Sue Wilson Writes: Brexit ‘flextension’ allows Brits in Spain to make themselves official

Sue Wilson Writes: Brexit ‘flextension’ allows Brits in Spain to make themselves official

Sue Wilson UK May 2018On Friday April 12th, another supposed Brexit Day came and went, as British MPs packed their bags for the Easter recess. Theresa May told parliament that the Easter break was an opportunity for MPs to recharge their batteries and to consider their “national duty” to resolve the Brexit crisis.

The Prime Minister made a statement to parliament on Thursday, having accepted a flexible extension to the Brexit deadline from the European Council in the early hours of that day. May’s preference was to leave the EU as soon as possible and, ideally, before the European elections. For that to happen, however, May would need to gain parliamentary approval for her ‘deal’, which seems unlikely considering it has failed to gain support three times already. In fact, now there is extra time to explore alternatives, support for the Withdrawal Agreement seems to be declining rather than building.

The new deadline for leaving the EU, unless there’s a dramatic change in the fortunes of May’s deal, is now October 31, 2019. Although six months might seem like a long time, it’s only 28 weeks, and MPs will be on holiday for 16 of those! It’s just as well that a further six-month extension has already been mooted by the European Council, should it prove necessary. As the Brexit deadline extends, so have May’s plans to stay on as Prime Minister, determined as she is to deliver Brexit regardless of the circumstances.

The change in deadline has reassured British citizens in the UK and EU alike. Airlines and travel companies are seeing an upturn in bookings to European holiday destinations, as travellers once again make plans for their summer holidays on the continent. With the fear of visa and international driving licence applications removed for travellers, those considering a staycation in the UK have seemingly reverted to plan A – a holiday in the sun in Europe. Business owners and local authorities in tourist destinations in Spain, France and other EU countries will also be breathing a sigh of relief at this stay of execution.

For Brits in Spain, the extension allows people more time to make themselves official and get all their paperwork in order. Whether they need to apply for the residency they’ve been meaning to organise for ages, or to obtain a Spanish driving licence, the immediate pressure and worry have been temporarily lifted. No doubt, the numerous regional authorities that are struggling to cope with the demand for appointments will also be grateful for the leeway.

Apart from the practical implications of delaying Brexit, the sheer fact it has again been postponed makes it less likely to happen. The campaign for a confirmatory referendum, or a People’s Vote, has gained considerable ground with the British public and is winning more arguments daily in Westminster. It looks increasingly like a People’s Vote is the only logical and democratic way out of the current impasse and, perhaps, the only alternative that stands any chance of gaining a majority in the House of Commons. While May and the government are still resisting putting the question back to the people, it may eventually be the price they must pay to try to pass May’s deal through parliament.

With the Tory party doing badly in the latest polls, the government is understandably concerned about its prospects in the forthcoming UK local elections on May 2, and the EU elections on May 23-26. Many disenfranchised voters – including EU citizens in the UK and British citizens in the EU – will have the opportunity to vote for (or more likely against) the government in one or both events.

The EU elections are considered a barometer of public opinion and are being regarded by pro-EU parties as a ‘soft referendum’. With the Conservative party at risk of losing seats to the left and the right, it is right to be concerned.

So, despite Brexit fatigue and a desire by many people to see an end to Brexit, the ‘flextension’ should be regarded as welcome news. No matter to which side of the Brexit debate you belong, we have an opportunity to take stock, express our opinions, and take practical steps to secure our own futures.

In the meantime, join MPs in taking a few welcome days off and have a Happy Easter. Remember, it’s only 28 weeks until non-Brexit Day Mark III!

Full Article from 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


Brexit: Why have British citizens in the EU been left to fight for their own rights?

Brexit: Why have British citizens in the EU been left to fight for their own rights?

Groups of volunteers are spending all their time and hard-earned cash on fighting for the rights of Britons across the EU who are directly affected by Brexit. The British government needs to finally make the 1.2 million citizens in the EU a real priority and ease the burden on campaigners, writes Ben McPartland.

Last week a team of volunteers in different parts of France worked late into the night trying to interpret the newly published French law that spells out what will happen in the case of a no-deal Brexit.

The volunteers, who form the “citizens rights” team at Remain in France Together (RIFT), put aside their normal lives and got on with the job of providing information to the thousands of anxious Brits who were waiting desperately for news of what their futures might hold if Britain crashes out of the EU in a few weeks’ time.

These are the same team of volunteers who have spent their own money travelling to Paris to lobby the French government to alert them to the issues Britons are facing across the country.

Of course, it’s not just in France where unpaid volunteers have taken it upon themselves to explain the impact of Brexit on health cover, driving licenses and residency rights and basically to stick up for the citizens’ rights of anxious Britons, whose lives and health have been damaged by nearly three years of limbo.

Read full story in The Local

Battling Brexit: How a group of Brits in Europe took on the fight for citizens’ rights

Battling Brexit: How a group of Brits in Europe took on the fight for citizens’ rights

As most Britons living in Europe were still reeling from the shock of the 2016 Brexit referendum, a small number of individuals and groups began to come together realising they faced a huge fight to protect rights that had always been taken for granted. This is their story.

To find out how this movement began from another campaign to secure the vote for millions of disenfranchised Brits abroad, read Part One of this story. Part Three: January 11th.

Ask most British nationals living abroad where they were that night Britain voted to leave the EU and they can remember.

Some watched in tears in their living rooms, others were left to console themselves in the waiting room of an airport. 

Most Brits living in the EU watched the coverage in horror as they realised the shock Brexit referendum result would change their lives forever. And what made it worse for many of them was that they had not even been allowed to vote.

“On the night of the referendum a group of friends came to my house and watched the results come in,” Fiona Godfrey, co-founder and co-chair of citizens’ rights umbrella group British in Europe, tells The Local.

Read full story in The Local

Why Britons in Spain need to fight for another Brexit referendum

Why Britons in Spain need to fight for another Brexit referendum

There is an unfortunate but prevalent stereotype that British migrants in Spain are all pensioners who laze around, sunning it on the coast.

They lie on their loungers, maybe occasionally skipping off for a round of golf or a game of bridge with their retired friends, all the while refusing to learn the language or mingle with locals. If they want to make a concession to Spanish culture, they might swap gin and tonics for a jug of sangria every now and then.

Not only is that image unfortunate, it is untrue. Around three-quarters of British migrants in Spain are members of younger, working families who are taking advantage of the opportunities the European Union offers them.

The pattern is similar across the EU27 – 80% of Brits in these countries are young people who are greatly appreciative of how they have been welcomed with open arms.



Read full story in El Pais