British pensioners rushing to settle in EU countries ahead of Brexit

British pensioners rushing to settle in EU countries ahead of Brexit

British pensioners and people taking early retirement are flocking to settle in European countries ahead of Brexit, amid fears this will become more difficult once freedom of movement ends.

With the clock ticking on the UK’s departure from the European Union, a company that helps those making the move to the continent said the number of enquiries it was handling each month about relocating to Spain, France and Portugal had doubled.

Blevins Franks, which offers financial advice for those moving to Europe, said it had seen overall business surge by 20 to 25 per cent following the referendum result last year.

Other companies reported similar surges from those determined to find their place in the sun before March 2019, when the UK is due to leave the 28-nation block.

Director of business development at Belvin Franks, Jason Porter, told the Guardian he was hopeful a deal will be struck that will allow Brits to carry on retiring abroad, regardless of Brexit.

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Conversations with Europe: Sue Wilson

Conversations with Europe: Sue Wilson

Sue Wilson lives in Alcossebre, Spain, with her husband and five cats. She is a part time Project Manager, hoping to retire in the near future. Since the Brexit referendum, she has become better known as the Chair of Bremain in Spain, the pro-EU campaign group with over 5000 members, which represents British citizens living in Spain who will be affected by Brexit. Sue had no interest in politics before the referendum but now devotes 50-70 hours per week to what she calls her ‘obsession’ – fighting to stop Brexit and protect the rights of British citizens living in Spain.

Sue says she is an optimist by nature and firmly believes that Brexit – ‘the worst crisis to affect the UK for decades’ – can be stopped. She says ‘it’ll be painful, damaging and expensive, but common sense must prevail in the end.’

I was keen to chat with Sue about her campaign, and her feelings about Europe more widely, so delighted she agreed to be interviewed. Look out for a feature on the Bremain in Spain campaign, coming soon.

 

  1. Please tell me where you are from, where you currently live and work, and what you do.

Originally from Oxford, I am 63 years old, married, & living in Alcossebre with my husband Steve & 5 cats. We have lived in Spain for 10 years, & plan to spend the rest of our lives here, Brexit permitting. I work part-time as a Project Manager, renovating houses, & Steve works part-time as an IT Trainer in the UK. We had planned to retire this summer, but with our income being reduced by almost 20% due to the devaluation of Sterling, we have postponed becoming “pensionistas” until next year. Most of my time is taken up running Bremain in Spain.

 

  1. Which European languages can you speak?

I speak reasonable Spanish – probably intermediate level, though I need to study more. I was studying everyday before 23rd June, but haven’t done any since the referendum!

 

  1. Would you describe yourself as European? Is this important to you? Is your national identity more important?

Yes, I’m proud to call myself a European. My European identity & citizenship is very important to me. It has allowed me to live & work in Spain & plan my retirement here. I would be loath to give up my British nationality (which I would need to do if I wanted to become a Spanish Citizen), but only for practical reasons e.g. what effect would that have on my UK pension & what would happen if I decided to return to UK in the future? – I would just be another unwanted European immigrant. I used to be proud to be British – not any more. What the UK is becoming makes me ashamed.

 

  1. When you think of the European Union, what is the first thing you think of? 

Freedom. Hard to choose one though – I also think of peace, friendship, diversity.

 

  1. Do you feel that living and working in the EU has made a difference to your professional career? How?

No – I gave up a successful career in the UK (in Sales Management & Training), knowing full well that living & working in Spain would mean slowing down, less responsible work & a different work/life balance. At 53, I felt it was time, & the pros far outweigh the cons. I never thought that at 63 I would end up working harder than I have ever worked in my life, & for no money!

 

  1. Do you feel as though the European Union is beneficial to area you work in? Can you support your answer with examples?

My work isn’t directly benefitted by the EU, but in my voluntary campaigning work for Bremain in Spain, I have become much more aware of everything that the EU does, & the professional way they do business – in stark contrast to the behaviour of the UK government. I know far more about the EU now than ever before.

 

  1. Does Europe inspire you professionally or personally? If so, how?

Professionally no, personally yes. The more I learn, the more I value the relationship & appreciate everything that the EU has given us.

 

  1. What do you think of the result of the Brexit referendum in the UK?

Over a year on, & I’m still angry, & still determined to do anything/everything in my power to stop Brexit from happening. I was heart-broken when the referendum results came in, & it took me a full 3 weeks to recover from the upset/shock/horror sufficiently to start taking action. I have never felt so strongly about anything in my life. If we fail to stop Brexit from happening, I will campaign for the rest of my life, or for as long as it takes, to get the UK back in the EU.

 

  1. Do you think the EU helps maintain peace?

Absolutely!

 

  1. Do you feel as though you have a lot in common with people from European countries other than your own? Can you give examples?

I certainly feel more European than British after 10 years in Spain. I was fortunate to live in Oxford, London & Cambridge in the UK – all multi-cultural cities where the diversity was a positive aspect. I have more Spanish friends in Spain than English ones, & find the Spanish extremely friendly & welcoming – in fact, we feel more like family than friends. We also like to holiday in Europe too & experience different cultures & cuisines, & have visited Italy & Malta in the last 15 months.

 

  1. Are you involved in any campaigning activity related to the UK referendum result? If so, please tell me more about it. What would success look like for your campaign?

I’m Chair of Bremain in Spain (as mentioned earlier) – a group of 5000 Remainers, mostly based in Spain. We have 2 objectives – the first is to fight against Brexit; plan b) is to protect the rights of British citizens living in Spain. We are also 1 of 11 groups across the EU that make up British in Europe – this coalition works with EU citizens groups in the UK, like the 3Million, to protect all of our rights, & we work closely with the EU & UK governments in this regard. We take this work very seriously, & we believe it important to protect our rights whatever the outcome of Brexit. Having said that, fighting Brexit is our number one priority, & we are partnered with 2 large UK campaign groups to this end – Britain for Europe & European Movement.

 

Success for UK & EU citizens would be for the UK government to agree to the offer that the EU have on the table with regard to citizens rights. We had a role in writing the proposal, & the EU would have us retain almost all of our rights – the UK offer by comparison is inferior, & would have us treated as 2nd class citizens. All of these issues would go away though if we manage to stop Brexit from ever happening. If we don’t leave, none of our rights would be threatened. If we are successful, there will be parties all over the UK, & Europe, that will go on for days!

 

  1. How would you feel about ‘ever closer union’ or a ‘United States of Europe’?

Fine by me – in fact I would not have a problem even with joining Schengen. We have strength in numbers, & Brexit has had one positive effect on the Union – it has woken the EU up, made the 27 countries think seriously about their own membership, & brought about an even stronger bond.

 

  1. Do you have a favourite place in Europe? If so, where is it and why do you love it?

Impossible to single out one place (leaving aside where I live in Alcossebre) – there are many wonderful cities (Barcelona, Venice, Amsterdam), an amazing diversity of scenery (Spain, Croatia, Greece), so many different cultures. I’d have to say Europe itself – each country has so much to offer & is so different from the next one. I hope one day to visit them all.

 

  1. Which European national stereotypes are true, in your experience?

As much as any of them are true, then I guess there is some truth to all of them, as much as there are elements that are false too – that includes the Brits too! However, I hope I never fall into the trap of associating a stereotype with an individual – even if others would say that Brits, for example, are overly polite, doesn’t mean they all are!

 

  1. Where is the best place in Europe to drink coffee? What would you order?

Haven’t a clue! Not a coffee drinker.

 

  1. What do you think is the biggest challenge facing Europe today?

The refugee crisis – innocent people are dying, whilst searching for a better life. Not enough is being done to help them, or to resolve the issues that force them to leave their homes in the first place.

 

  1. Name a place in Europe you have not visited, but would like to. Why?

Brussels & Luxembourg – I would love to get close to European politics in action, having learnt so much about it over the last year.

 

  1. What do you think is the most significant moment in European history? Why?

History was never my strong suit, & I’ve always been one to look forward rather than backward. How far back do you go? Treaty signings? World wars? I know there have been many significant moments/events, though I’ve only really become aware of the significance of many since the referendum. I would have to say, speaking personally, it would be 23rd June 2016 – that day changed my life, & I’m still feeling the effects, & likely to for a long time.

 

  1. Do you think the UK will leave the EU in 2019? 

No, & I hope that’s not just wishful thinking. I believe it to be next to impossible in terms of complexity, & I suspect that a transitional deal would be on the cards. If that were to happen, then we would barely notice any difference except it would cost more & UK would lose any say, so less control rather than more. At some point surely the question would be asked, if this is the deal, & it’s worse than what we had before, then what is the point?

I also think that since the election, it is noticeable how often the media now say “if” rather than “when” Brexit happens. There are even journalists now openly writing about the possibility that Brexit may not happen – that would have been unthinkable before the election. We have a long way to go, & it won’t be pretty & it won’t be cheap, but there is every reason to be hopeful that the UK will come to its senses, MPs will start listening to the public change of mood, & that they will act in the best interest of the country.

 

  1. Are you hopeful for the future of Europe?

Yes – it is stronger than ever, pulling together, & successful. Long may it continue.

EU and Britain fail to reach agreement on half of issues in Brexit talks

EU and Britain fail to reach agreement on half of issues in Brexit talks

The EU and UK Brexit teams working on the future rights of EU citizens in the UK and Britons in Europe have failed to reach agreement on 22 of the 44 issues under negotiation, a joint working paper has revealed.

A detailed colour-coded document reveals there is agreement on 22 “green areas” but fundamental disagreements on 14 “red” issues and a further eight “amber” areas that need further clarification.

Among the red-light issues in the document, which is dated 19 June, is the UK’s requirement for “self-sufficient” citizens such as stay-at-home parents and students to have private health insurance or comprehensive sickness insurance (CSI).

Theresa May said this would no longer be required in her official proposal to the EU in June, but it remains sticking point, according to the working paper.

“Some areas marked green, eg CSI … or freedom of movement for Brits in the EU are puzzling. Is this a mistake, an oversight?” asked Anne-Laure Donskoy, chair of the 3million group campaigning for the rights to EU citizens in the UK.

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Our Pain in Spain

Our Pain in Spain

We had a simple dream for our retirement – a home by the sea, plenty of sunshine, a relaxed, healthy lifestyle and a Mediterranean diet, writes our Guest Writer for Today, Sue Wilson.

Ten years ago, we took the plunge and moved to Spain. We have never looked back.. until 24 June, 2016.

On that fateful day, our whole lives were turned upside down –

our futures threatened. Would we be able to remain in Spain, receive healthcare, survive on a reduced income, travel freely? Brexit could change everything.

To say that the referendum result was a shock would be an understatement. It was like a death in the family.

It was a full three weeks before I could make any sense of anything. Disbelief turned to sadness, sorrow turned to anger.

I’m still angry. I will stay angry until Brexit is cancelled.

I had never been particularly interested in current affairs or politics. The referendum changed all that.

My husband would ask me if I’d seen such and such a story in the newspapers – my answer was always “no”.

By July 2016, my answer had changed to “yes, I’ve read it, and I’ve already shared it on social media”. A casual interest in monitoring the Brexit-related news had become something of an obsession.

I’ve gained more new skills and knowledge in the last 10 months, than in the previous 10 years. I now know more about trade deals than Liam Fox and more about negotiations that David Davis, but they are both very low bars.

If anyone had told me what I would be doing now, just a year ago, I never would have believed them.

Fortunately, I was able to vote in the referendum. Many Brits abroad were not so lucky due to a rule preventing them from voting if they had lived abroad for more than 15 years.

In the Conservatives 2015 manifesto, David Cameron promised to scrap that rule.

But the government then announced that it couldn’t implement the new voting arrangements in time for the referendum. Instead, it promised that all Britons abroad would have ‘Votes for Life’ by the time of the next General Election in 2020.

When I pointed out to politicians that a vote by 2020 would be of no use should there be a second referendum, or indeed a snap election, I was told categorically that was not going to happen.

As it turned out, my premonition was correct, so yet again, many were denied a vote, and what’s more, the pledge to return voting rights was removed from the Queen’s Speech and the Tory party manifesto.

To be denied a vote that could directly affect your life so dramatically – not once, but twice – is cruel and underhand.

Despite worries about the election when it was announced, the result has changed everything. May is powerless, her supposed mandate gone, and the mood of the country, and the debate, has changed.

No longer do we constantly hear about “when” Brexit happens, but more often now it’s “if”. More and more public figures are talking about the very real possibility that Brexit won’t happen at all, which would have been unthinkable just a few short weeks ago.

We’ve worked hard for our life in Spain, and we aim to keep it. You’ll not find us in a bar festooned with Union Jacks, or at the bowls club. We do not spend our time on the beach or drinking G & Ts.

We are not tourists – this is our life. We work, shop, do laundry. Our Spanish isn’t fluent yet but we make an effort to integrate and our Spanish friends are like family.

Our EU citizenship is a treasured possession to be protected. The rights and freedoms we currently enjoy are too important and too valuable to lose. We will fight tooth and nail to protect those rights, but the easiest way to protect ourselves is to fight to stop Brexit.

We are not bargaining chips or negotiating collateral. We are not traitors or any less British because we chose to live in a different location.

We are told that we are the most important thing on the negotiating agenda. From where I’m standing, it looks to me like money is the priority. We certainly aren’t made to feel important – invisible, more like.

Whatever else we are though, we are proud Europeans and we fully intend to stay that way. Spain is my home – I plan to keep it that way.

Sue Wilson lives in Spain with her husband, Steve, as part of the Valencian Community in Alcossebre. She works part-time as a project manager, and is currently renovating a villa. In the UK, she was a Sales Manager & Management Trainer. Sue is Chair of ‘Bremain in Spain’: bremaininspain.com/about/bremain-history/

Article written for Reasons2Remain Group

Sue Wilson: My 24 hours in London – 19 July 2017

Sue Wilson: My 24 hours in London – 19 July 2017

LibDem Roundtable on Citizens rights re Brexit – Palace of Westminster

 

I was honoured to accept an invitation from the LibDems to attend their round table, as the sole representative of Britons living in Europe. It was my first time inside the Palace of Westminster. I managed to take a few photos – including a selfie with Stephen Kinnock – before being told that no photos were allowed!

The meeting was hosted by Sir Ed Davey MP (Home Affairs) and Tom Brake MP (Shadow Brexit Minister). It was also attended by Baroness Hamwee and various support staff, as well as representatives of the 3Million and  Españoles de Reino Unido.

With Sir Ed Davey MP, Tom Brake MP and Baroness Hamwee plus 3million – Costanza de Roma,  Monique Hawkins, Ilse Mogensen and Gudrun Parasie, and  Españoles de Reino Unido – Ignacio Madariaga

I was pleasantly surprised to find that the Libdems are well-informed on our issues (unlike other parties I could mention!). They are keen to understand fully the position of EU and UK citizens’ groups regarding the negotiations, and consider our expectations and demands. Ed Davey intends to write a letter to David Davis and the Home Office on our behalf and will show us the draft for approval.

I had supplied the hosts, in advance, with copies of the British in Europe Alternative White Paper, the BIE/3Million joint response to Theresa May’s underwhelming offer and over 50 testimonials submitted by Bremain in Spain members. It was clear that these documents had been read before the meeting.

The meeting lasted longer than intended and there was an opportunity afterwards to chat to the hosts informally. I’m sure this is the beginning of a partnership that will continue for many months, if not years.

On a final point: Ed Davey stated categorically that the LibDem position is, and will remain, to fight Brexit and keep the UK in the EU. They still believe a second referendum is the best approach and confirm that Vince Cable, the new party leader, will be calling for an “exit from Brexit”.

Peter French – #StopBrexit National March 1/10/17 Manchester

It was my pleasure to have lunch with Peter in Westminster and discuss how his plans for the march on the Tory party conference are progressing. The route has been finalised and the timings are almost confirmed. The march will dovetail with other events in Manchester on the same day, including a pro-EU street party and at least one other (non-Brexit but anti-austerity) march.

It is sure to be a great day and is guaranteed to receive considerably more media attention than the last march in London, by virtue of the Tory party conference. Peter has firm support from Alistair Campbell and A.C. Grayling. He plans to widely publicise the march soon.

My flights and accommodation for the march are booked and over 20 Bremainers have already expressed an interest in joining me. I hope that many more will join us on the day! We’ll need a few to carry the Bremain in Spain banners.

Our new partners – European Movement

I also visited the new HQ for European Movement in Victoria and met campaign manager James MacCleary, Tim Verboven and CEO Michael Young. I was briefed on EM’s current activities and we discussed how EM can help us gain further exposure.

Michael Young
CEO

James MacCleary
Campaigns Manager

Tim Verboven
Office Manager

In conjunction with British in Europe, I’ve been asked to compile a list of questions that we would like to raise in the House of Commons. EM will put those questions forward to their contacts in parliament. I hope we can have our voices heard in the House of Commons in the same way that they reached the HOL. EM will also specifically raise the issue of Votes for Life, alongside any concerns about our rights regarding Brexit and provide help with our political lobbying.

After many months and changes in its structure and personnel, I now possess signed paperwork making us official partners with EM. We’ll benefit from dedicated space on its website and will enjoy fresh support and exposure. EM works closely with Britain for Europe, another of our partners, and its aims are exactly the same – to Stop Brexit! I am looking forward to working together.

Finally, EM will provide backing for the Choose Freedom EU Passport Citizens’ Initiative Campaign, and has started a dialogue with Wemove.eu to this end. I am optimistic that EM’s involvement will give the campaign a kick-start, to push us towards the 1,000,000 votes we need.
Susan Wilson: «No permitiré que May nos sacrifique»

Susan Wilson: «No permitiré que May nos sacrifique»

La primera vez que vino a España fue cuando era una veinteañera, de vacaciones, claro. Se quedó prendada del país, de su cultura, su gastronomía y, por supuesto, del clima. Susan Wilson, Sue para los amigos, nunca olvidó aquellos rayos de sol mediterráneo, así que hace doce años, ella y su esposo Steve decidieron buscar una casa para retirarse una vez les llegara la edad de jubilación. «Era nuestro sueño vivir en España, además, al ser europeos los trámites eran muy sencillos y fue fácil mudarnos. De hecho, lo hicimos antes de jubilarnos, por qué esperar a instalarnos en este lugar tan hermoso. Llevamos aquí ya diez años», explica Wilson a LA RAZÓN desde su casa de Alcocebre, en Castellón. Sin embargo, esa paz que respiraba esta británica natural de Oxford parece haberse esfumado tras el «sí» de sus compatriotas al Brexit. Sus derechos están siendo utilizados como moneda de cambio y Wilson no tolera que jueguen con ellos.

Por este motivo, ahora ella es la presidenta de «Bremain in Spain», una organización integrada por casi 5.000 británicos residentes en España –en total, la colonia «British» repartida por la geografía española la integran 300.000 personas–, que luchan para que su statu quo sea respetado. «Nunca me gustó la política, pero en 2016 cambió todo. Ahora me paso el día de campaña e incluso he tenido que dejar un poco de lado mi trabajo. Se ha convertido en una obsesión y encima no me pagan por ello», afirma.

Este lunes comienzan las negociaciones de la desconexión en Bruselas y la indignación de Sue no ha hecho sino aumentar desde que la primera ministra británica, Theresa May, anunciase hace unas semanas su plan para gestionar la situación de los más de tres millones de europeos que residen en Reino Unido, lo cual repercutirá proporcionalmente en los británicos que residen en países de la Unión Europea, que suman 1,2 millones.

«May no ha ido lo suficientemente lejos para protegernos, la UE sí. Desde Bruselas quieren garantizar todos los derechos que tenemos actualmente y nuestra primera ministra parece que no. Ella dice que lo que hizo fue una oferta generosa, pero es mentira, ella está dispuesta a sacrificar nuestros derechos como europeos para conseguir sus objetivos. Es ridículo», afirma Wilson.