‘This is an exciting time’, UK minister tells Brits in Spain as Brexit looms

‘This is an exciting time’, UK minister tells Brits in Spain as Brexit looms

UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has written an open letter to anxious Brits in Spain telling them that “this is an exciting time” as he urges them to prepare for Brexit.

Dominic Raab has penned a letter to UK nationals in Spain in which he tells them how they should be preparing for Brexit as the UK government gets ready to deliver the “will of the British people” on October 31. 

His letter reads like a set of demands for Brits in Spain – “you’ll need”, “you must”, “you should” – in return for only vague promises about UK nationals’ rights in their host country post-2020. 

Although Raab assures his target audience that in the event of a no-deal Brexit they will continue to have access to healthcare in Spain “exactly as you do now, until at least 31 December 2020 if you are an S1 form holder”, there is no mention of the worry and anxiety that’s been caused to them over the past three years, or what is likely to happen to their healthcare after that date. 

Instead the UK Foreign Secretary repeats much of what’s already been announced by the British Embassy in Spain, choosing to round off his impersonal letter by saying

“This is an exciting time, but also one of unprecedented change”. 

“We’re getting ready for Brexit on 31 October, and I would urge you to do the same”.

Sue Wilson of Bremain in Spain has responded to Raab’s tactless comments by telling The Local: “Brexiter Raab might think this an exciting time, but I can assure you, we do not!

“More appropriate adjectives to describe our assessment of the current state of play would be “terrifying” or “unsettling”. Promising that our rights and benefits are protected for a limited period does not provide reassurance. Rather, it has Brits in Spain worrying what will happen when that period expires?

“Those hoping for a deal, any deal, to get us out of this awful limbo, are now starting to realise that even a Brexit deal will not see the end of this awful uncertainty”.

Raab even found the time to praise the “the largest information campaign in British history” – the Get Ready for Brexit  campaign – as if to imply that this was of importance or helpful for UK nationals in Spain who still don’t know what their future holds.

Read Dominic Raab’s full letter in The Local



Británicos en España: nerviosos, confundidos y con menos dinero por el Brexit

Británicos en España: nerviosos, confundidos y con menos dinero por el Brexit

“Muchos hemos visto cómo se reducían nuestros ingresos, y algunos no saben cómo van vivir”, cuenta Susan Wilson, jubilada y residente en Alcocebre (Castellón) desde hace 12 años.

Susan -como muchos otros británicos que viven en España- depende de su pensión, procedente del Reino Unido y que se ha visto reducida en un 18 por ciento desde el referéndum del Brexit, por la caída de la libra. Cree que los más vulnerables son los que reciben una pensión del Estado británico, y conoce “personas que se ven obligadas a tomar decisiones financieras difíciles porque los ingresos que tenían hace tres años van a verse reducidos aún más”.

“Una gran parte de los británicos que reside en España son pensionistas; hasta ahora el gobierno británico les actualiza cada año la pensión, pero es posible que no lo siga haciendo”, dice Neil Hesketh, que vive en Málaga, y donde reside desde hace 17 años. Neil vino a España porque “quería vivir en un clima diferente” y encontró al principio trabajo en marketing y en una inmobiliaria. Explica que “hay jubilados, mayores -con problemas de salud- que están preocupados con el riesgo de quedarse sin cobertura sanitaria después del Brexit”, y “están un poco asustados, todos corriendo para inscribirse en el registro de ciudadanos europeos” para no quedarse sin cobertura sanitaria. A día de hoy el principal problema es “la capacidad de las comisarías para aceptar a todas las personas que quieren citas para inscribirse; están tardando en dar citas”, señala Neil, aunque reconoce que tanto la embajada del Reino Unido como el Ministerio de Interior español están haciendo todo lo que pueden.

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Sue Wilson Writes: Unlike EU citizens in the UK, Brits in Spain are lucky enough to enjoy the warmth of our hosts

Sue Wilson Writes: Unlike EU citizens in the UK, Brits in Spain are lucky enough to enjoy the warmth of our hosts

Sue Wilson from Bremain in Spain gave a speech to a sell-out audience in Barcelona on the issues of Brexit, the warm welcome from Spain and stereotypes that still tarnish the perception of Brits in the country. Here she explains what part of her message got the biggest cheers.
On Thursday 3 October, a crowd of European citizens, mostly British and Spanish, attended the sell-out event, ‘Europeans in Catalonia’ at the Princess Hotel, Barcelona.
The four speakers discussed issues relating to Brexit – especially the human cost, which is frequently overlooked in the Brexit debate, in favour of trade and the economy.
A question and answer session followed, with many audience members participating, including EU Supergirl, Madeleina Kay, who was visiting Spain as part of her European tour.
The first speaker was Hedwig Hegtermans of the 3Million campaign group, speaking on behalf of European citizens in the UK.
Hedwig talked about the injustices of the Settled Status scheme and how Brexit has changed the way the UK feels about and treats European immigrants.
Next in the line-up was Elena Remigi, founder of the In Limbo Project, and Debbie Williams, chair of Brexpats – Hear our Voice. They highlighted the impact of Brexit on citizens in the UK and EU and read some moving testimonials from the In Limbo books, which have now been presented to over 1,500 politicians.
The books have helped many UK and EU politicians understand that their respective citizens are upset, angry and unnerved at the prospect of Brexit, and the loss of their rights.
In my speech about Brits in Spain, I described the stereotypes we constantly see in the press: i.e. that we’re all pensioners, living on the coast, lazing on the beach, speaking only English and spending our time playing bowls or bridge, when we’re not sitting in bars festooned with Union Jack flags.

I think I might have mentioned something about drinking gin too!

I described how we feel about our reception in Spain: how we appreciate the Spanish government’s efforts to protect us and the treatment we receive from the Spanish people.

We have many issues in common with EU citizens in the UK but, fortunately, we don’t have to deal with the daily intolerance and xenophobia that they sadly experience.

We are lucky enough to enjoy the warmth, welcome and generosity of our Spanish family, friends and neighbours.

My “thank you” to the Spanish people received a big cheer from the audience. I concluded with a round-up of the current state of play. With events happening so quickly, and being so unpredictable, it’s difficult to be certain of anything, but I did make a few predictions.

Firstly, we’re not leaving the EU on October 31.

Any chance of a deal based on what Boris Johnson has proposed to Brussels seems unlikely. If nothing is agreed by 19 October, law dictates that Boris must ask the EU for an extension.

It’s likely that this will be agreed by the EU and may be longer than the UK anticipates.

If Johnson doesn’t abide by the law, he would face unknown consequences. The EU has already said that someone other than Johnson can sign the letter, should that prove necessary.

Secondly, a further referendum is far more likely now than it has been for months.

Increasingly, it looks like the best way out of the Brexit chaos, and it would certainly be the most democratic route.

The people made the decision that started this ball rolling, and they should make the decision about how it ends.

Leo Varadkar, the Taoiseach of Ireland, said the British public would vote remain now, if given the chance.  I agree with him.

Finally, I’ve always believed that the longer we delay Brexit, the less likely it is to happen at all.

Brexit is not inevitable – it can be stopped, it must be stopped, and it will be stopped.

That comment received the biggest cheer of the evening ….. well, except, perhaps, for “see me in the bar afterwards”!

Sue’s article taken from The Local
‘It’s like a death sentence’: retired Britons in EU face loss of healthcare

‘It’s like a death sentence’: retired Britons in EU face loss of healthcare

Britons with serious, sometimes terminal, illnesses who live in the EU say they have no certainty about how or even whether their healthcare costs will be covered after a no-deal Brexit and are suffering a “living nightmare” of anxiety and despair.

“It’s like a death sentence,” said Denise Abel, who moved to Italy in 2012. “It’s all you think about. I feel abandoned, betrayed and furious. There are no words for the rage I feel. We’re the collateral damage in the government’s war with the EU.”

The UK government announced last month that if Britain crashes out of the EU without a deal the estimated 180,000 retired British nationals in the bloc whose healthcare costs it funds would continue to be covered for six months.

Most of the 1 million Britons in the EU are earners, so pay into the health systems of the EU member states they live in. Their healthcare arrangements should be unaffected by a no-deal Brexit.

But pensioners, who paid social security when they lived in the UK, are part of a reciprocal healthcare scheme, S1, under which the NHS reimburses the cost of their treatment – and which will cease to exist after a no-deal Brexit.

“They feel like they’ve been kicked in the gut,” said Kalba Meadows of the campaign group British in Europe. “A lot of them are pretty vulnerable; it really wouldn’t take much to guarantee their rights until bilateral reciprocal arrangements are in place.”

The government was urging pensioners to sign up for their local health system but this was often not possible or too expensive on a basic UK pension, which is worth 20% less in euros because of the collapse of the pound since the EU referendum in 2016, Meadows said. Private health insurance was also beyond the means of many retired people, who are likely to have pre-existing conditions.

“They are left with the very real prospect of having no healthcare,” she said. “And in many countries, without healthcare you are no longer legally resident. There’s really a lot of fear. We’ve had hundreds of people contact us. Many are elderly, some have terminal illnesses – they are genuinely petrified.”

Read full article in The Guardian


In conversation: Sue Wilson, Chair of Bremain in Spain

In conversation: Sue Wilson, Chair of Bremain in Spain

I met Sue Wilson on what can only be described as a typical Manchester Sunday afternoon in 2019 – grey, rainy, and full of protests.

The city must have felt millions of miles from Wilson’s current home in sunny Valencia, Spain, but neither the miserable weather, nor the fact that she had to walk in it from St. Peter’s Square to Rusholme (many of the main roads were closed in preparation for protests over the Conservative Party Conference), seemed to dampen her spirits. “I don’t come to Manchester for the weather,” she joked as we sat down.

And she certainly didn’t. Wilson was in Manchester to speak at the ‘Defend our Democracy’ rally, held over the weekend to coincide with the Conservative Party Conference. She is currently the chair of Bremain in Spain, a campaign group made up of Remainers looking to protect the rights of British citizens living in Spain. The group argue for the need for a second referendum, which is what Wilson calls “the most democratic way.” But she told me she ultimately feels that preventing Brexit altogether is the “only way we’re going to protect our rights”.

Wilson is one of approximately 1.3 million UK-born people currently living in EU countries outside of the UK and Ireland, and is unsurprisingly concerned about the effect of Brexit on those in her position. She is the first to admit that Brexit completely changed her political consciousness, calling the result of the 2016 referendum “a real wake-up call”.

“I wasn’t interested in politics at all, I wasn’t interested in current affairs either. I used to constantly tell my husband to switch the news off, it used to bore me,” she told me. But the result of the EU referendum changed all that. When asked why she thought Brexit had such a profound impact on her – enough to turn a previously politically disinterested, disengaged person into an activist within three months – she told me that it didn’t feel like a choice.

“I couldn’t believe that the country would decide to shoot itself in the foot in this way. As we’ve learned over the last 3.5 years, it’s so damaging to the country, people’s rights, to everything we hold dear really, so it wasn’t a choice to get involved. I felt as though I had no option – I had to do something.”

She encouraged any students who had felt similarly politically awakened by the result of the referendum to reach out to a student group, such as Inspire.EU and For Our Future’s Sake, but most importantly, to stay informed.

“There are lots of sources of information, and there are lots of campaign groups. There are ones specifically aimed at different groups; there are definitely groups that students can join, there are groups that young people can join, and even if you decide not to be active yourself, at least if you know the facts then you can make that decision as to whether you want to do anything about it or not, and whether it’s important to you or not.”

Read the full interview in The Mancunian


Sue Wilson Writes: I moved to Spain expecting free healthcare for life

Sue Wilson Writes: I moved to Spain expecting free healthcare for life

Sue WilsonAs part of the British government’s no-deal communications programme, it issued a statement on Monday September 23rd outlining healthcare access for Brits living in EU 27 countries.

In the event of a no-deal Brexit, the statement committed the government to funding six months of healthcare for more than 180,000 UK nationals, i.e. those already receiving free health cover, specifically pensioners and students. The announcement caused immediate panic and anxiety amongst British citizens in Spain.

During March 2019, the Spanish government issued its Royal Decree to protect Brits in Spain. In the event of a no-deal Brexit, this decree guarantees us continuing healthcare until the end of 2020.

However, the offer only stands if the British government reciprocates regarding the treatment of Spanish citizens in the UK.  Whilst the Spanish offer isn’t concrete, it did reassure the British community in Spain that our host country has our best interests at heart.

On Monday, we naturally assumed that the latest statement from the British government overruled the earlier one from the Spanish government. The story received considerable press coverage throughout the UK and Europe, which reinforced those widespread assumptions.

Those relying on free healthcare, or expecting to do so in the future, asked how they would afford private healthcare, or if they would even qualify for private health insurance with pre-existing medical conditions. Apart from genuine concerns about funding future healthcare, many were also worried they would be left with no alternative but to return to the UK to use the NHS.

Within a few hours, we realised that the statement from the British government did not apply to British citizens in Spain – just those living in the rest of the EU.

The British Embassy was quick to clarify the situation with an update that was welcome, informative and prompt. There was, however, no further communication from the British government – they merely updated their website to confirm that the offer of six months healthcare did not apply to those of us in Spain.

The website stated: “The UK and Spain have each taken steps to ensure that people living in each country can continue to access healthcare as they do now until at least 31 December 2020. This means that your healthcare access will remain the same after 31 October 2019, whatever the Brexit scenario”.

With £100 million being spent by the government on no-deal propaganda, this latest government cock-up did nothing to improve the standing of the British government in the eyes of Brits abroad.

We have been ignored for too long, left out of the conversation and treated as bargaining chips. After years of paying in to the British system, it’s worrying to think we might not receive what’s due to us.  For the government to then get its facts wrong, but not bother to inform us directly of their mistake, begins to look not so much like carelessness as a lack of interest.

Like thousands of others, I moved to Spain expecting free healthcare for life. I paid into the National Health Service for 38 years. I did not envisage paying for private healthcare or prescription charges in my retirement.

National Health Insurance has that name for a reason. When you pay into an insurance policy for years, you expect payback when it’s required. Whether I spend my retirement in Bradford, Bournemouth or Barcelona should not make any difference to the cover I receive.

The British government had better wise up and make a firm commitment on healthcare and pensions. The costs to the Exchequer are far less if we stay where we are, than if we return to the UK for medical treatment. Bearing in mind the serious problems already facing the NHS, does the government want thousands of angry pensioners, perhaps with expensive healthcare needs, turning up in Westminster?

Sue’s article from The Local