The Living in Brexit and Spain talk at the Círculo de Bellas Artes last week promised to be a Q&A session to find out the latest information on Brexit, and what this means for UK nationals living in Spain; largely it delivered on this promise, thanks to the lively dialogue between the speakers and audience.
Held on Friday evening, a slot for which the Ambassador quipped we must not have anything better to do, there was a palpable anticipation for a sense of direction for the future. The delayed start, due to one of the speakers not knowing their way to the room, did not bode well.
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The audience were as varied as the questions, some students, parents, a mum-to-be, teachers, lawyers, bankers, pensioners… Once the Brexit ball started to roll a host of complex issues arose. Some of these practical, others legal. Then emerged the emotional impact all this uncertainty is having. The shock of the vote's outcome and the shame over the marginal majority who voted out, seemingly forgetting how much the UK has benefited from being part of this union.
A deep disappointment resurfaced at not being accounted for in the vote for Brexit. For being left out the biggest decision of our lifetimes; a decision where the political and personal have collided. One man of my father's age bravely admitted, perhaps for the first time, and perhaps on behalf of us all, 'I feel like I want to cry'.
What was clear from the Q&A is how crucial reaching a deal is; the intricate web of which was expertly explained by their legal advisor. Additionally, the tireless work of Eurocitizens is to be applauded. The speakers from this group were passionate, as well as informed and are clearly in contact with the pulse of concerns.
However, the bull in the china shop gradually stopped trying not to smash too indelicately into the obvious ever-pressing questions, 'what happens now?…how will this affect me?' Then the monster within surfaced.
This is the most worrying upshot of Brexit, how the 'we' is falling out of our rhetoric. We are forgetting about being part of something bigger, not just European, but about being human. I fear post-Brexit we will see further division and forget to look beyond our own boarders, thinking only 'how does this affect my life?'
Like my friends and family, and all other audience member's friends and family, contingency plans are being hatched. To use a Spanish literary reference for the surreal – we are facing down Álvarez Gato's alley, with valle-inclanesque distorted mirrors, looking at how British we really are; and if our plans for the fallout will be enough to keep us afloat.
For the British Nationals in Spain, and indeed the Spanish living in the UK, nationality has become a contentious chip for this All-In Poker game that is Brexit. Now whilst the many people who voted to remain, or who would have if they had the chance, are desperately seeking evidence for Irish ancestry, we are forgetting a fundamental truth. We are all immigrants of one form or another. We all have mixed ancestry. You only have to scratch the surface of where daily phrases come from to prove it.
The concept of 'taking back' a country is not only misleading, but dangerous. This earthly paradise is on loan, and the concept of one person having more right to it than another is a way to deal with our sheer insignificance within the universe.
It is all too easy to shed a rosy hue upon the days of yore; or to invent a convenient idea of history according to our own values, or to dream up that British or Spanish sounds and dresses and feels a certain way, as if it were a medal never to touch, only for display.
Whilst the gravity of the British, or more specifically English, identity crisis keeps being swept away by inner-party divides, with personality politics served as the plat du jour, globally we are failing to address our damaged mutual residence, our planet. Environmental issues of global warming, the demand for sustainable energy and cutting out on plastic goods- these are the topics we should all be dedicating our time to. These areas affect each and every one of us, European or otherwise.
While we still have an environment to protect we should be fighting for it tooth and nail. Mother Nature waits for no Brexit. Nature means nature.
Less than 6 weeks away Britain's cue for exiting the European Union is approaching, let's hope that reciprocal deals can be met and honoured. That way we stand a chance of exiting without being pursued by any bears.
By Anna Connolly