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BREXIT

OPINION: Why I’m not scared of a ‘no deal’ Brexit

Sue Wilson, chair of pro-European campaign group Bremain in Spain, considers the terrifying vision of a post-Brexit future if Theresa May fails to secure a deal and insists it's simply not an option.

OPINION: Why I'm not scared of a 'no deal' Brexit
Sue Wilson speaking at the "Stop Brexit" March in Manchester last year.

There has been much talk recently of the dire potential consequences of a ‘no-deal’ scenario, should the Brexit negotiations fail. With the recent publication of the last of the government’s own technical reports, there have been claims of scaremongering, contradicted by Brextremists saying, no need to worry, it all be fine – eventually.

Whether it’s the potential damage to the economy, job losses, rising prices, flights grounded, security concerns or the need to stockpile food and medicine, it all paints a terrifying vision of a post-Brexit future if May fails to secure a deal.

Citizens’ rights barely even warrant a mention, and even then, we’re much more likely to hear that EU citizens rights would be protected, whatever that might mean in May’s immigrant-unfriendly Britain. Meanwhile Brits in Europe are again inconvenient, ignored, invisible.

Everyday I am confronted by worried Bremain in Spain members who don’t know what to believe, who are concerned about their own and their families’ futures and who just want all this nonsense to stop. Many are so anxious at the prospect of a ‘no deal’ scenario that they are ready to accept any bad deal, rather than the worst case, cliff-edge scenario – anything that gives them a glimmer of hope.

It breaks my heart when I’m unable to ease their pain or reassure them that all will be well. However, I do not share that anxiety over the threat of a ‘no deal’ Brexit. On the contrary, I believe, as does the entire Bremain Council and many of our members, that ‘no deal’ is an impossibility.

It is not a view that is shared by many other groups in the EU. Others are busy drawing up contingency plans, much like the government is doing. Of course, it is wise to be aware of the potential dangers, and I would absolutely recommend that residents ensure they have all their paperwork in order. No harm in preparing for the worst whilst hoping for the best.

READ ALSO: Brexit planning: What you'll need to do if there's no-deal


Photo: Depositphotos

I have believed all along that the ‘no deal’ option being presented by the Prime Minister is a bargaining tool. To Theresa May, pointing out the disaster this is a ‘no deal’ Brexit serves two purposes: to threaten the EU into offering a better deal; to persuade the public and parliament to support whatever bad deal May manages to negotiate, as the alternative is so unthinkable.

The EU do not seriously believe that even the British government are crazy enough to choose a ‘no deal’ option, and cannot change their negotiating position, even if they wanted to. The ‘four pillars’ that safeguard the single market will be protected at all costs, as they should be.

As regards to persuading the UK parliament to support May’s deal, it is already clear that the Chequers plan is dead in the water, in Westminster and in Brussels. It is also a nonsense to suggest that should there be no deal, we would fall into a ‘no deal’ scenario by accident or default – parliament will never allow that to happen. Around 80% of MPs oppose ‘no deal’ and would never vote for it in a month of Sundays.

So where does that leave us? It’s becoming increasingly clear that whatever deal May’ manages to secure, she’s going to struggle to get parliament to vote for it. Labour have stated categorically that they will not vote for May’s deal unless it meets their 6 tests – an impossible target bearing in mind one of those tests states that the deal must give “the exact same benefits as we have now”. With SNP, LibDems and other parties also opposing the deal, only a handful of Tory rebels need to vote against the government for the deal to be rejected. Should the deal by necessity include the “backstop”, or some other assurance that will keep the Irish border open and protect the Good Friday Agreement, May might lose the support of the DUP too.

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The UK parliament are never going to accept a Hobson’s choice “meaningful vote” on a deal vs. ‘no deal’, so what would they vote on? Could an alternative be No Brexit? Another referendum, giving the public a say on the deal before we sign on the dotted line? Hard to say but anything is possible based on how much the political landscape has shifted in the last few months, and how much public opinion has changed as the true implications of Brexit, in whatever variety, are now widely known.

Whatever happens over the next few weeks, you can be sure there will be more shocks, more surprises and a lot more posturing and name-calling. The Brexit pantomime is set to run to many more nail-biting episodes, but never fear, the good guy always triumphs in the end.

Sue Wilson is 64. She is married, retired, and has lived in Spain’s Valencia Community for 11 years. She is Chair of Bremain in Spain, a pro-European campaign group, which is a member of the coalition of British groups in the EU, British in Europe, as well as being partners of European Movement UK and members of Britain For Europe.

Sue is currently lead complainant in a legal challenge against the Prime Minister, which questions the validity of the referendum & the decision to trigger Article 50. 

READ MORE: All Brexit news from Spain 

BREXIT

Brexit: Brits in EU feel European and don’t want to return home

The majority of Britons who live in the EU, Norway, Iceland or Switzerland and are protected under the Brexit agreement feel European and intend to remain in Europe permanently, but many have concerns about travel problems, a new survey reveals.

Brexit: Brits in EU feel European and don't want to return home

The research also shows that problems exist and “travel is where most issues relating to the new status currently occur”. For instance, border officials are still stamping passports of UK citizens with residence rights under the EU UK withdrawal agreement, even though they shouldn’t.

“There is constant confusion around passport stamping. I was ‘stamped in’ to France on a short trip… but could not find anyway to be ‘stamped out’ again. I think I can only spend 90 days in other EU countries, but have no idea how anyone can check or enforce that – until someone decides to try. It’s a mess,” was one of the answers left in an open question.

“Every time I go through a Schengen border control, I need to provide both my passport and Aufenthaltstitel card [resident permit in Germany] and watch to check that they don’t stamp my passport. As I am currently travelling a lot that’s been 20-odd times this year…” another respondent said.

The survey was carried out by Professor Tanja Bueltmann, historian of migration and diaspora at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, between October and November 2022. About 1,139 UK citizens replied.

Of these, 80 per cent found acquiring their new status easy or very easy, 60.7 per cent feel their rights are secure, while 39.3 per cent have concerns about their status going forward.

Staying permanently

More than three quarters (76.6 per cent) of respondents said they plan to live permanently in the EU or the other countries of the European Economic Area and Switzerland. In fact, 65.7 per cent said that Brexit has increased the likelihood of this choice.

For some, the decision is linked to the difficulty to bring non-British family members to the UK under new, stricter immigration rules.

“My German wife and I decided we no longer wanted to live in UK post Brexit referendum. In particular, we were affected by the impact of immigration law […] We cannot now return to UK on retirement as I cannot sponsor her on my pension. We knew it was a one-way journey. Fortunately, I could revive an application for German citizenship,” was a testimony.

“My husband is a US citizen and getting him a visa for the UK was near impossible due to my low income as a freelance journalist. We realized under EU law, moving to an EU country was easier. We settled on Austria as we had both lived there before… we could speak some German, and we like the mountains,” said another respondent.

Professor Bueltmann noted that the loss of free movement rights in the EU could be a factor too in the decision of many to stay where they are.

Citizenship and representation

Among those who decided to stay, 38.2 per cent are either applying or planning to apply for a citizenship and 28.6 per cent are thinking about it.

A key finding of the research, Bueltmann said, is that the vast majority of British citizens do not feel politically represented. Some 60 per cent of respondents said they feel unrepresented and another 30 per cent not well represented.

Another issue is that less than half (47.5 per cent) trust the government of their country of residence, while a larger proportion (62 per cent) trust the European Union. Almost all (95.6 per cent) said they do not trust the UK government.

Feeling European

The survey highlights the Brexit impacts on people’s identity too. 82.6 per cent of respondents said they see themselves as European, a higher proportion than those identifying as British (68.9 per cent).

“Brexit has really left me unsure of what my identity is. I don’t feel British, and I certainly don’t identify with the mindset of a lot of British people who live there. Yet, I am not Danish either. So, I don’t really know anymore!” said one of the participants in the survey.

Professor Bueltmann said the survey “demonstrates that Brexit impacts continue to evolve: this didn’t just stop because the transition period was over or a deadline for an application had been reached. Consequently, Brexit continues to shape the lives and experiences of British citizens in the EU/EEA and Switzerland in substantial, sometimes life-altering, ways.”

Considering the results of the study, Professor Bueltmann recommends policy makers in the EU and the UK to address the issue of lack of representation, for instance creating a joint UK-EU citizens’ stakeholder forum.

The report also recommends the UK government to rebuild trust with British citizens in the EU introducing voting rights for life and changing immigration rules to allow British-European families to return more easily. 

This article was prepared in cooperation with Europe Street News.

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