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ELECTION

OPINION: ‘Election result brings welcome reassurance for Brits living in Spain’

The result of the Spanish election on Sunday brought some welcome reassurance for Brits living in Spain, says Sue Wilson.

OPINION: 'Election result brings welcome reassurance for Brits living in Spain'
A man chooses a ballot at a polling station in Madrid during general elections on Sunday. Photo; AFP

Everywhere we go at present, there’s talk of an election. Whether it's the Spanish general election, local elections, or the European elections, it's hardly surprising that some of us are suffering from election fatigue, or we’re confused about the implications of the potential election results.

The result of the Spanish election on Sunday brought some welcome reassurance for Brits living in Spain, as the Spanish public was galvanised into voting both for and against the far-right. Despite being the third election in four years, turnout reached up to 75 percent. Although the Vox party made gains, its success didn’t reach the predicted level and was countered by an increase in the numbers of seats for the left and the government. The biggest loser was the centre-right PP, whose vote share collapsed – a warning, perhaps, to Theresa May’s government.

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With the expectation that a coalition government can be formed, I think many Brits will sleep better at night with the prospect of stability and continuity in Spanish government. The increase in seats for PSOE provided additional reassurances that promises already made to the British residents would be honoured.

While British citizens in Spain were concerned about the impact of Spanish politics on our future, many are more concerned with events in the UK. Although we cannot participate in the UK local elections, many of us will be watching closely to see if predictions are correct – i.e. that the Conservatives and, perhaps, Labour will do badly.

The UK local elections next weekend, and the forthcoming European elections, will both serve to indicate how the British public feels – i.e. what is the now the ‘will of the people’? While incumbent governments traditionally do badly in mid-term local elections, the level of protest could be even greater than would normally be expected. The results will be a barometer of the nation’s feelings towards the government and, especially, towards Brexit. If, as expected, anti-Brexit parties such as the Liberal Democrats do well, the effect could be significant, making it increasingly difficult for the government to claim any kind of mandate for trying to further its Brexit course of action.

If the local elections could influence government strategy re Brexit, then the European elections could be more significant. While the Prime Minister still insists that Britain won’t participate, it’s almost impossible to see a scenario where this can be avoided. The only way to halt the process is for May’s rather unpopular Brexit deal to be agreed by parliament. With cross-party talks going nowhere at present, that outcome seems highly unlikely.

Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party hit the ground running with the launch of its EU election campaign ahead of the competition. Most pundits think it will do well, taking European Parliament seats from UKIP and the Conservatives. Labour seats are also at risk, unless its manifesto clearly states strong support for a #PeoplesVote and a Remain and Reform platform.

The turnout in the UK for voting in European elections has always been low. As with everything else related to Europe, the UK has never been active in promoting the benefits or the responsibilities of EU membership. Had we been more involved in the past, perhaps we wouldn’t be where we are today.

I personally take some of that blame, as I haven’t previously participated in European elections. I intend to correct that mistake on May 23rd, when I will vote for a pro-EU, anti-Brexit party. I hope that those of you who value our EU citizenship, and all the rights and benefits associated with it, will join me in voting, if they can, and will encourage friends, family, colleagues and neighbours to do the same.

On May 23rd, the UK has an opportunity to rally against the far-right, to show that the British people are tolerant, inclusive and pro-European. The Spanish have demonstrated that, by turning out in large numbers, the divisive effect of right-wing extremism can be limited. We must take every opportunity to do the same – the future of the UK and Europe depends on it.

By Sue Wilson – Chair of Bremain in Spain

For information on how to register, vote etc in EU Elections, see Bremain in Spain's EU Elections Special HERE

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BANKING

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.

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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

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