OPINION: ‘No to Boris, yes to Europe’ – Brits in Spain to march under a new blimp

Sue Wilson of Bremain in Spain will on Saturday, once again lead the contingent from Spain marching against Brexit. But this time, there's a new blimp in town.

OPINION: 'No to Boris, yes to Europe' - Brits in Spain to march under a new blimp
A Boris Johnson blimp will fly over Westminster on Saturday. Photo: Mike Galsworthy /

On Saturday July 20th, Bremain in Spain will participate in the ‘March for Change’ event in London.

This latest anti-Brexit, pro-EU event differs from previous People’s Vote marches, as it is being organised by grassroots groups collaborating to promote the benefits of EU membership. The march will complement a summer programme of People’s Vote campaign activities throughout the UK, culminating in another huge protest march in London on October 12th.

March for Change will follow the established route from Park Lane to Westminster, ending with a rally outside parliament. The identity of the speakers remains a closely-guarded secret, but it’s known that the the line-up will feature grassroots campaigners rather than politicians. The speakers will include representatives of #the5million, standing up for the 3.5 million EU citizens resident in the UK and the 1.5 million British citizens in the EU.

Marchers on the day will be wearing blue and yellow outfits – I have my blue wig at the ready! Bremain in Spain members will wear our branded t-shirts and baseball caps and we’ll also fly a special flag featuring the names of 75 members who cannot travel to London.

This was the idea of our vice chair, John Moffett, to enable more people to join us in spirit. These 75 members made a small donation to our fundraising effort to stop Brexit. As with previous marches, Bremain will be meeting our Spanish counterparts in the UK, from the Españoles en Reino Unido campaign group.

EU citizens in the UK and UK citizens in the EU have many common concerns but, in my opinion, Spanish citizens in the UK are in a worse situation than we Brits in Spain. Some have been the victims of racial abuse, others have been made to feel like second-class citizens, and many have been forced to apply for rights they already possess. In comparison, we are fortunate to be well-treated in Spain and made to feel welcome.

Sue Wilson and Nacho Romero of Españoles de Reino Unido at an earlier march.

A few days after the march, and before the parliamentary summer recess, it is anticipated that Boris Johnson will become leader of the Conservative Party. With this in mind, the march organisers have commissioned a Boris Johnson blimp, following the success of the Donald Trump baby blimp, flown during his recent state visit.

The organisers say: “We all know Boris Johnson's infamous promise of £350 million a week for the NHS was just a load of hot air. And yet he's about to float into the most powerful position in the land, based on nothing more than his over-inflated ego.”

The Boris blimp will be flown ahead of the “No to Boris, yes to Europe” demonstration, and will provide a great photo opportunity for the attending press.

Regardless of who gains the keys to No. 10, the EU is adamant that negotiations on the Withdrawal Agreement are closed. Both leadership candidates are seemingly deaf to this truth, and continue to peddle their unicorns, while trying to out-Brexit each other to score maximum votes from the Tory party faithful.

Tactics that garner support from the Conservative party members will neither please parliament nor the British public, so the new prime minister is heading towards stormy seas (the “Titanic Success” previously espoused by Boris may not be far away!). The parliamentary arithmetic hasn’t changed, and even cabinet members are now openly protesting about the dangers of the extreme no-deal Brexit advocated by the two candidates.

On Saturday 20 July, British citizens from across Europe will add their voices to the growing crowd that’s determined to be heard. We will demand that our rights and freedoms aren’t thrown under the Boris (or Jeremy) bus and that common sense must prevail.

Whether British citizens knew exactly what was at stake back in June 2016, we know considerably more now, and we deserve a chance to pause, assess and rethink our decision.

These days, we rarely hear that oft-used soundbite claiming Brexit is “the will of the people”, and for good reason. The politicians at Westminster realise that leaving the EU is no longer supported by the majority of the British people, or by parliament.

The new President Elect of the European Council, Ursula von der Leyen, has confirmed that the door is still open for a change of heart, and she wishes the UK to remain in the EU. I hope Saturday’s march will create a further wedge under the door, keeping it firmly open until the British government sees sense and recognises the true “will of the people”.

By Sue Wilson – Chair of Bremain in Spain.

To donate to the Boris blimp:

To sign the Yes to Europe, No to Brexit petition:

For more information on the March for Change:

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

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Brits in Europe won right to vote for life in UK but questions remain

After years of campaigns and promises British citizens living abroad finally won the lifelong right to vote in UK general elections in April 2022. But campaigners say more needs to be done to allow all those Britons abroad to be able cast their votes easily.

Brits in Europe won right to vote for life in UK but questions remain

What’s in the law?

The Elections Act 2022 introduced several changes to the current legislation on electoral participation. Among these, it removed the rule by which British citizens lose their voting rights in the UK if they have lived abroad for more than 15 years

The new rules also abolished the requirement to have been previously registered in the UK electoral roll to become an overseas voter. In addition, the registration in the electoral roll will now last up to three years instead of only one year.

It is estimated that these changes could increase the number of overseas voter registrations by some 3 million. But the way new measures will be applied in practice is still to be defined.

READ ALSO: ‘Mixed feelings’ – British citizens in Europe finally get right to vote for life

Defining the practicalities

Under the new law, Britons living abroad will have to register to vote in the last place they were registered in the UK. This means that people who have never lived in the UK will be ineligible to vote, regardless of how long they have been overseas, while those who left when they were children will be able to use a parent or guardian’s address.

But given that the UK does not require residents to register with local councils, how to prove previous UK residence? “Typical documents accepted as a proof of residence are Council tax or utilities bills, but not everyone will have them or will have kept them in an international move,” says Fiona Godfrey, co-founder of the British in Europe coalition.

Ballot papers are pictured in stacks in a count centre as part of the 2019 UK general election. (Photo by ANDY BUCHANAN / AFP)

Other questions concern how people will effectively cast their ballot. UK citizens overseas will be able to vote by post or by proxy or in person at their polling station if they are in the UK at the time of the election. However, few people are likely to travel to the UK for an election and in the past there have problems and delays with postal voting.

The Electoral Commission has recommended that overseas electors appoint a proxy to vote on their behalf. But who could that be for people who have been away from their constituency for a long time?

New secondary legislation will have to answer these questions, defining how to be included in the electoral roll and how to exercise the voting right in practice.

According to British in Europe, the government should present draft legislation in the first half of the year so that the parliament can adopt it before summer and registrations of overseas voters can start in the autumn.

British in Europe survey

British in Europe are currently running a survey to understand the difficulties UK citizens abroad may face in the registration and voting process, as well as their intention to participate in elections.

The survey asks for instance which documents people can access to prove their previous residence in the UK, what problems they had voting in the past, and if and how they plan to vote in the future.

“We need to get an up-to-date picture of British citizens living around the world and have information to make recommendations to the government, as it prepares secondary legislation,” Godfrey said. “If millions of people will exercise their voting rights, there will be consequences for council registration offices, post office and authorities that will manage the process, among other things” she argued.

The right to vote concerns only UK parliamentary elections and national referendums, not elections in the devolved administrations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, or at local level.

The survey is open to UK citizens living anywhere in the world and is available at this link.