News article from DR.DK News – Denmark. You can see the article and video here.
Around 800,000 British citizens live in Spain – and many of them are struggling to stay after the British said no to EU.
43-year-old Gemma Middleton started pulling the straps of her bra down over the bare shoulders.
Along with four other women, and some of their children, she was photographed only wrapped in a flag for a pro-EU calendar for 2017.
“We represent EU immigrants in Europe. We will be the month of August” explains Gemma Middleton on the beach in Valencia in Spain.
She has lived in Spain for seven years and is one of the country’s approximately 800,000 British citizens. Together, the British represent two percent of Spain’s population.
Gemma Middleton is an activist in the movement Bremain in Spain, trying to delay and ultimately prevent Brexit, being Britain’s withdrawal from the EU.
“We have no assurance that we can stay here. We have houses, we have jobs, we have children here. Our whole life is here” she explains.
A pawn in a political game
If Britain quits the EU, the Britons residing in other EU countries lose a large number of rights.
They will, for example, not have the same access to the labour market as the Spaniards and the British retirees will lose the free access to health care.
“I have become a pawn that Theresa May’s government can use in its negotiations with the EU. I am totally in limbo. There is absolutely no one who cares for British migrants in Europe” says Gemma Middleton.
It came as a shock
Profits from calendar sales will be used to raise awareness about the consequences of Brexit.
For many it came as a shock when Britons voted to leave the European Union on 23th June this year. The situation is unprecedented in EU history.
Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, will be activated by the UK Government before the end of March next year. Then there will be two years to negotiate the final ‘divorce’.
But the plan may be delayed, after the British High Court has ruled that the government must have parliamentary approval.
The case will now be for the Supreme Court. And not just the British, but many around the whole of Europe is holding its breath.
“ I think if we can delay Article 50 being activated, in just half a year the consequences will be of Brexit visible and then politicians may admit that they were wrong” says Gemma Middleton.
She simply refuses to believe that a majority of British people really want to leave the EU.
The sun attracts Britons
Towering palm trees along the seafront in Valencia and European flags colour a potpourri of yellow, red and blue on the beach and dazzles eyes.
Even though it is almost November, the sun is high in the sky, and it’s 29 degrees.
It’s the heat and the 3,000 hours of sunshine a year, which have attracted many Britons to settle in southern Europe.
Gemma Middleton has chosen to settle in the village of Cheste outside Valencia, where she is the only English person in the city.
“I have quickly learned Spanish because I had to. I am part of the community and do not feel different because I am British. I am one of them” says Gemma about life in Cheste.
Little Britain on the coast
Most of Britons live, however, on Spain’s coast further south.
Many of them are retirees who have taken their UK state pension to Spain and are free to use the Spanish healthcare system.
On the Costa del Sol, Mijas is the municipality with the most Britons. Many of them live in the town of Calahonda, which also goes by the name Little Britain.
Shops are English, the food is English and the native language is English.
“When I moved down here, I decided to live a British life” says 73-year-old Adrienne Bell Chambers, one of the Costa del Sol’s many British pensioners.
Go home or die
Adrienne Bell Chambers lives on a British pension of 5,000 kroner a month.
She has diabetes and is dependent on the Spanish health care, which she gets free as an EU citizen.
As an EU citizen, she only pays 10 percent of the cost of her medication and has been entitled to free medical care. She cannot afford to pay herself.
“ I’m concerned. I need insulin. It costs 70 euros (520 kroner) per box, and I will not be able to pay that” she explains.
Like the rest of the EU idea she is part of the agreement that the EU and Britain have negotiated.
But it is certain that she cannot afford to stay if she loses her Spanish health care.
“So I will have to go home or die” says Adrienne Bell Chambers.
“It is not possible for me to seek Spanish nationality”. For Adrienne does not speak Spanish.
“I already have trouble remembering all the words in English. So even if I wanted to speak Spanish, I couldn’t” she says.
The future of the three million EU citizens who live and work in the UK is as uncertain as it is for Britons living in Spain and other EU countries.
And in Britain, foreigners face many of the same requirements for citizenship. Therefore, Gemma Middleton in Valencia has no sympathy for her fellow men on the coast that are poorly integrated.
“I think it is hypocritical to travel to another country without embracing the culture and learn the language or be integrated with the locals. I actually think that they are to blame for Britons having a really bad reputation” says Gemma Middleton.
Bread with the family after Brexit
With difficulty, Gemma secures her bra underneath the English flag. Photo Session is over.
She twists out of the flag and come in her black top and black leggings again. Whatever agreement the EU and the UK end up getting in place, she has no plans to go home.
In fact, Brexit meant that she has difficult issues with her family in the UK.
“They all voted together for Brexit. My parents, my sister, my brother, my aunts. It has really affected me. For I feel, of course, that they do not care about me and my situation. They did not consider for a moment whether I would be able to continue to live here.
I like to think that it was ignorance that lead them to vote as they did. But at the moment I cannot get over it” she says.
DR News – Denmark
By Camilla Markvardsen (Google Translated)
Photography by Lau Kræn Svensson