Sue Wilson Writes: If Brexit is the ‘will of the people’ then let’s test it

Sue Wilson Writes: If Brexit is the ‘will of the people’ then let’s test it

#FinalSayMany British citizens from Spain joined over a million marchers at the #PeoplesVote rally: a day of solidarity, strength, good humour and determination. A day we will proudly recall, in years to come, with the words “I was there”.

For those of us fighting to stay in the EU, it will be remembered as another significant day in which the prime minister, Boris Johnson, was prevented by parliament from rushing through his damaging Brexit deal.

On Thursday October 17th, at the EU summit, Johnson unexpectedly agreed terms for the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. The shock of the 11th hour agreement was followed by news that parliament would vote on the deal on “Super Saturday”, with a view to leaving the EU on October 31st, should it pass. The votes were too close to call as to whether the deal would pass.

Thanks to an ingeniously simple but effective amendment by Sir Oliver Letwin, Johnson withdrew the planned vote on the deal. The Letwin amendment, described as an insurance policy to prevent a last minute “accidental” no deal, passed by a majority of 16.

The news of this monumental defeat for the government was greeted with huge cheers from the crowds in Parliament Square. With the result of this vote, and because of the Benn Act, Johnson would be forced to write to the EU requesting an extension.

Read full article in The Local

 

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
 
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

 

Sue Wilson Writes: There’s a reason that more Brits live in Spain than any other European country and it’s not just the sunshine

Sue Wilson Writes: There’s a reason that more Brits live in Spain than any other European country and it’s not just the sunshine

When I first visited Spain, at the tender age of 18, it was love at first sight.

Admittedly, back then, I was more interested in the weather, nightlife and the size/price of a Bacardi and Coke. Over the years, as I matured, so did my tastes. I grew to appreciate everything this wonderful country has to offer: the tasty tapas, varied landscapes, amazing culture, healthy lifestyle and – most importantly – the warmth and generosity of the Spanish people.

Now, a resident of 12 years standing, I’m living the retirement I could only dream of during many decades of annual holidays in Spain. I live in a small seaside village in the Valencian community, which is transformed by tourists for 10 weeks of the year. Our sleepy little winter village becomes a bustling resort, attracting visitors from all over Europe. In August, you’re more likely to hear French spoken than Spanish, although many other nationalities have also discovered our slice of paradise.

The inflow of visitors has its downside – longer queues in the supermarket and bank, parking problems, more traffic and slower service in bars and restaurants. However, the pluses more than outweigh the minuses. The buzz is infectious, the diversity of languages and people is a pleasure, and it’s good to be reminded that our village only exists thanks to the Euros, Pounds, Krone, Roubles and Francs that are spent here.

With so many European nationalities surrounding us, we feel part of a growing family – one that shares our dreams, concerns and values. It also allows us to see the village, and the country, through the eyes of those who love to visit but cannot stay.

When I speak Spanish, it’s clear that I’m not from around these parts,so the next question tends to be “where are you from?” When I tell people I’m from the UK, it’s commonplace to be greeted with a look of pity and an incredulous “what on earth was the UK thinking of with Brexit”. What, indeed!

Many of the tourists are regular visitors who have fallen for the local charms, as we did. When I’m asked when I’m going “back home”, I love to say: “In the next few hours – this is home!” I admit to taking small delight from seeing a glimpse of envy.

As well as interacting with tourists, many of us entertain our friends and family in August. It’s a time to switch off, dine out rather too often, visit tourist attractions that we ignore for 11 months of the year, and to relax and unwind. A time to set aside our worries about the future and appreciate what we have.

Before the referendum, I was guilty of taking all the benefits and freedoms of being a European citizen for granted. I never thought about my freedom of movement or my right to free healthcare and didn’t really associate those benefits with the EU. I just enjoyed those freedoms, with the expectation that I would have them for life.

Nobody knows what our Brexit future will bring, but if the referendum has had one positive outcome, it’s this: it has shown us what’s at stake and what we stand to lose.

I’ve loved my life in Spain since the day I arrived. I love it more with each week, month and year that passes. There’s a reason that more Brits live in Spain than any other European country, and it’s not just the 320 days of sunshine (although that’s amazing too!).

It’s the welcome, the sense of family, the feeling of security, the neighbourliness. Spain is in my soul and I’m never going to leave. The same applies to Europe, so keep your hands off my EU citizenship. The UK isn’t leaving, and neither am I.

Sue’s article from The Local

Sue Wilson Writes: Brits relying on funds from the UK are feeling increasingly helpless

Sue Wilson Writes: Brits relying on funds from the UK are feeling increasingly helpless

Sue WilsonAlways a popular topic of conversation, discussions about money have been more prominent recently, for all the wrong reasons, writes Sue Wilson of Bremain in Spain.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has this week been visiting the four ‘corners’ of the United Kingdom, doling out promises to spend, spend, spend in a futile effort to win support. Judging by the reception he received in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, his offers of financial support for communities and industries, which are currently reliant on EU funding, are not being taken too seriously. The fact that parliament, or even his own government, would be unlikely to sanction such overspending may be a factor at play.

On Thursday August 1st, money was again on the agenda when the new Chancellor of the Exchequer, Sajid Javid, announced the government will spend £2.1 billion in preparation for a no-deal Brexit. Despite frequent claims from the prime minister and the government that no-deal is not their preferred course of action, they seem very keen to convince the country, and the European Parliament, that it is.

The Treasury announced that the money would be spent to “accelerate preparations at the Irish border, support business readiness and ensure the supply of critical medicines”. £138 million alone is to be spent boosting public communications, including a public information campaign, and increased “consular support and information for Brits living abroad”. I’m sure a leaflet will make us all feel better at the prospect of being significantly poorer!

As you might expect, the news of more spending – especially on a damaging no-deal scenario – met with widespread outrage. The CEO of Best for Britain, Naomi Smith, said: “Wasting money like this when we have so many other priorities is exactly why the country has turned against Brexit. We need to stop fixating on it so that we can fix the country.”

Labour MP, David Lammy said it was money: “…wasted on preparing for an entirely avoidable and self-inflicted disaster. Money that should have been spent on schools, hospitals and housing.”

The prospect of spending such obscene amounts of money, when the UK has suffered underspending on an industrial scale for years, has everyone wondering: where is the money coming from? The government openly admits it intends to borrow, borrow, borrow.

All this talk of excess borrowing and spending is particularly galling for British citizens who are suffering from the collapse of the Pound. Sterling is at its lowest level in over two years, with no-deal Brexit only at the discussion stage. How much further might it plummet if the worst-case scenario actually happened?

Brits relying on funds from the UK, especially pensioners and others on low incomes, are feeling understandably helpless. Many are considering how to cut back on their personal expenditure. None of us are in possession of a magic money tree – unlike Westminster, where there’s enough fertiliser for a whole orchard.

There was, however, an unexpected word of comfort from a Brexit Party MEP. Apparently, Sterling’s fall is all down to Remainers and the European Union, and nothing to do with government policy or the pursuit of a hard Brexit. It can easily be fixed if we all stop saying that no-deal will be a disaster and – as Johnson might say – just “believe”!

If Abba’s ‘Dancing Queen’ will be remembered as Theresa May’s theme tune, Boris Johnson’s theme must be ‘Money, Money, Money’. At least, for now. Give it a few weeks, until his government fails, and parliament removes the no-deal threat, and ‘Waterloo’ might be more fitting.  

Sue’s Article in The Local

 

Sue Wilson Writes: British citizens living in limbo over Brexit have finally had their patience rewarded

Sue Wilson Writes: British citizens living in limbo over Brexit have finally had their patience rewarded

Over recent weeks, many British citizens living in Spain, who are worried about Brexit, have been increasingly concerned about political events in the UK.

With the two Conservative leadership candidates, Jeremy Hunt and Boris Johnson, hyping their no-deal Brexit rhetoric to the max, and the media over-playing a whole host of no-deal scenarios, it’s no surprise that many have been losing sleep.

However, the events of last week saw a significant change in our collective mood. The tide has finally turned.

It was a busy week in both Westminster and Brussels, with the appointment of the new President of the European Commission, Theresa May’s last speech as Prime Minister, and the last of the Tory leadership contest hustings.

The Office for Budget Responsibility released its latest, damning report, stating that the UK risks a ‘full-blown’ recession with a no-deal Brexit. Meanwhile, Chancellor Phillip Hammond admitted to being “terrified” by Brexiter claims concerning a no-deal Brexit boost to the economy.

Then there was a revealing expose screened by BBC Panorama, ‘Britain’s Brexit Crisis’, that suggested even the Beeb is experiencing a change of mood and tone, perhaps finally feeling it might have backed the wrong horse.

However, the most significant of last week’s events was Thursday’s vote by the House of Commons, to prevent the new British prime minister from proroguing parliament.

The day before, a House of Lords amendment to the Northern Ireland bill had passed by a significant majority. The amendment called for parliament to regularly report on its progress with regard to the forming of an executive in Stormont. A similar amendment had recently been defeated in the House of Commons, but the Lords were determined to prevent the new PM from shutting down parliament ahead of the October 31st Brexit deadline. If the Lords amendment proved successful, this would allow the House of Commons a second bite of the cherry.

The vote in the Commons was widely expected to be a close call, with speculation that some Conservative ministers might rebel against the government. When the result emerged, showing a significant defeat for Theresa May, despite a 3-line whip, the change in mood from Bremain members was palpable.

For many months, British citizens living in limbo over Brexit have been hoping for MPs – especially Conservatives – to stand up and be counted. On Thursday our patience was finally rewarded. Not only did 30 Conservative MPs defy the whip and abstain – including Chancellor Hammond and cabinet ministers, David Gauke, Greg Clarke and Rory Stewart – but 17 Conservatives voted in favour of Hilary Benn and Alastair Burt’s amendment.

Even the Brits amongst us who had resigned themselves to a hard Brexit have since expressed feelings of hope. The scale of the government’s defeat was seen as highly significant and a victory for common sense. Although many long ago abandoned the idea of parliament coming to our rescue, many Brits now believe a new way forward is possible.

Unsurprisingly, Brexiters were outraged by the result, accusing their colleagues of a betrayal of the British public and the referendum result. Without a hint of irony, they complained that MPs had voted to ensure the retention of parliamentary sovereignty – a key demand of their own Leave campaign!

While the success of the amendment doesn’t prevent a no-deal Brexit, it does make it more difficult. Yet again, it proves that there is no majority in parliament for a damaging no-deal Brexit.

For many Conservative rebels, this was the first time they had ever voted against their own government. One minister, Margot James, even resigned in order to do so. Further resignations are anticipated next week, if Boris Johnson becomes the new leader, as expected.

Having crossed the line, and voted against the wishes of the government, Conservative MPs will in future find it easier to oppose the extreme Brexit plans favoured by Johnson, the Brexiters and Conservative party members. As one first-time rebel MP said, they might even get a taste for it!

We have long hoped and prayed for MPs to put country before party. Many have a long way to go, but the tide has turned.

After the success of his amendment, Hilary Benn said that the House of Commons had sent a message to the new prime minister. He commented: “If you think you can lock the doors of the chamber and expect us all to go away until October 31st has come and gone, well it isn’t going to happen. The public would expect us to be here doing our job, and that is what we intend to do.”

Brits throughout Europe are grateful to those who stood up to be counted. We now hope that parliament really can “take back control”. That’s what we voted for, apparently!

Taken from The Local