Sue Wilson Writes: Do Britain’s political parties really care about Brits living in Spain?

Sue Wilson Writes: Do Britain’s political parties really care about Brits living in Spain?

Last week saw the publication of manifestos from the main political parties, ahead of the UK general election.

From the hundreds of pages already available, I’ve been reading the manifestos to see if Brits abroad merit a mention.

I won’t pretend to have read them in detail, but I’ve focused on pages relevant to Brits living in Europe.

The LibDems manifesto proves that it’s not just a one-policy party, solely intent on stopping Brexit.

Its manifesto includes a wide range of social, economic and environmental proposals.

One positive promise for Brits abroad is the restoration of full voting rights – a promise to return our ‘Votes for Life’.

It was something of a surprise to find the Conservatives offering to restore our voting rights too, though we have been here before with the defunct ‘Overseas Electors’ bill – a private members bill that never made it through parliament.

Labour’s manifesto is extensive and is considered the most radical.

It includes proposals for re-nationalisation of certain industries such as rail and mail, and massive spending commitments.

Labour pledges to maintain the triple lock on pensions – a commitment also made by the LibDems.

However, Labour goes one step further, specifically mentioning Brits abroad.

The manifesto states: “We will ensure that the pensions of UK citizens living overseas rise in line with pensions in Britain.”

Labour also commits to compensating ‘WASPI’ women – those born in the 1950s who have been deprived on thousands of pounds worth of pension payments.

During the televised leaders’ debate on Friday, the Prime Minister said he sympathised with WASPI women, but a solution would be expensive.

He responded to an audience question with: “I cannot promise that I can magic up that money for you.”

Unlike all the money the government has magicked-up to pay for Brexit.

The Conservative party manifesto was only published yesterday, but the headlines are a commitment to railroad the Brexit Bill through before Christmas, hold down taxes and “put more money back in people’s pockets”.

I suspect that the only people who will end up with more money will be those that need it the least, and certainly not those affected by the fluctuating exchange rate.

The Conservative manifesto also includes a number of crowd-pleasing initiatives, such as repairing potholes and axing hospital parking fees.

Rather begs the question as to why these wonderful new ideas, if considered so important, never came up in the last nine years of Conservative rule.

I have yet to find any further reference to our situation in Europe, but I’ll keep checking. Perhaps we are hidden somewhere in the small print.

A recent poll identified the NHS as the British public’s number one concern, with Brexit coming a close second.

All other topics fall way behind. It’s debatable whether Brexit is a major concern to British voters abroad.

It’s clearly the top priority for the Conservative party – we are all overfamiliar with the prime minister’s overused slogan, “get Brexit done”.

Brexit is certainly the priority for the Liberal Democrats. Labour, on the other hand, would prefer to focus the election on other important issues, such as an end to austerity, improving education, housing and social care, etc.

No matter what you consider important in British politics today, this is the Brexit election.

Even if Brexit isn’t your personal priority, it will still be a hugely significant factor. The outcome of the election, and Brexit, will determine whether there’s money in the coffers to pay for all the promises being made by the political parties.

The LibDems promise to use a £50bn “remain bonus” to fund their spending plans.

The Conservatives have criticised Labour for planning to spend £80bn on its radical programme, yet they’ve conveniently forgotten their own bill for Brexit runs to a similar figure, according to Bank of England estimates.

Meanwhile, the treasury refuses to confirm the extra cost of the government’s Brexit plans – perhaps believing that the public’s ignorance is bliss.

For those lucky enough to retain a vote in the general election, our reasons for choosing a party will be personal and varied. We may have supported the party for years.

Our vote may be cast based on our feelings about Brexit.

Or we might decide based on the content of the manifestos and the promises of a different – and, hopefully, better – future for the UK.

For me, as a strong Remainer, I care less (at least for the moment), what policies my candidate is promising to implement.

I won’t be voting for the party that most closely matches my personal preferences.

I won’t be voting for the party that I supported for over four decades, or the party I’m likely to choose in the next general election.

Rather, I’ll be voting for the party with the best chance of removing my Conservative MP from his relatively safe seat.

So, please read the manifestos and understand what your candidate and party represent.

Then hold your nose, forget your tribal instincts and vote to #GetTheToriesOut!

We need to be rid of this government and rid of Brexit, so we can concentrate on putting the UK back together and undoing all the damage.

Thank you all the same, Mr. Johnson, but no, I don’t want Brexit, or another five years of Tory government for Christmas, if it’s all the same to you.

Brits welcome Spain’s No-Deal Brexit contingency law

Brits welcome Spain’s No-Deal Brexit contingency law

It should particularly reassure then tens of thousands of British pensioners who retired to Spain and who rely on access to local hospitals and doctors.

Campaigners who have been fighting to protect the rights of European citizens post-Brexit described the new law as “positive”.

“EuroCitizens welcomes the publication of the Royal Decree today by the Spanish Government, which will clarify the situation of the 314,000 Britons in a no-deal scenario,” the organization’s chair, Michael Harris told The Local.

“We will analyse the text in depth to see the implications for different groups of UK residents. Next week, we are having a meeting with civil servants from various Spanish ministries and we will follow up on any queries that might arise.”

Meanwhile, Sue Wilson, chair of Bremain in Spain, said a lot of their members would be sleeping better as a result of the Royal Decree.

“This news will provide great relief for those that have been living in limbo for so long. A no-deal Brexit is the worst case scenario, and the outcome that Brits in Spain fear the most,” she said.

“To know that the Spanish government has our backs and has plans in place to protect us in every eventuality, will allow many to sleep better tonight.

“Whilst I still believe that a no-deal Brexit can’t happen, we’re grateful that every contingency has been covered. We only wish our British government were as keen to protect our rights and freedoms as the Spanish government obviously are,” she said.

Read the full article in The Local


Brexit & You

Brexit & You

With Britain and the EU seemingly no closer to agreement over the shape of Brexit, the talk in the UK this week has focused on what might happen if the country crashes out of the European Union without a deal.

For some Brexiteers this is the preferred option that will deliver the immediate freedom from interfering foreign bureaucrats that they have desired for so long. For Brexiteer Chris Grayling, now transport minister, the food shortages that might result could largely be solved by British farmers growing more.

Meanwhile, demands that the British government come clean over their secret papers assessing the impact of Brexit on the British economy are getting louder. Even without official government studies, there’s concern about the impact on a whole range of sectors – with the wine industry and airlines among those voicing their worries this week (see below).

Those of us on the continental side of the channel at least don’t have to worry about incipient hunger, but people are getting anxious nonetheless about what a Brexit crash landing would mean for citizens and the economy. Below we report on why the Dutch are fretting. And in this week’s feature article, Alex Macbeth looks at how Brits in Spain are organising themselves to deal with the repercussions.

We hope you enjoy this week’s edition. Let us know what you think – email us at or find us on Twitter @thelocaleurope.

See full newsletter here…

Between a rock and a hard place: Brits in Spain and Brexit

If citizenship rights are the key issue at stake in the Brexit negotiations, then in no other country do Brits have more to lose than in Spain. But the British exit also poses challenges to a vitally important trading relationship.

At least 300,000 UK citizens officially live in Spain, although some estimates say the number is closer to one million. That’s more than a quarter, possibly as much as half or more, of all Brits living in the European Union.

Many face an uncertain future and at least two citizens’ rights groups, Bremain in Spain and Brexpats, have been lobbying and campaigning for the rights of UK citizens in Spain since the Brexit vote.

“We have nearly 5,000 members from all areas of Spain but we are represented in Alicante, Valencia, Malaga, Cadiz, Almeria, Tenerife, Lanzarote, Mallorca and Granada,” Anne Hernandez, founder of Brexpats, who has lived in Spain for more than 30 years, told The Local.

Brexpats acts as a lobby group for the rights of UK citizens and “is in close regular contact with the Consuls,” says Hernandez.

Bremain in Spain is another initiative by Brits in Spain. The lobby’s Facebook group has nearly 5,000 members. Sue Wilson, the founder, says she spends 50-70 hours a week running the initiative, which is self funded by members.

See full newsletter in The Local

Lack of Dutch courage? The Netherlands is feeling low about Brexit

The Dutch economy is beginning to feel the pinch of Brexit uncertainty, if local media reports are any barometer of concern.

“The Netherlands also has a lot to lose in Brexit,” writes Dutch current affairs portal The report cites employer concerns at major trade hubs and ports such as Rotterdam and Amsterdam Schiphol Airport.

“Over 11 per cent of the port’s total imports and exports – some 54 million tonnes – are shipped between the British Isles and the port of Rotterdam every year,” states a communication from the Port of Rotterdam vis-a-vis Brexit.

Landmark events such as the Aalsmeer Flower Auction, the world’s largest flower market, have expressed concerns about the impact Brexit could have on business too. Some 40 million flowers are traded every day in Aalmseer, according to the region’s tourism site.

More than 100,000 jobs are also at stake in the fishing sector, adds the report, citing joint agreements on fishing that may need to be renegotiated.

The Dutch pharmaceutical industry could also be affected as it relies on imports from the UK, according to the article.

See full article…

Last in, first out? France’s largest British community

For one of the largest British communities in France, there is a lot at stake in the Brexit negotiations.

While Brits in Paris, Marseilles, Lyon and other major cities will no doubt be watching the negotiations carefully, more than a quarter of France’s 150,000 resident Brits live in the newly created region of Nouvelle Aquitaine, in southwest France, according to, France’s national statistics office.

Many Brits only moved to the region in the early 2000s. In 1968, there were less than 1,000 UK citizens living in the area, the capital of which is Bordeaux.

Now there are more than 39,000 officially and Brits constitute the second largest foreign population in the region, after the Portuguese, and the largest British community in any French region. The average age of Brits in Nouvelle Aquitaine is 52 and more than 47 percent are retirees.

British visitors also sustain the local tourism industry. Brits booked 545,000 hotel rooms in 2016, 73 percent of all overnight stays in the region. British companies are well embedded in local commerce too; one fifth of all foreign companies in the region are from the UK.

Read full newsletter…

Brexit Events Europe

Get the run down of Brexit events happening all over Europe in the coming months.   Find one close to you.

Bremain BrexElection Briefing 4

Bremain BrexElection Briefing 4

Nicola Sturgeon: I have a ‘girl job’ – it’s called running the country Nicola Sturgeon has hit out at Theresa May for gender stereotyping after the Prime Minister suggested there were “boy jobs and girl jobs” around the house. The Scottish First Minister said that in her house, her husband did the cooking and cleaning while she did the “girl job of running the country”.  When she appeared on the BBC’s The One Show last week alongside her husband Philip, Mrs May caused controversy by suggesting there were “boy jobs and girl jobs” in their household.

(Chris Green i News 14 May)

If you’re under 18, Theresa May doesn’t want you to be allowed a vote. Theresa May has resisted calls to lower the voting age to 16, insisting young people could get involved in politics without casting a ballot.  If you are 16 or 17 you can get married, join the armed forces and if you are working you will have to pay tax. And yet you have no say when it comes to picking the next Government. And the Prime Minister thinks this is fair. (Daisy McCorgray New European 15 May)

Have your say in the online vote





  Labour candidate Rupa Huq: We don’t want a load of Theresa May clones in Parliament “Brex-terminate, Brex-terminate,” mocks Rupa Huq in a robotic voice. It’s also an imitation of what Parliament could sound like, in her view, if too many MPs in favour of a hard Brexit are elected on 8 June. “We don’t want a load of Theresa May clones,” says the pro-EU Labour politician, who is fighting for re-selection in Ealing Central and Acton. ( Serina Sandhu i News 16 May)



Liberal Democrats offer fresh Brexit vote at the heart of manifesto pledges The Liberal Democrats put a pledge to offer the British people a second referendum on Brexit at the heart of their manifesto. The party says they would offer a fresh vote – including the option to reject Brexit – after the terms of the deal are made clear  .It has also laid out plans for major boosts to NHS and schools funding and said they would work to build 300,000 new homes a year.  (ITV Report, 17 May)

Not Maggie May, but muddled May The new manifesto reveals a lack of coherent philosophy from Theresa May, and no clear plan for Brexit The Conservative election campaign so far has been duller than an afternoon looking at Jeremy Corbyn’s collection of pictures of manhole covers.  Blessed by an extremist opposition and a big opinion poll lead, the government is coasting, muttering platitudes like “strong and stable” and emphasising its newish prime minister, Theresa May, rather than its party name. (by Buttonwood The Economist 18 May)

Theresa May says the Conservatives stand for gender equality. Tell that to the Tory councillor who says pregnant women shouldn’t become MPs.  I wonder if anyone asked David Cameron, Matthew Hancock or Jeremy Hunt if they would be too busy changing nappies to undertake their dual roles as MPs and cabinet ministers when their babies were born? “How can a woman who is just about to give birth take on a role as MP?” This is the question a Tory councillor asked of Catherine Atkinson, the Labour candidate for Erewash. Not fifty years ago. This happened last week. (Jo Swinson Voices The Independent 19 May)




Brexit takes centre stage in TV debate as Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn absent UKIP’s leader Paul Nuttall found himself outnumbered by 4-1 on Brexit and other issues in a party leaders’ TV debate that was snubbed by Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn.  Mr Nuttall was also isolated on immigration and grammar schools as he battled against the Lib Dems’ Tim Farron, Caroline Lucas of the Greens, the SNP’s Nicola Sturgeon and Leanne Wood of Plaid Cymru. (Jon Craig, Sky News, 19 May)


Comedian Eddie Izzard hoping to become Labour politician The 55-year-old comedian revealed his ambition to enter the political arena in an interview with The Times Magazine. He outlined a vision of “the whole world of seven billion people all having a fair chance”.  And Izzard issued his support for Labour leader Mr Corbyn, saying he “believes in what he [Corbyn] says”. (ITV News 20 May)


Thanks for reading. See you for the next bremain briefing next week!


Expats like me living in the EU are being denied the right to vote in the general election

Expats like me living in the EU are being denied the right to vote in the general election

On 23 June last year, three million British citizens across Europe could not vote in the EU referendum because of a ban on voting for Brits who have lived overseas for more than 15 years. They were denied the opportunity to vote on their own futures, when they are amongst the most likely to be badly affected by the outcome. To say that many people were upset and angry is a gross understatement. I was disenchanted with the failings of this supposed “democratic exercise” and as a result became the Chair of Bremain in Spain, to campaign for our rights as British citizens in the EU.

Little did I know almost one year on we would be in the same position. We were relieved last October when the Government said it would keep its pledge to allow ‘Votes for Life’ in time for the next election. We were not prepared to take this ‘promise’ at face value and continued to lobby on the subject, including communicating directly with Chris Skidmore, MP. We said that, even if our voting rights were fully restored in time for the next election in 2020, what would happen if a second referendum occurred on any Brexit deal in the meantime, or heaven forbid there was a snap election? The only answer we received was that we would have the vote before the 2020 election. You can imagine our shock when Theresa May announced the early election.

If Britons living in the EU were angry about not voting in the referendum last year, can you imagine how they feel about being denied their democratic right once again? Some see it as a deliberate ploy by the Government to ensure that we cannot vote, in case we act against its own vested interests. Although this idea is a little misguided since many Brits living overseas did vote to leave. (Turkeys voting for Christmas springs to mind). In any case, that still leaves us disenfranchised yet again, at a time when more people are more politically aware and involved than ever before and absolutely want to have their say.

What is particularly galling is the urgency of this election. With more time in hand, we could have pushed for a short bill to resolve the ‘Votes for Life’ matter but I fear it’s impossible now.

With the election just six weeks away, also concerned about the short amount of time available to vote from overseas for those still able to. Voting from outside the UK involves a lead time: obtaining voting papers alone can take weeks. I strongly urge Britons based overseas to vote by proxy rather than by post.

Whatever happens on 8 June, we will fight to protect the rights and freedoms we enjoy as EU citizens – not some rights and freedoms, all of them. It seems that the EU agrees that we should keep all our existing rights and freedoms for life. I am waiting for the day when we hear the same reassurances from the UK government. I am not holding my breath.

 Sue Wilson is Chair of Bremain in Spain

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