Dozens of British expats living in Spain staged a Brexit protest in the streets of Malaga, declaring ‘the UK has forgotten us’.
The Brits waved European Union, Spanish and British flags and held banners reading “They’re trying to make us leave the EU” and “Take back control: My grandkids’ future”.
They are worried they will lose free access to Spanish healthcare, currently assured by the EU, as Britain crashes out of the bloc, possibly without a deal.
Protesters hit out at the Conservative Government, with Tamara Essex, a 60-year-old from Dorset, saying: “Spain is doing everything it can to protect us. The UK government has forgotten us.”
She said Spain had done more for Britons living in the country than the UK Government.
During Sunday’s demonstration the Brits marched through the streets of Malaga, a port city on southern Spain’s Costa del Sol, to register their concerns about their uncertain status ahead of the October 31 deadline.
Spain is home to around 300,000 Britons and is the most popular European retirement destination for UK residents, with around a third of them aged over 65.
Among foreign nationals, they are by far the biggest users of Spain’s state-funded universal healthcare system.
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.
British nationals living in mainland Europe say they are alarmed by claims that their rights have been protected by the Brexit deal sealed by Theresa May and Jean-Claude Juncker.
One Briton, Ingrid Taylor, who is settled in Germany, described claims that their rights were now guaranteed as “a barefaced lie”.
Brexit impacts on the future lives of an estimated 1.2 million Britons settled in mainland Europe, most of them working. They have accused May and Juncker of sacrificing them in the rush to sign off phase one of Brexit talks.
Taylor said that she believes the European commission has started to use British people in the rest of the EU as “bargaining chips” in reaction to the “intransigent stance” Theresa May took on EU citizens living in the UK.
“After what happened on Friday, the anger has risen,” she said. “We feel betrayed, we feel anger, we feel we have been sacrificed on the altar of trade.”
One of the biggest fears of such Britons is that they will remain “landlocked” in the country in which they now live, unable to move across borders to work for meetings, or for business contracts.
There was bitter disappointment from the organisation British in Europe to a joint report by the UK government and the EU which outlines the progress made during the first phase of Brexit negotiations. The 17-page document, released last Friday, talks of “agreements in principle” and states the caveat “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed”, leaving millions of EU and UK citizens uncertain about their futures, some 18 months after the referendum result.
Chair of British in Europe, Jane Golding, said: “This deal is even worse than we expected. After 18 months of wrangling, the UK and EU have sold 4.5 million people down the river in a grubby bargain that will have a severe impact on ordinary people’s ability to live their lives as we do now.
The key areas focused on during the first phase of talks were citizens’ rights, the Irish border and a financial settlement. The publication of the report, which announced that “sufficient progress” had been made, now allows them to move on to phase two.
Theresa May’s proposal to protect the rights of EU citizens after Brexit is so poor, it will badly damage the rights of Britons living in Europe, campaign groups have told the European commission.
In an official response to the EU Brexit negotiating team, British in Europe and the3million have said that if May’s proposal is adopted it would represent a “severe reduction of the current rights” enjoyed by Britons in Europe.
Last week they expressed fears that Britons would be the “sacrifical lambs” in the Conservatives’ mission to reduce immigration.
The groups say May’s offer looks to curtail citizens’ rights to pensions and to move around the EU to work. They say that, if adopted, the UK proposal could also prevent them from returning to Britain for work or retirement with their EU spouses or to have an elderly parent move in with them in Europe.
British in Europe, which represents 11 grassroots campaign groups in France, Germany, Spain and elsewhere in the block, met Michel Barnier’s article 50 task force last Thursday to express its disappointment and anger over May’s proposal.
It says last year’s referendum said nothing about removing the rights of EU citizens currently in the country or Britons settled in Europe, yet May’s proposal would do just that.
“The choice made in the referendum was about our arrangements going forward, not about unravelling previous commitments,” says the 15-page joint response to the UK’s proposal.
The EU scheme, delivered to Downing Street on 12 June, would extend European laws for all EU citizens post-Brexit, allowing them to continue to live, work and move around the bloc without hindrance for life.
“It is therefore surprising that, instead of taking the framework that exists under EU law as regards the rights of EU citizens in the UK and proposing to incorporate it into UK law as part of the great repeal bill, the UK proposal in fact sets out to unravel previous commitments and replace them with a UK law-based immigration status,” the response paper says.
“It is very difficult to understand how the UK envisages the application of the principle of reciprocity in this case,” says the paper. “Given the mismatch between an EU law proposal to guarantee almost all the rights of both groups and a UK proposal primarily addressing the immigration status post-Brexit of EU citizens in the UK, simply referring to reciprocity does not remedy this omission.”
The main plank of May’s offer is to allow EU citizens who have been in the country for five years to exchange the rights they have under EU law for new rights under UK immigration law.