The pain of many Brexit expats
I have an estimated 80,000 expats in my Costa del Sol West parish (or Chaplaincy as the Church calls it in Europe). It runs from the poorer end of the parish in Algeciras, past the Spain-Gibraltar border, into the affluent Sotogrande and then into villages and towns up to Marbella and beyond.
Many parishioners are elderly, many of them single - usually having lost
their partner, in Spain, through death. Many of them are poorly, some able
to get out, some able to drive, many able to do neither. Many of them
rely, financially, only on a UK state pension particularly if their partner has
died. Many are in properties that they rent, but many others in properties
that they own but cannot sell for any kind of price that would enable them to
move back to the UK with any comfort. More than average numbers have
relationship issues with their families back in the UK, and for some that is why
they have moved from the UK in the first place. Some have no family
and no real contacts left in the UK. This has been their home for 20 or 30
years. Moving back to the UK is sometimes possible, but without family,
capital or much income, the prospect is bleak.
Of the sample that I know, maybe one tenth are in difficult financial, medical or residential situations. Their view of the reality of their own future is negative. 'Z' is expecting that she will die soon, so Brexit won't affect her. If I am honest, she is hoping that will be the case.
'Y' has moved to a smaller apartment, when her husband died so that she could 'just afford' the rent. 'X' has done the same thing, and 'W' has the house on the market for the price they paid for it, which is way over what the market will stand. So the prospect for, I estimate, 10,000 in my parish is very bleak. They are unsure whether they will have reciprocal health care rights - and that group simply could not pay for private health care. They are not sure if they will be allowed to live where they have been for 20 years. They don't know if their pension will rise with inflation or whether it will drip away to nothing. They wonder about whether they will become second class citizens in Spain.
Almost all those I know made the decision to move to Spain, often with their
partner, when Brexit was not on the horizon when the reciprocal arrangements
were guaranteed as part of the UK being in the EU. This is a bolt out of the
blue. If they have to move from Spain there will need to be a UK safety-net of
social and health services to deal with the issues. None want to move.
The border between Gibraltar and Spain is the second issue. We have individuals working on one side and living on the other. The Spanish have made it difficult, at times, to cross the border, and though it is easier now it can still take and hour one way or the other. When you hear the Spanish Foreign Minister saying that Spanish control of Gibraltar is one of the conditions of free movement and reciprocal health rights, then there is political turmoil. The Gibraltar population do not want to be under Spanish administration but they need to remain in the EU otherwise their connections with the outside world become very difficult. For Northern Ireland, Gibraltar and Scotland the prospect of Brexit is very negative. Gibraltar does not want closed borders or Spanish control. Northern Ireland does not want a hard border with the south.
Indeed, I don't know whether I will still be able to operate as a priest here. Residency, health care, employment rights, and those for my wife are all on the negotiation line. Everything we had as 'rights' become subject to some possible treaty.
Some expats here, voted to leave the EU. I found that very difficult to
understand given the state of the poorest expats with limited futures. I
just assume they could not have had them in mind when they voted.
Brexit won because of a careful manipulation of democracy. The 3.8% majority was a majority that may well rest on some substantial lies that were flogged by the Brexit campaign, not least £350 million for the NHS per week. Making such crucial decisions about the lives of others should require a minimum of truth in the campaigns. 16-18 year-olds were denied the vote by the Conservative party (all the other parties voting to allow them), and the government made the crass decision not to allow 3 million EU residents in the UK (other than Eire, Malta and Republic of Cyprus) to have a vote. Where EU residents in the UK have homes and families, with children in UK education, ownership of businesses employing UK citizens, etc., they and we are now cards to be played in negotiations. These people were denied a vote over their own future - which is a denial of basic human rights.
And UK citizens who have been in the EU for more than 15 years were also
denied a vote. It was part of the Conservative manifesto they could vote, but
that, oddly, was not implemented before June 23rd 2016. There is bitter anger
amongst many of them, here.
There is so much excellent polling evidence that the citizens, the electorate and the residents of the UK do not want Brexit, but the government is completely determined. Why, exactly, is that?