‘Brits in Spain are giving up hope of spending Christmas with their UK family and friends’

‘Brits in Spain are giving up hope of spending Christmas with their UK family and friends’

Sue Wilson of Bremain in Spain considers the obstacles preventing many Brits from heading back to the UK for Christmas and asks whether it’s a sacrifice we should all be prepared to make. As the UK approaches the end of its second lockdown, the government is considering measures to implement during December and – especially – over the Christmas period.

Many Brits residing in Spain have abandoned the idea of spending Christmas with their UK family and friends.

For those still considering travel, barriers have appeared with increasing regularity.

First, there was quarantine, then lockdown, then the prospect of requiring a negative PCR test before returning to Spain – all issues that have caused widespread flight cancellations.

Some areas of Britain will resume being in Tier 2 or 3, where visitors from other households are not allowed. If those hurdles aren’t enough, there’s the off-putting idea of potentially risking the health of our loved ones.

Regardless of our location, Covid measures will change the face of Christmas 2020.

How ‘Navidad’ will look in Spain remains unclear. We know that, in the UK, safety measures for December will be relaxed over the holiday season, with a five day “break” to allow three families or households to gather.

This strategy is already causing considerable concern across the UK, although the ‘Daily Express’ is enthusiastically billing it as Christmas being “saved”.

Non-Christians have complained that such measures were disallowed for their own religious festivals, such as Eid and Diwali. Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims were forced to dampen their usual social arrangements to prevent viral spread.

It’s hard to fault the logic that Christians should make a similar sacrifice for the national interest.  

Of course, the reasons for loosening the holiday period restrictions aren’t religious, unless it’s the worship of retail profit. Being popular has always been high on Boris Johnson’s priority list.

He doesn’t want to be labelled the Grinch that stole Christmas. If opinion polls are anything to go by, Johnson may have misjudged the mood of Britain. Clearly, many families are agreeing – for everyone’s health and safety – to keep apart during the festive season.

You can read the full article in The Local

Any Brexit deal will be sold as a victory for Britons but there won’t be any winners

Any Brexit deal will be sold as a victory for Britons but there won’t be any winners

Sue Wilson of Bremain in Spain weighs up the latest on Brexit negotiations. If you’re following the UK/EU Brexit negotiations, you’re probably suffering from a severe case of déjà vu. Over the last days, weeks and months, we’ve heard repeated claims that lose some of their potency with each utterance. “Time is running out”, a deal is “difficult” but “doable”, and both sides are working hard to secure the deal they really want.

Throughout the endless months of talks – and talks about talks – the difference in tone between the EU and UK has been obvious. The approaching deadline has not dampened the UK’s bullish stance or the EU’s air of calm professionalism.

This week’s latest (last?) round of talks in Brussels began with a series of tweets by the UK’s lead negotiator, Lord David Frost. On Sunday evening, he mentioned that some progress had been made, but ended on a pessimistic note.

His Twitter thread concluded:

The EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, clearly had a different outlook on Monday morning, tweeting that the EU “remains determined, patient, respectful. We want our future cooperation to be open but fair in all areas”. Considering the games that the UK government has played – such as threatening to break the existing legal agreement – the EU’s patience must have been tested many times over.

Despite some progress, including the preparation of hundreds of pages of legal text, the same issues are causing the biggest problems in the negotiations. A few weeks ago, there seemed some willingness to compromise over one of the most contentious issues – fisheries.

However, latest reports suggest that both sides are still “miles apart”, despite the EU offering access to its energy market in return for access to fishing waters. That arrangement is worth more to the UK than fishing, which represents just 0.1percent of GDP. Clearly, the UK’s position here is political, not economic. By contrast, the services sector, which contributes 80percent to UK GDP, has largely been ignored throughout the Brexit debate.

You can read the full article over at The Local. 

Why Biden’s victory could have a big impact on Brexit negotiations

Why Biden’s victory could have a big impact on Brexit negotiations

Sue Wilson of Bremain in Spain believes the change at the helm of US politics will be prove a decisive factor in the UK’s willingness to compromise over a Brexit deal. You have probably noticed that America is soon to have a new president. The current White House incumbent has his ears and eyes firmly closed and refuses to accept that his days are numbered. According to some sources in the UK media, our own head of state, Boris Johnson, may be in a similarly insecure position.

Since Joe Biden officially became the President Elect on Saturday, after what seemed like days of election uncertainty, he has hit the ground running. Despite not yet receiving any recognition of his win or offer of transitional support from Donald Trump, he has already started to implement important plans.

An urgent task for Biden is the fight against coronavirus. He has created a special task force, comprising health officials, physicians and virology experts. He has also actively encouraging the wearing of face masks by the American public – unlike Trump, who was pictured without one even when he was Covid positive.

The contrast between Biden and Trump could not be starker. In January, the American people will finally have an adult in charge: one who has a heart, a brain and a wealth of experience. The change will leave many UK residents feeling jealous that we are being led by “Britain’s Trump”. Prime Minister Johnson and Biden have never met, though they have now spoken on the phone. On Tuesday, Biden spoke with a number of European leaders, including Ireland’s Michael Martin. Biden reassured the Irish Taoiseach that Brexit must not damage the Good Friday Agreement, in a call that Martin described as “warm and engaging”.

On his call with Johnson, Biden stressed the importance of securing a Brexit deal that protects peace in Northern Ireland. Presumably, Biden’s earlier reference to Johnson as a “physical and emotional clone” of Donald Trump, was not mentioned.

Biden has made no secret of his disdain for Brexit and is fiercely loyal to, and proud of, his Irish roots.

Johnson’s Internal Market Bill (IMB) is a cause of consternation in America, as it threatens to break the international treaty of the Withdrawal Agreement (WA).
The deal that Johnson signed with the EU a year ago, settling the early stages of Brexit – including our rights as citizens – is under significant threat, along with the Good Friday Agreement (GFA). Both Biden and the US government have made it clear that, as guarantors to the GFA, they will refuse any trade deal with the UK if Johnson reneges on his international commitments.

You can read the article in full over at The Local.

Are Spanish authorities doing enough to avoid another lockdown?

Are Spanish authorities doing enough to avoid another lockdown?

Sue Wilson considers the measures Spain is taking to combat the spread of coronavirus and whether they will be enough to prevent another lockdown.
As we approach November 9th, it’s time for Spanish authorities to define their next Covid measures. At present, national and regional governments are examining whether the latest strategies to curb the pandemic are working against a worrying spiral in cases in many parts of Spain.

When Congress voted for the new state of alarm – scheduled to last until May 9th 2021 – it devolved powers to local authorities to impose further safety measures. These powers, however, stop short of allowing autonomous regions to impose home confinement. Whether we should have a further lockdown, with people largely made to stay at home, is now being widely considered.

Many countries are revisiting the use of lockdowns against the virus, including the UK. Although some of the current lockdowns aren’t as restrictive as those experienced during spring, many countries view domestic confinement as a vital tool in the Covid armoury.

Lockdown in Spain

In Spain, the option of a further confinement – even a less restrictive one – is a topic that causes widespread disagreement.

Some regions, currently Asturias and Melilla, are requesting authority from central government to impose lockdown measures – a move that central government is resisting. The regions have the authority to impose other safety measures.

From the recent curfew to restrictions on crossing regional and even municipal borders, a degree of divergence and flexibility exists across Spain. Now some regions are introducing additional measures. In Castilla y León and Catalonia, fresh restrictions include the closure of bars and restaurants; in Asturias, it is the closure of non-essential businesses.

Experts are divided over the timing of further preventive measures. Some, such as Antoni Triller, Professor of Preventive Medicine at Barcelona University, suggest holding off until the impact of current measures is reflected in transmission rates. His view is supported by Andrea Burón, spokesman for the Spanish Public Health Association (Sespas), who believes another week is required to review the impact of current measures.

You can read the article in full over at The Local.

Do Spain’s new restrictions leave you grateful, upset or just plain confused?

Do Spain’s new restrictions leave you grateful, upset or just plain confused?

The news that the Spanish government has declared a new state of emergency was greeted with a mixture of emotions by Brits in Spain, writes Sue Wilson of Bremain in Spain.
Some people were grateful for the efforts by national or regional government to stem the viral tide. Others were upset at more restrictions being imposed on their already disrupted lifestyles. Perhaps the most common reaction was confusion.

With the announcement coming last weekend, it’s still early days. As time passes, the rules will surely become clearer, especially as regional authorities clarify what is happening in their own area. While there will certainly be some nationwide rules, the regional governments have a degree of flexibility to tinker around the margins.

It’s not possible to gain immediate answers but it’s useful to know where to look.  A good place to start, if you understand Spanish, is the government’s own website. This presents the official bulletins – in this case, Boletín Official de Estado 282, which confirms the government announcement.

 

Websites are a great source of information, such as the English language version of the government website, La Moncloa. The Bremain in Spain website provides updates on Covid rules, as well as a dedicated page for updates from the Embassy. The British Embassy itself is also a reliable and well-informed source. Or you may prefer to source information from social media where you have the opportunity for interaction.

The Embassy Facebook page, Brits in Spain, contains lots of information relating to life in Spain and has regular Q&A sessions. You can sign up for email alerts on the dedicated Embassy website for British residents.

Another excellent social media source is the N332 Road Safety Association Facebook page, which provides national information and shares details of regional government measures.

As regional authorities determine their own Covid measures, they will issue specific guidance. The restrictions could be a moveable feast, thanks to a continuous process of measuring and reviewing their effectiveness in controlling the virus.  

You can read the article in full over at The Local

‘The deadline for Brits in Spain to apply for residency should be extended’

‘The deadline for Brits in Spain to apply for residency should be extended’

Sue Wilson of Bremain in Spain takes a look at the latest calls to safeguard the rights of British citizens living in the EU in the wake of Brexit and how there is still more to be done.
With Brexit negotiations randomly on again, off again, it’s rare that the topic of citizens’ rights comes up these days. We regularly hear about fishing, or the “level playing field”, but our rights as UK citizens have recently been largely ignored.

This week, the Future Relationship with the European Union committee (FREU) proved that it still has our best interests at heart with the publication of a report. The cross-party House of Commons committee, headed by Hilary Benn MP, has always looked out for the rights of British citizens in the EU and EU citizens in the UK.

Formerly known as the Exiting the EU committee, until Brexit was “done”, it has listened to evidence from many witnesses representing various demographics and sectors. Campaign groups for UK citizens in the EU, and EU citizens in the UK, have regularly presented evidence concerning the issues we face after Brexit, myself included.

TIE Example

At this late stage, it’s reassuring that the committee is still focusing on our rights and is unanimous in its conclusion that these “must be a priority”. In its report issued on Tuesday, FREU urged “the UK and EU to ensure that the citizens’ rights protections in the Withdrawal Agreement are fully implemented for UK nationals living across the EU and EU citizens in the UK”.

You can read the article in full, along with the committee’s points of note for UK citizens in the EU, over at The Local