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BREXIT

OPINION: Why Boris could be our best bet to stop Brexit

Sue Wilson of Bremain in Spain takes a look at the candidates for the next Tory leader and argues that a Brexiteer could be the best tool to stop Brexit.

OPINION: Why Boris could be our best bet to stop Brexit
Boris Johnson is the current frontrunner for Tory leader. Photo: AFP

Since Theresa May bowed to intense pressure from the Conservative Party and handed in her resignation, many people have asked: “is she the worst prime minister in living memory”? Having seen the list of potential leadership candidates and listened to their proposals, it’s tempting to add the words “thus far”.

While I wouldn’t say “come back Theresa, all is forgiven”, many Brits living in Spain are wondering if her successor will worsen our fate.

Currently, 13 candidates are vying for the top job and the tally is rising daily. It’s almost easier to list the members of May’s cabinet who aren’t throwing their hats into the ring! Every candidate seems determined to deliver Brexit – including those who weren’t initially Brexit supporters. Most go a step further, stating that a no-deal Brexit should be kept on the table, even while expressing a firm desire to close a deal.

Some, such as former cabinet members, Esther McVey and Dominic Raab, are willing to pursue no-deal as their preferred Brexit option. It is only Rory Stewart, secretary of state for international development, who is rightly stating that a no-deal Brexit would be disastrous for the UK.

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Boris Johnson, currently the favourite candidate, has been uncharacteristically quiet since the leadership contest started. Perhaps he’s preoccupied with his court summons over allegations of lying to the British public. Maybe his lawyers are telling him to keep quiet, in case he says anything else incriminating.

Another common topic amongst leadership contenders is renegotiating a deal with the EU. Jean-Claude Juncker, the European Commission president, has stated categorically that the Withdrawal Agreement negotiations are closed. In addition, the EU negotiating team is currently being disbanded, yet still we hear delusional talk of returning to Brussels to renegotiate.

It’s clear from the candidates’ rhetoric that they’re not aiming their proposals at the country, but at those who can vote for them directly. Initially, that means the Conservative party MPs who will narrow the choice down to just two candidates. The final decision will be made by around 120,000 ageing Conservative Party members, predominantly Leave voters. That audience makes it unlikely that we’ll see any Remain/anti-Brexit leadership candidates – they wouldn’t stand a chance.

Brits in Spain are naturally worried that a new Prime Minister will further risk our citizens’ rights and make a no-deal Brexit more likely. The Spanish government has devised comprehensive plans to protect us if no-deal occurs, but those plans rely on reciprocity by the UK government. Some people are understandably cautious about relying on the Spanish government’s generosity, should the worst-case scenario become a reality.

While the more Brextremist leadership candidates are causing considerable concern, I would personally welcome a staunch Brexiteer as May’s replacement. The more extreme the new PM’s position on Brexit, the less support they’ll garner from parliament and the public. They’ll waste further time trying to renegotiate a deal with the EU that is already closed and trying to garner support in Westminster. The more extreme the proposals, the higher the level of rebellion that can be expected from parliament and the public alike.

If I had one question for the leadership contenders, it would be: “why on earth do you want the job right now”? Surely, anyone with the skills, intelligence and humanity necessary to make a good prime minister would have the sense not to touch this poisoned chalice with 10 proverbial bargepoles tied together.  

With the impossibility of delivering Brexit, or gaining consensus in parliament to do so, the new prime minister will be faced with a stark choice. No-deal will be off the table – it’s the only option about which parliament is abundantly clear. Parliament has prevented no-deal before and will do so again. That only leaves putting the question back to the public, either through a general election or a second referendum. The Conservative party, after its disastrous performance in the European elections and in recent polls, will want to avoid a general election at all costs.

Theresa May might be remembered by future generations as the worst prime minister in modern history. The legacy of her successor could be as the shortest serving prime minister in history.

I didn’t shed any tears for May and I won’t be shedding any for her successor either. Brexit is dead. How many more Prime Minister’s will it take before Westminster accepts that reality?

By Sue Wilson – Chair of Bremain in Spain.

READ ALSO: What Britons in Spain need to do during the six-month Brexit delay

 

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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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