Sue Wilson Writes: Why Boris could be our best bet to stop Brexit

Sue Wilson Writes: Why Boris could be our best bet to stop Brexit

Sue WilsonSue Wilson of Bremain in Spain takes a look at the candidates for the next Tory leader and argues that a Brexiteer could be the best tool to stop Brexit.

Since Theresa May bowed to intense pressure from the Conservative Party and handed in her resignation, many people have asked: “is she the worst prime minister in living memory”? Having seen the list of potential leadership candidates and listened to their proposals, it’s tempting to add the words “thus far”. While I wouldn’t say “come back Theresa, all is forgiven”, many Brits living in Spain are wondering if her successor will worsen our fate. Currently, 13 candidates are vying for the top job and the tally is rising daily. It’s almost easier to list the members of May’s cabinet who aren’t throwing their hats into the ring!

Every candidate seems determined to deliver Brexit – including those who weren’t initially Brexit supporters. Most go a step further, stating that a no-deal Brexit should be kept on the table, even while expressing a firm desire to close a deal. Some, such as former cabinet members, Esther McVey and Dominic Raab, are willing to pursue no-deal as their preferred Brexit option. It is only Rory Stewart, secretary of state for international development, who is rightly stating that a no-deal Brexit would be disastrous for the UK. 

Boris Johnson, currently the favourite candidate, has been uncharacteristically quiet since the leadership contest started. Perhaps he’s preoccupied with his court summons over allegations of lying to the British public. Maybe his lawyers are telling him to keep quiet, in case he says anything else incriminating.

Another common topic amongst leadership contenders is renegotiating a deal with the EU. Jean-Claude Juncker, the European Commission president, has stated categorically that the Withdrawal Agreement negotiations are closed. In addition, the EU negotiating team is currently being disbanded, yet still we hear delusional talk of returning to Brussels to renegotiate. It’s clear from the candidates’ rhetoric that they’re not aiming their proposals at the country, but at those who can vote for them directly. Initially, that means the Conservative party MPs who will narrow the choice down to just two candidates. The final decision will be made by around 120,000 ageing Conservative Party members, predominantly Leave voters. That audience makes it unlikely that we’ll see any Remain/anti-Brexit leadership candidates – they wouldn’t stand a chance.

Brits in Spain are naturally worried that a new Prime Minister will further risk our citizens’ rights and make a no-deal Brexit more likely. The Spanish government has devised comprehensive plans to protect us if no-deal occurs, but those plans rely on reciprocity by the UK government. Some people are understandably cautious about relying on the Spanish government’s generosity, should the worst-case scenario become a reality.

While the more Brextremist leadership candidates are causing considerable concern, I would personally welcome a staunch Brexiteer as May’s replacement. The more extreme the new PM’s position on Brexit, the less support they’ll garner from parliament and the public. They’ll waste further time trying to renegotiate a deal with the EU that is already closed and trying to garner support in Westminster. The more extreme the proposals, the higher the level of rebellion that can be expected from parliament and the public alike. If I had one question for the leadership contenders, it would be: “why on earth do you want the job right now”? Surely, anyone with the skills, intelligence and humanity necessary to make a good prime minister would have the sense not to touch this poisoned chalice with 10 proverbial bargepoles tied together. With the impossibility of delivering Brexit, or gaining consensus in parliament to do so, the new prime minister will be faced with a stark choice. No-deal will be off the table – it’s the only option about which parliament is abundantly clear. Parliament has prevented no-deal before and will do so again. That only leaves putting the question back to the public, either through a general election or a second referendum.

The Conservative party, after its disastrous performance in the European elections and in recent polls, will want to avoid a general election at all costs. Theresa May might be remembered by future generations as the worst prime minister in modern history. The legacy of her successor could be as the shortest serving prime minister in history. I didn’t shed any tears for May and I won’t be shedding any for her successor either. Brexit is dead. How many more Prime Minister’s will it take before Westminster accepts that reality?

By Sue Wilson – Full article from The Local

 

Sue Wilson Writes: What the EU election results mean for those Brits in Europe fighting Brexit.

Sue Wilson Writes: What the EU election results mean for those Brits in Europe fighting Brexit.

On Sunday 26th May, British citizens throughout Spain joined their Spanish neighbours in voting – many for the first time – in local and European elections.

With a choice of voting for the EU elections in their ‘home’ or ‘host’ country, many Brits chose to vote in the UK to voice their opinions about Brexit. Others elected to vote in Spain. For some people, that was their only option, having been disenfranchised from voting in the UK.

Here in Spain, the experience of voting in the EU and local elections was quick and easy, and the ‘extranjero’ voters were welcomed with open arms. Unfortunately, the experience for EU citizens in the UK was rather different, with many being turned away at polling booths. British citizens living abroad who had selected a postal vote faced significant problems, with ballot papers failing to arrive in time, if at all. This further disenfranchisement of British citizens in Europe and EU citizens in the UK caused a stir on social media, with #DeniedMyVote trending on Twitter.

Because of the outcry, British in Europe and the 3Million are examining the feasibility of a legal challenge over this issue, and questions have been raised in both Westminster and Brussels. Despite many hundreds of thousands of people being prevented from voting, the EU elections had the largest turnout across the continent for over two decades. The motivation for many voters, in the UK and across Europe, was clearly a desire to rally against the rise of the far-right. In the UK, Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party won the largest number of seats – although fewer than predicted. Most were taken directly from Ukip, which failed to retain a single seat. Voters failed to be impressed by party leader, Gerard Batten, and his sidekick – the notorious Tommy Robinson. Nigel Farage naturally claimed a massive victory and, as usual, garnered endless media attention. Remain campaigners pointed out that the Brexit Party’s ‘spin’ didn’t depict the whole picture. In fact, it was the Remain supporting parties – LibDems, Greens, SNP, Plaid Cymru and Change.UK – that could rightly claim the victory, having secured around 40% of votes compared to the Brexit Party’s 35%. In fact, the number of seats for Brexit supporting parties (Brexit Party, Ukip and Conservatives) has declined by 10, compared to the 2014 EU election results.

The surge of voters abandoning the Conservative and Labour parties was significant, as was the considerable increase in seats for all explicitly pro-Remain/pro-referendum parties. The Liberal Democrats and Green Party had their best results to date – a position that was widely reflected across Europe. Concerns in Brussels that the far-right would gain increased support proved unfounded. In fact, the balance of the European Parliament has shifted more to the left, with an increase in both the Green and Liberal groupings. The ALDE group is now the largest group in the European parliament. In response to Labour’s poor showing, with their seats halved, Jeremy Corbyn said the Conservatives were “disintegrating and unable to govern” and, with parliament in deadlock, Brexit would have to go back to the people “through a general election or a public vote”. The Labour party leadership will now be under enormous pressure from its own MPs, MEPs and members to climb off the fence and fully support Remain and a #FinalSay referendum. With the Conservative party in disarray, and a leadership contest underway for the next Prime Minister, it remains to be seen how the EU election results will influence a newly-elected leader.

The number of potential candidates to replace Theresa May is increasing daily – there’s barely a cabinet minister that hasn’t thrown their hat into the ring! It seems likely that our new Prime Minister will be a Brexiter, possibly even a Brextremist. Many of the candidates are claiming that ‘no deal’ should be back on the table – or is the desired destination. It’s blatantly clear that the Conservatives are worried about Farage and his followers. However, the government could reflect that, perhaps, it’s facing in the wrong direction: the bigger threat is coming from pro-Europeans. We cannot deny that Farage and his Brexit Party machine have made a significant impact on British politics and will continue to influence events in Westminster. However, the pro-Europeans are still here, we’re growing in numbers, and we’re making progress.

More importantly, we’re still in the European Union! As re-elected Labour MEP Julie Ward said: “Every day we don’t Leave the EU is a day to Stop Brexit – the fight is on!” We’re ready!

Sue Wilson Writes: How Brexit changed our lives

Sue Wilson Writes: How Brexit changed our lives

Do you remember those innocent, peaceful days three years ago, before our daily existence was dominated by Brexit? When we wouldn’t have known what a Withdrawal Agreement was, even if it came up and bit us on the backside? Me neither!

BREXIT TURNED ME INTO A DIFFERENT PERSON

I was a political virgin before the June 2016 referendum. I took little interest in current affairs, and zero interest in the antics of the UK government. I felt perfectly content living in Spain and in ignorance, and felt that any decisions made in Westminster were of little consequence to me.

The referendum result shocked me out of my naivety and changed my life. It woke me from a self-induced, rather pleasant coma and, over time, turned me into a different person.

It turned me into a campaigner.

Before Brexit, I had never campaigned for anything in my life. I once attended an anti-apartheid rally in Trafalgar Square, several decades ago. That was the sum total of my political activism, and it lasted all of five minutes.

RAPID TRANSFORMATION TO ACTIVIST

I never set out to become an anti-Brexit campaigner, but I became increasingly involved. When I look back, I’m still surprised at the speed of my transformation. Within three months of engaging with the Bremain in Spain campaign, I was the chairperson.

Many Bremain members describe how Brexit has changed not only British society, but their own lives and natures as well. They speak of the damage it has done to their sense of security, their health and well-being, and the anxiety it causes about the future.

Many people explain how their post-Brexit relationships with family and friends reflect the divisiveness now experienced by UK society. Britain is no longer divided along party-political lines, but by how we feel about our wider European family.

I’ve heard people say they are quick to anger now; they’re more emotional, lacking in patience. I share those feelings entirely.

In the past, I always avoided confrontation. I kept calm and cool. Where politics was concerned, I never voiced an opinion – after all, I didn’t know what I was talking about! Now it’s difficult to shut me up – in fact, I’m not sure I have another topic of conversation!

Along the way, my language has become more choice. I understand, from talking to other Brexit-campaigners, that this is a common side-effect.

Walls are turning blue all over Spain and the UK, from the constant shouting and swearing at TV screens whenever May or Farage make an unwanted appearance.

NEW SKILLS  AND A NEW PURPOSE

Brexit has made me a different person in many negative ways, but it has changed me for the better too. It has taught me new skills and given me the confidence to do many things I never thought I could do before. For example, I would never have imagined delivering a speech to a room of 100 people, let alone addressing tens of thousands.

Read the full story in Dispatches Europe

 

Sue Wilson Writes: Why Brits in Spain should care about the EU elections

Sue Wilson Writes: Why Brits in Spain should care about the EU elections

Sue WilsonBefore last week’s local elections in England and Northern Ireland, the Conservatives were preparing themselves for a big defeat. Most forecasts suggested a loss of around 800 seats, with the gloomiest predictions suggesting 1,000.

When the final scores were known, the humiliating loss of Conservative seats totalled 1,334, with the control of 45 councils lost. Prime Minister, Theresa May, responded by saying that the government realised the local elections were “going to be particularly challenging” and that Brexit was “an added dimension”.

Traditionally, mid-term local elections are an occasion when the public expresses some dissatisfaction with the incumbent government. At such times, you would expect the opposition party to do well at the government’s expense. However, despite the government’s terrible performance, the Labour party did not capitalise – rather than gain seats as expected, it lost control of five councils and 82 council seats.

The big winners were the Liberal Democrats, gaining 703 seats, and the Green Party, gaining 194. Despite the public voting in significant numbers to reject the main parties in favour of anti-Brexit parties, both Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn seem determined to plough on with Brexit regardless.

Having witnessed the most humiliating government defeat in a quarter of a century, Theresa May clearly remains deaf to the voices of the British public and the many calls for her resignation. If the lost Tory votes had been gained by pro-Brexit candidates, and not anti-Brexit parties, May would be justified in claiming that the public wants the government “to get on and sort Brexit out”. However, this was far from the reality.

Jeremy Corbyn’s interpretation of events was also surprising, given the prevailing results. He claimed the results were “very, very clear” and that “a deal has to be done”.

Cross-party talks continue between Labour and the Conservatives to seek agreement on the Brexit deal. Last week, before the election results were known, May imposed a deadline – the middle of this week – on the cross-party negotiations. Despite reports that the talks are “positive and productive”, both sides accuse the other of unwillingness to compromise, so it’s difficult to see how a breakthrough could be made anytime soon.

At least the government has dropped its pretense that the UK’s participation in the European Elections can be avoided. However, May is still hopeful of striking a deal by the end of June, to prevent British MEPs taking their seats in the new European parliament on 2 July. It’s questionable what could be agreed by the end of June that couldn’t be agreed by the end of April or May.

The local election results may reflect the current voting preferences of the British public, but only provide a partial view. The elections only covered councils in certain parts of the UK and excluded some Remain strongholds, such as London and Scotland. Had those areas been involved, the results would probably be even more pro-European. 

Another significant factor was the limited selection of parties available – especially the absence of Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party, which is currently topping the polls in the contest for Europe. The new Change.UK party (formerly the Independent Group) is also fielding many MEP candidates, but did not participate in the local elections.

Brits in Spain and throughout the UK couldn’t participate in the local elections but we can have our say on 23 May in the European elections. That is, those of us fortunate enough to retain our voting rights in the UK. While many have elected to use their vote here in Spain, others – me included – have chosen to vote in the UK.

If you’re eligible to vote, please ensure that you’re registered to do so. The deadline for registering online is close of business on Tuesday May 7th. CLICK HERE TO REGISTER

Whether you voted to Leave or Remain, and whether you still feel the same way, don’t waste our limited opportunities to have a voice and a say. Brexit is an unmitigated disaster and we’re being poorly served by our government, which is deaf and blind to public sentiment on the biggest issue of our time.

Let’s ensure a good turnout at the European elections in the hope that Theresa May finally starts listening to the prevailing ‘will of the people’. Failing that, May won’t be around much longer. We can only hope that her replacement will have better hearing and eyesight.

Sue Wilson article from the The Local

Sue Wilson Writes: ‘Election result brings welcome reassurance for Brits living in Spain’

Sue Wilson Writes: ‘Election result brings welcome reassurance for Brits living in Spain’

Everywhere we go at present, there’s talk of an election. Whether it’s the Spanish general election, local elections, or the European elections, it’s hardly surprising that some of us are suffering from election fatigue, or we’re confused about the implications of the potential election results.

The result of the Spanish election on Sunday brought some welcome reassurance for Brits living in Spain, as the Spanish public was galvanised into voting both for and against the far-right. Despite being the third election in four years, turnout reached up to 75 percent. Although the Vox party made gains, its success didn’t reach the predicted level and was countered by an increase in the numbers of seats for the left and the government. The biggest loser was the centre-right PP, whose vote share collapsed – a warning, perhaps, to Theresa May’s government.

With the expectation that a coalition government can be formed, I think many Brits will sleep better at night with the prospect of stability and continuity in Spanish government. The increase in seats for PSOE provided additional reassurances that promises already made to the British residents would be honoured.

While British citizens in Spain were concerned about the impact of Spanish politics on our future, many are more concerned with events in the UK. Although we cannot participate in the UK local elections, many of us will be watching closely to see if predictions are correct – i.e. that the Conservatives and, perhaps, Labour will do badly.

The UK local elections next weekend, and the forthcoming European elections, will both serve to indicate how the British public feels – i.e. what is the now the ‘will of the people’? While incumbent governments traditionally do badly in mid-term local elections, the level of protest could be even greater than would normally be expected. The results will be a barometer of the nation’s feelings towards the government and, especially, towards Brexit. If, as expected, anti-Brexit parties such as the Liberal Democrats do well, the effect could be significant, making it increasingly difficult for the government to claim any kind of mandate for trying to further its Brexit course of action.

If the local elections could influence government strategy re Brexit, then the European elections could be more significant. While the Prime Minister still insists that Britain won’t participate, it’s almost impossible to see a scenario where this can be avoided. The only way to halt the process is for May’s rather unpopular Brexit deal to be agreed by parliament. With cross-party talks going nowhere at present, that outcome seems highly unlikely.

Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party hit the ground running with the launch of its EU election campaign ahead of the competition. Most pundits think it will do well, taking European Parliament seats from UKIP and the Conservatives. Labour seats are also at risk, unless its manifesto clearly states strong support for a #PeoplesVote and a Remain and Reform platform.

The turnout in the UK for voting in European elections has always been low. As with everything else related to Europe, the UK has never been active in promoting the benefits or the responsibilities of EU membership. Had we been more involved in the past, perhaps we wouldn’t be where we are today.

I personally take some of that blame, as I haven’t previously participated in European elections. I intend to correct that mistake on May 23rd, when I will vote for a pro-EU, anti-Brexit party. I hope that those of you who value our EU citizenship, and all the rights and benefits associated with it, will join me in voting, if they can, and will encourage friends, family, colleagues and neighbours to do the same.

On May 23rd, the UK has an opportunity to rally against the far-right, to show that the British people are tolerant, inclusive and pro-European. The Spanish have demonstrated that, by turning out in large numbers, the divisive effect of right-wing extremism can be limited. We must take every opportunity to do the same – the future of the UK and Europe depends on it.

See Sue’s article in The Local

 

Sue Wilson Writes: Brits in the EU have been silenced too frequently and for too long

Sue Wilson Writes: Brits in the EU have been silenced too frequently and for too long

Sue WilsonHaving been denied a vote in the Brexit referendum, the thoughts of many Brits in Europe are now turning to a possible second vote. Sue Wilson from Bremain in Spain explains why a new campaign has been launched.

On Friday April 5th, a new campaign was launched to give full voting rights to 10 million disenfranchised British and European citizens.

The “Let Us Vote” campaign launched by film director, Mike Leigh, was supported by 14 politicians from both houses of parliament, including MPs David Lammy, Layla Moran and Clive Lewis. Further support comes from citizens’ rights and anti-Brexit campaign groups including British in Europe, the 3 Million and Another Europe is Possible.

The goal of the campaign is to give all UK residents (EU citizens included), and all British citizens living overseas, the right to vote in elections and referendums. So many British citizens living in the EU, along with UK resident EU citizens, were denied the right to vote in the June 2016 referendum, despite the fact that we have been significantly affected by the result.

Bremain in Spain, and other citizens rights’ groups, have been campaigning for ‘Votes for Life’ for many years, although for considerably less time than 97-year-old, Harry Shindler, MBE, who has been campaigning for over 20 years. Ever since the Conservative party committed to the restoration of voting rights to disenfranchised Brits, we have been hopeful, patient and a little sceptical.

The government’s commitment to resolving this issue was announced in the Queen’s speech of 27 May 2015, shortly after the general election. David Cameron made a manifesto commitment to restore voting rights to citizens living outside the UK for more than 15 years. A further commitment was made in the 2017 Conservative manifesto, with a promise to restore our voting rights before the next (scheduled) election in 2022. We now have a Private Members Bill – The Overseas Electors Bill 2017-2019 – sponsored by Glyn Davies MP.

The Bill has made slow but steady progress through parliament. I personally attended two of the debates in the House of Commons, including the last one on March 22. Unfortunately, at its’ last appearance for the Report Stage, the bill was filibustered by a Tory MP who sought to wreck its progress by talking it out of time. The bill is now ‘adjourned’, and the only subsequent response from the government has been that it “remains committed” to ending the 15-year limit.

The lack of a say in the 2016 referendum, and the snap election of 2017, has been a cause of great concern and annoyance for those affected by the results. British citizens have been greatly impacted by the referendum result and, as with EU citizens in the UK, have lived with fear, anxiety, stress, rage and depression. It’s bad enough to suffer those effects, but to have had no say in the process adds salt to the wound.

Mike Leigh expressed our feelings at the launch of the ‘Let us vote’ campaign.  He said: “The outcome of the next few weeks in politics could determine the course of our lives for decades to come. But many of the people who are most affected by the current situation – migrants living in the UK, and UK citizens living abroad – have never been offered the chance to have a stake in our democracy. Whatever our views on Brexit and party politics, we are united in the belief that it is fundamentally wrong that so many millions of people whose lives will be deeply affected by developments at Westminster are currently denied a vote.”

Having been denied a vote in the last referendum, our thoughts are now turning to the next one – a People’s Vote – which seems increasingly on the cards. Even with sufficient political will and a strong wind, it seems unlikely the bill will pass in time to give us a vote. All the more reason to welcome this new campaign and to give it, and its’ sponsors, our full support.

Brits in the EU have been silenced too frequently and for too long. Whether it’s our inability to take advantage of our democratic voting rights, or to have our voices heard by the British government and the media, we will not stay silent. As stated on our banner at the recent ‘Put it to the People’ march in London, it’s time to ‘Give us a Voice, Give us a Vote, Give us a Final Say’. These are our futures we are talking about – time we had a stake in them.

The full article in The Local