Why this Spaniard wants Britain to stay in the EU

Spanish author Alberto Letona tells The Local why Britons would be denying their entire history if they voted for Brexit.

In July 1973 as a young student, I left my country, Spain, and came to the UK. I was hoping to learn English and to get a menial job to help me get by financially. The UK had been a member of the European Union for a mere six months.

It was a sharp contrast with my country, still constrained under an ugly dictatorship. I arrived at Gatwick airport, where everything seemed spotless and efficient. I stayed in a miniscule apartment in London for two months, while working as a kitchen porter in a pub near Oxford Street. During that time I breathed freedom in all senses. I was enchanted, not only with London´s diversity, but also with the spirit of the country. I had already decided that one day I would be back again.

Years later I came back as a Basque language lecturer at St Andrews University, where I taught for two years. These were changing times. Margaret Thatcher was now in office and lots of things, from education to politics, had shifted drastically. In my view the UK had lost a bit of the humanism that I had loved so much in favour of a cold-hearted pragmatism. At St Andrews I made good friends, and most importantly I met my future wife, Kate. So I knew that I would come back yet again.

And yes, though we decided to settle down near Bilbao in the Basque Country, we have been coming back regularly to the UK under any excuse for almost 30 years. Beautiful Devon and busy London, where I completed a masters degree in International Journalism, have been our main bases. I have travelled quite widely around the world, but I can honestly say that the UK is my second home in emotional terms, as it is for our daughter and son.

Britons will vote in the EU referendum on June 23rd. Photo:

Over all these years I have witnessed a lot of changes in the UK, not all of them for the better. I have followed the political and social life of the country quite closely, and worked frequently for its media. I have even dared to write a book about the UK and its citizens, including my judgments and affection too.

The British, unlike the Spaniards, are very good at bashing their own country, but like everybody else they don’t like it when criticism comes from foreigners. They might be a bit cynical, but they don’t get carried away by the words of lunatic politicians promising eternal happiness to everyone. Individualist as they are, they have kept a sense of community that some more gregarious societies would very much envy. They don’t jump the queue as many of my fellow countrymen do. Respect is a meaningful word.

I fully understand that you have to be ready to integrate into the country you live in. You should learn their language, because otherwise you will miss all kinds of opportunities, not only materialistic ones. These things are only logical and a sign of respect for the country you are in.

Equally some British people should understand that “Rule Britannia” doesn’t apply any longer, and that the “dark satanic mills” in Jerusalem form part of a global reality.

Immigration is a big issue nowadays. Fear of other cultures is quite natural, but I can’t help but smile when some people in Britain talk about “invasions” without realizing the amount of British nationals living in other places, not least in Spain. One of the greatest successes of the British is that they have always turned immigrants into their own. Italian and Irish immigrants, French Huguenots, Jews, Russian refugees and Commonwealth citizens are all an example. I believe that in many cases their contribution to their new country has been enormous.

I don’t want the UK to lose its personality, pragmatism, sense of humour, eccentricity, or its fish and chips. There are lots of things, I’m sure, that other Europeans admire and value about the British. Nobody should be interested in wiping out the character of a nation (Scottish and Welsh included) which has produced so many influential artists, scientists, explorers, writers, and thinkers.

I believe that if the UK’s citizens vote in favour of leaving the EU, they will be denying their own history of integrating different races and cultures, and the values which many generations have held as part of their Britishness.

I would certainly be very sorry and disappointed.

Alberto Letona is a Basque journalist living in Bilbao. He is the author of Hijos e Hijas de la Gran Bretaña –Sons and Daughters of Great Britain – in which he delves into the psyche of the British in an attempt to explain them to his own countrymen. 

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Banking giant Barclays to close all accounts of Brits living in Spain

UK nationals living in Spain have begun to receive letters from their bank telling them that their accounts will be closed, in an apparent post-Brexit change. Have you been affected?

Banking giant Barclays to close all accounts of Brits living in Spain

Customers of Barclays Bank who are living in Spain and other EU countries have been receiving letters telling them that their UK accounts will be closed by the end of the year. 

A number of readers of The Local’s network of news websites have contacted us to report receiving either letters or messages in their online banking telling them that their accounts would be closed because of their residency in Spain or in other countries in the EU.

A Barclays spokesperson told The Local: “As a ring fenced bank, our Barclays UK products are designed for customers within the UK.

“We will no longer be offering services to personal current account or savings customers (excluding ISAs) within the European Economic Area. We are contacting impacted customers to give them advance notice of this decision and outline the next steps they need to take.”  

Customers are being given six months to make alternative arrangements. The changes affect all personal current accounts or savings accounts, but do not affect ISAs, loans or mortgages.

During the Brexit transition period Barclays closed Barclaycard accounts of customers in Spain, but did not indicate any changes to standard bank accounts.


Around the same time several other British high street banks began closing accounts of British customers who live in the EU, although with the exception of Barclaycard customers in Spain who were largely spared.

Many UK nationals who live in Spain maintain at least one UK bank account – in addition to a Spanish account – sometimes just for savings but others use their accounts regularly to receive income such as pensions or income from rental property or – for remote workers – to receive income for work done in the UK.

Not having a UK bank account can make financial transactions in the UK more complicated or incur extra banking fees.

READ MORE: What are the best UK banks for Brits in Spain?

Since Brexit, the UK banking sector no longer has access to the ‘passporting’ system which allows banks to operate in multiple EU countries without having to apply for a separate banking licence for each country.

And it seems that many UK high street banks are deciding that the extra paperwork is not worth the hassle and are withdrawing completely from certain EU markets. 

When British banks began withdrawing services from customers in the EU back in 2020, a UK government spokesman told British newspaper The Times that “the provision of banking services is a commercial decision for firms based on a number of factors” so Brits in Spain probably shouldn’t hold their breath for any help from that direction.

READ ALSO: Premium Bond holders in Spain may have to cash in if no UK bank account