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OPINION – BREXIT

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5 practical things Brits abroad can do to keep UK in the EU

If you're a pro-EU Brit living abroad, there's plenty you can do to keen Britain 'in', explains Laura Shields from the Brits Abroad: Yes to Europe initiative.

5 practical things Brits abroad can do to keep UK in the EU
Photos: Laura Shields and AFP

Pretty much every Brit abroad I talk to has got a bad dose of the Brexit blues. Many feel powerless, a lot have lost the right to vote and others feel our country is going to wake up on June 24th to the realization that voter apathy has just sleepwalked our children’s future over a cliff.

Now, I know not every expat shares my self-selecting sample’s anxiety. But if you do, then please read on. Here are five positive things you can do to help keep Britain in.

1. Register to vote

Now. Yes, this means YOU, pro-EU Brit who thinks we should stay in but also thinks they’ve got oodles of time to get their registration sorted. Think again, pal. The Electoral Commission is advising expats to register by May 16th so that there is plenty of time for mess-ups – sorry, admin – and time to organize proxies (often the more reliable option) and postal votes.

Can’t find your National Insurance number? Get on the blower to your former local council or Electoral Commission and find out what you need to do. You might think it’s a hassle…but then so is having to re-negotiate 40 years of trade agreements and a brand new social model that might exclude you.

2. Register someone else

This is really an extension of Point 1. But the logic still applies. Don’t assume (it makes an ‘ass’ out of ‘you’ and ‘me’) that your friends and colleagues in other countries have got around to registering yet. Lots of Brits abroad work in international organizations with other British colleagues. Use your networks to mobilize their vote and get them to do the same. Get on the phone to them now.

Equally, work on registering young Irish, Maltese or Cypriot friends in the UK. Plus Erasmus students. They can all vote too but youth turnout in particular is expected to be low, as they have to register for the first time. You should preach the registration message until you are red, white and blue in the face. Pretty much all my friends now groan when I post something Brexit-related on Facebook. I consider this an achievement. Go forth and badger for Britain.

3. Inject some enthusiasm into the discussion

Don’t like Cameron? Failing to get excited by #Stronger In? In that case, why not make your own short testimonial video and send it to one of the many expat campaign groups? Our group in particular would love to hear from people who can inject some emotion and enthusiasm into the positive case for staying.

4. Donate to Stronger In

You may not identify with the designated 'Remain' campaign, but they are still our team and doing a very tough job. We also need to understand that for the past 40 years the hardcore Brexiters have been waking up fulminating about what Brussels has done to them. This is their time. The only way to counter this is to get behind Stronger In. As Bob Geldof might have said: Give them your f***ing money.

5. Take a week off and volunteer

The Remain camp are crying out for volunteers to do some good old-fashioned campaigning. Knocking on doors and handing out leaflets beats fighting with anonymous Brexiters on Twitter any day of the week. It is also much better for your mental health and can be an inspiring experience. I was heartened to hear from Liberal Democrat activists that most people are much more rational about the EU than the media would have us believe. Get out there and talk to people in an enthusiastic and inclusive way about why we should be ‘in’.

These are five practical, positive things that Brits abroad (including those who have lost the right to vote) can do to help.

So let’s stop moaning and get out there and make the case for staying. Let’s do more than ‘remain’. Let’s choose the EU.

Laura Shields is Campaign Spokesperson for Brits Abroad: Yes to Europe, a non-partisan 'get out the vote' initiative managed by the Brussels and Europe Liberal Democrats. The campaign has a Facebook page with up-to-date news about the debate. More information on the Brussels and Europe Lib Dems referendum campaign and practical advice about voting can be found by clicking here.
 

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SPANISH POLITICS

What the PP’s landslide win in Andalusia means for Spain’s ruling Socialists

A resounding win by Spain's conservative Popular Party in a weekend regional election in Andalusia appears to have boosted its chances in national elections next year and weakened Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez.

What the PP's landslide win in Andalusia means for Spain's ruling Socialists

The Popular Party (PP) secured 58 seats in Sunday’s election in Spain’s most populous region — three more than the 55 needed for an absolute majority. That constitutes its best-ever result in the longstanding Socialist stronghold.

The Socialists won 30 seats, their worst-ever result in Andalusia. It governed there without interruption between 1982 and 2018, when it was ousted from power by a coalition between the PP and centre-right Ciudadanos.

This was the Socialists’ third consecutive regional election loss to the PP after votes in Madrid in May 2021 and Castilla y Leon in February.

Sanchez’s government has been struggling to deal with the economic fallout from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which has fuelled inflation worldwide, especially through increasing energy prices.

Socialist party officials argued the results of a regional election “can’t be extrapolated” nationally.

But in an editorial, centre-left daily El Pais said no one can deny the gulf in the election scores obtained between the two parties in two of Spain’s most populated regions — Andalusia and Madrid.

This was “more than just a stumble”, it argued.

“This may be a symptom of a change in the political cycle” at the national level, it added. The conservative daily ABC took a similar line.

‘Worn down’

Pablo Simon, political science professor at the Carlos III University, said this “new cycle” in which “the right is stronger” began when the PP won a landslide in a regional election in Madrid in May 2021.

It could culminate with the PP coming out on top in the next national election expected at the end of 2023, he added.

But Cristina Monge, a political scientist at the University of Zaragoza, took a more cautious line.

“The government is worn down after four difficult years due to the pandemic” and the war in Ukraine, which has fuelled inflation, she said.

She refused to “draw a parallel” between Andalusia and Spain, arguing “there is still a lot of time” before the next national election.

Sanchez come to power in June 2018 after former PP prime minister Mariano Rajoy was voted out of office in a no-confidence motion triggered by a long-running corruption scandal.

The PP then suffered its worst-ever results in the next general election in 2019, which the Socialists won.

Sunday’s election was the first since veteran politician Alberto Núñez Feijóo, a moderate, took over as leader of the PP from Pablo Casado following a period of internal party turbulence.

Partido Popular (PP) candidate for the Andalusian regional election Juanma Moreno greets supporters during a meeting following the Andalusian regional elections, in Seville on June 19, 2022. (Photo by CRISTINA QUICLER / AFP)

‘Packing his bags’

“People are fed up with Sanchez,” the PP’s popular regional leader of Madrid, Isabel Diaz Ayuso, said Monday.

“If national elections had been held yesterday, the result would have been the same and today he would be packing his bags,” she added.

Up until now, the far-right Vox party had supported the PP in Andalusia but from outside government.

This time around however, it had said its support would be conditional on getting a share of the government of the southern region.

But the PP’s commanding victory in Andalusia means that is now moot: it no longer has to rely on far-right party Vox to govern.

At the national level, it could be a different story however, said Pablo Simon.

A PP government nationally that did not rely on Vox would be “impossible” due to the fragmentation of parliament, which has several regional and separatist parties.

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