexit

Bremain in Spain Comments on Devolved Parliaments and Brexit

Bremain in Spain, an organisation campaigning for the rights of British citizens in Spain and the EU, comments on the burning issue of the devolved parliaments in the Brexit negotiations and why it is increasingly necessary to have a People’s Vote.
The Welsh government, headed by Carwyn Howell Jones who will stand down in autumn, has agreed to sign a deal with UK government ministers over the sharing of EU powers if Brexit goes ahead. The Welsh Finance Secretary, Mark Drakeford, said that UK government concessions are enough to protect the Welsh Assembly’s powers if Britain leaves the EU.
In an open letter to prime minister, Theresa May, the Scottish first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, said she would continue to press the prime minister to make further concessions on how the devolved and central UK governments would share powers re Brexit. Key issues include farm subsidies, fishing quotas, GM crop policies, organ transplant rules and food labelling.

Read the full story on Spectrum FM Facebook page

Bremain works with Renew Britain

Bremain works with Renew Britain

James Clarke, one of the three ‘principals’ of Renew, a brand new centrist, anti Brexit, pro Remain party has approached Bremain in Spain with a view to understanding more about the issues affecting us as UK citizens residing in the EU. Renew has worked closely with En Marche, President Macron’s new party in France, learning how to grow and evolve quickly as a new political party.
James Clarke from Renew, Elspeth and Rachel
Bremain in Spain is completely non partisan but is always happy to consult with parties with compatible goals. Renew would like to work with Bremain in developing its party policy regarding UK Overseas Citizens. Bremain Council held talks with James and Council member Elspeth Williams had the privilege of meeting James recently in Barcelona along with Bremain member Rachel Playfair. We look forward to developing our relationship with Renew and you can read more about them in the links below:

Renew in the Press: https://renewbritain.org/renew-in-the-press/
Also for Spanish interest, Renew in El Pais and Huffington Post Spain:

An update from the Petitions hearing at the European Parliament 24 April 2018

An update from the Petitions hearing at the European Parliament 24 April 2018

UPDATE ON VOTES FOR LIFE EU PETITION 24 APRIL 2018

Many of you recently helped support Jacqui Cotterrill & her petition. I am happy to report that Jacqui appeared before MEPs in EP yesterday & fed back this report:

“It went well, good interventions from MEPs, strong, emotional stuff, would have liked more there but as it was they used up all the speaking time. Then stronger than I expected resolution from Chair:

1. To send petitions to Brexit steering group,
2. Urgent letter to Uk Govt
3. Letter to Barnier and Presidency to get it included in Withdrawal agreement (!)
4. Personally speak to Barnier, maybe get him to PETI (not usual, doesn’t appear at committees)
5. Put oral question forward to party coordinators, which MEPs after think should get through so hopefully it will go forward to plenary.

More than I hoped for so a good day. Thanks for your support, I gave you a name check in my presentation”.

Votes for Life must only be the beginning: Alastair Stewart

Votes for Life must only be the beginning: Alastair Stewart

When proposing better voting rights for expats abroad one of the most common
questions is ‘why?’

The argument follows that if someone has left the UK, there’s absolutely nothing the British government could do to affect them. From the signing of the Schengen Agreement in 1985 to the Brexit vote in 2016, this argument held water. The interim years saw the end of the Cold War, the emergence of globalisation and the advent of cheap flights. The world, they said, was your oyster and UK political happenings were low down the list of expatriate priorities.

The figures back this up. According to the Office for National Statistics the number of registered overseas voters had never risen above 35,000 before 2015. In the run-up to the general election of the same year – which placed an EU referendum front and centre – the number jumped to 285,000. The introduction of online voting registration in 2014 dramatically eased the process of registration, and overseas voting numbers remained consistent ahead of the snap 2017 general election as well.

The 15-year limit on expatriate voting rights was never a dramatic political point until the Brexit vote. Out of 5 million British citizens living abroad, including the 1.2 million in Europe, the UK Cabinet Office confirmed that up to 3 million people would be denied a vote because they’d lived away for longer than 15 years.

In the 2015 and 2017 general elections, abolishing the arbitrary 15-year cap was a manifesto pledge of both major political parties excluding Labour which emphasised lowering the voting age to 16 instead.

After the Conservative Party win in 2015, the pledge was featured in the Queen’s Speech but was never implemented before the EU referendum the following year or before the general election the year after.

The Cabinet Office stated that there was not enough time to change existing legislation before Parliament was dissolved and the situation remains unchanged. ‘Votes for Life’ was again featured in Theresa May’s 207 manifestoes but was not included in the Queen’s Speech of that year. Conservative MP Glyn Davies instead tabled a Private Member’s Bill – the Overseas Voters Bill –  on 19 July of the same year. While the Bill had its second reading in the House of Commons on 23 February 2018 with government support, it still has to go into Committee Stage, but the date has not been set.

While the passing of the Bill will likely meet the government’s pledge of legislating on the issue before the 2022 general election, it will most likely not be in place before Brexit on March 29, 2019. On the off chance there was to be another referendum on any final deal, the most populous territories of expats – 308,000 British citizens in Spain, 254,000 in Ireland and 185,000 in France – would again be denied a say on their future.

The situation is not new. Before 1985, British citizens living abroad couldn’t vote in UK Parliamentary elections. From the 1970s there was political pressure to extend the voting franchise to citizens living and working abroad. The debate culminated in the Home Affairs Select Committee recommending in 1983 that all UK citizens resident in the then European Economic Community (EEC) be given voting rights in parliamentary elections.

Margaret Thatcher’s Government introduced a Bill proposing a seven-year limitation to British residents overseas. However the final legislation – the Representation of the People Act (1985) – limited the cap to five years. After the 1987 general election, the Thatcher government reaffirmed its commitment and extended the period of eligibility for overseas electors to 20 years with the 1989 Representation of the People Act (the government had initially recommended a 25-year cap).

By 1998, the Home Affairs Select Committee published a report calling for the reduction in eligibility to five years arguing that UK residents away for so long lose a legitimate connection to home. The Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Bill (1999-2000) introduced by Tony Blair’s government included a provision to reduce the limit to 10 years, albeit an amendment for 15 years was passed and remains in place to this day.

Brexit has demonstrated that it’s not enough for expatriates to exclusively rely on their host nation or one of the 80 British embassies and 49 consulates across the world for representation. Votes for Life are part of the solution, but not the concluding reform needed. Although the Overseas Electors Bill (2017-19) has received formal government backing and broad cross-party support, it’s subject to easy politicisation and is by no means a shoe-in.

Support from the government, to the cynic, might be considered assuaging wounds ahead of the as-yet-unknown Brexit terms. As a Private Members’ Bill, as opposed to formal government legislation, the Conservatives are in the position to support with lip service without promoting in practice. The Second Reading was barely attended in Parliament, and Labour MP Sandy Martin made the case that, much like with Scotland, it’s wrong for people not resident and affected by political issues to determine the results of those issues.

Martin’s argued that those who do not pay taxes in the UK should not be entitled to vote after a period of time, and this view will undoubtedly be shared on the government benches. Additionally, Martin’s disagreement with Labour International president and MP Mike Grapes on the proposal is telling and questions the effectiveness of the Labour Opposition to see the legislation through.

This view is not wrong, and will likely gain traction with the public. The solution is the introduction of a package of reforms including Votes for Life, and the establishment of MPs exclusively elected by overseas citizens for global constituencies. The model exists in France, Italy and Macedonia and must, and should, be part of a serious conversation to fix democratic disenfranchisement to restore voting rights.

Until then, there will always be the spectre of the gun over the democratic rights of five million people who have exercised their other right to move, work and settle where they please. Such decisions are not a zero-sum game with British citizenship and shouldn’t be treated as such.

 

Alastair Stewart is a freelance writer and teacher between Scotland and Spain. You can learn more and support his petition here for the introduction of MPs to represent British citizens abroad.

Pets in Limbo due to uncertainty of rights under Pet Passport Scheme

Pets in Limbo due to uncertainty of rights under Pet Passport Scheme

Michel Barnier has claimed:

“If Brexit negotiations fail it will make it harder to travel with pets
from the UK to the EU.”

Bremain Pets
BBC Reality Check verdict:

“If there is no deal then it will indeed be harder to take pets to the EU. The pet passport scheme includes countries that are not EU members, but a deal would need to be done. At the moment you can take your pet;  dog, cat, or indeed ferret, from the UK to the EU and back again without quarantine provided that certain conditions are met, such as having a pet passport and your pet being microchipped.

Mister
Frankie
Kaiser

Pet passports are issued by EU countries and a short list of other countries such as Greenland, Iceland and Switzerland. The UK could be added to this list, but clearly agreements would be needed to make that happen – it would not be automatic.”

The Government, in response, has pledged that the ‘Passport for Pets’ will be preserved after Britain leaves the EU. Michael Gove’s Environment Department has reassured animal-lovers that there would be no return to the quarantine restrictions.

The UK Government has no authority to say that the Pet Passport will be preserved for travel between the UK and EU countries, particularly in the event of a no deal scenario!

Jess
Bremain Pets
Oxo

BREMAIN IN SPAIN members know that the only way of protecting their much-loved pets is to #StopBrexit.  Below you will find a gallery compiled from a selection of our members’ pets – many of whom have been rescued after being abandoned, or re-homed from an animal sanctuary. These wonderful creatures are their family members and companions. They deserve better!

Timmy

‘Thank you to our members for sharing pictures of your pet chums with us.

It emboldens us further fighting for them to

#StopBrexit!’

Maisy

We make no apology for the sheer number of Bremain Pets on this page.

They are real pets, with real families and need their rights protected just like their owners.

The only answer is to #StopBrexit!

Bremain Pets