OPINION: ‘We moved to Spain in good faith and we shouldn’t lose that right’

With less than 6 weeks until the general election in UK it's more important than ever for those who can to vote, argues Spain-based Debra Williams from the Brexpats Hear our Voice campaign group.

OPINION: 'We moved to Spain in good faith and we shouldn't lose that right'
Members of Brexpats - Hear Our Voice at a protest in London. Photo: BHOV
Whichever way I look at Brexit, I always come back to the same point.
It’s all about immigration and the misconceptions surrounding the topic.
In 1965, Max Frisch, a Swiss author, wrote the phrase: “We asked for workers and human beings came.”
He was referring to the mainly Portuguese and Italian so-called guest workers that came to Switzerland in the 1950’s and early 1960’s.
Time has moved on, but his phrase is just as important now as it was then.
Living in Spain is a blessing, heart-warming in fact. As a recent British immigrant to Spain, there has been a great big ‘welcome in the hillsides’ (yes, I’m Welsh), a warmth from the people that I’ve encountered that is endearing.
Do you think that Spanish people that move to the UK have the same welcome? It’s a rhetorical question, but I
do hope so, though I have heard of many examples to the contrary.
A global fundamental lack of knowledge about migration is often perpetuated by some media outlets, governments often categorising people by their net worth.
The good immigrant vs bad immigrant.
This applies equally to British living overseas. Official statistics suggest that there are 1.2 million British living in the European Union, (80 percent working age or younger) with 4.9 million British in total living across the globe (the biggest diaspora of all the European Union countries).
For a small nation with a large emigrant population you would expect our understanding of migration to be at a high level, but since the EU referendum in 2016 it is obvious that this is not the case.
Having the privilege of working with EU Citizens living in the UK on the In Limbo Project has been an eye opener.
Thanks to the founder of the project Elena Remigi, who had the original concept, we now have two books called In Limbo and In Limbo Too.
These two books document in their own words, the Brexit testimonies of human beings affected by Brexit.
They also are a fantastic reference about migration, in particular EU migration (Free Movement of workers).
The testimonies are heart-breaking in most cases, whichever way you look at it. That’s why many groups like mine are fighting to protect all the rights that we have legally exercised, for all of us.
Because, without a doubt they are under threat, let’s be clear about that, don’t bury your heads in the sand, face up to it and join the myriad of groups fighting Brexit and fighting for all of your rights.
You moved to Spain in good faith, believing that things would stay the same for your lifetime, why should you lose those rights.
I don’t want to, do you?
Now we have to face another General Election.
This is because the current UK government know they would never win an informed referendum on the subject.
Once again, those British citizens living abroad and who have been out of the UK for over 15 years will be disenfranchised as well as the EU citizens living in the UK, on a topic that directly affects their lives, it’s preposterous.
So those that can still vote, do so, research tactical voting sites, make sure you are registered to vote, go for a proxy vote if you can, rather than a postal vote, because time is of the essence.
Cast that vote, never has it been more important.
So, to all of you that have moved country, thank you. Thank you for having open minds, integrating, making friends, working, having global families. You enrich us all.
There are no good and bad immigrants, just human beings.
Debbie Williams, Brexpats Hear Our Voice
Castellon Province
Debbie Williams is ex WRAF and worked in aviation and ATC. She has lived in many EU countries and now lives permanently in Spain. She is the founder of the campaign group Brexpats – Hear Our Voice, Co-editor of In Limbo Too, an International Advisory Board member of the Brexit Brits Abroad research project and a Steering Committee Member of British in Europe.

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Summer travel between Spain and the UK: What can I not pack in my suitcase?

If you're travelling between Spain and the UK this summer and want to take some of your favourite treats with you, here's what you should know about the food and drink rules post-Brexit so you don't get caught out by customs.

Summer travel between Spain and the UK: What can I not pack in my suitcase?

Flying to the UK from Spain

For those flying to the UK from Spain, the rules are relatively lax.

Note, if you’re spending the summer in Northern Ireland there are different rules on food and animal products. Find them here. 

You can bring the following products from Spain into the UK without worrying about any restrictions:

  • bread, but not sandwiches filled with meat or dairy products
  • cakes without fresh cream
  • biscuits
  • chocolate and confectionery, but not those made with unprocessed dairy ingredients
  • pasta and noodles, but not if mixed or filled with meat or meat products
  • packaged soup, stocks and flavourings
  • processed and packaged plant products, such as packaged salads and frozen plant material
  • food supplements containing small amounts of an animal product, such as fish oil capsules

Meat, dairy, fish and animal products

If, like many of us, you have friends and family already putting in their orders for stocks of jamón serrano, know that the rules on bringing meat, dairy, fish and other animal products into the UK are relatively relaxed. You can bring in meat, fish, dairy and other animal products as long as they’re from the EU, so your jamón and Manchego cheese are safe. 

what food can and cannot bring between spain and the uk

You will still be able to bring cured Spanish ham from Spain to the UK. (Photo by Robyn Beck / AFP)

Alcohol allowance

For many, the big one, but there are some limits on how much booze you can bring in from Spain and the EU more generally. How much you can bring depends on the type of alcohol, so get up to speed on the limits and make sure your favourite Rioja and Cava aren’t taken off you or heavily taxed:


  • beer – 42 litres
  • still wine – 18 litres
  • spirits and other liquors over 22 percent alcohol – 4 litres
  • sparkling wine, fortified wine (port, sherry etc) and other alcoholic drinks up to 22 percent alcohol (not including beer or still wine) – 9 litres

It’s worth knowing that you can split your allowance, for example you could bring 4.5 litres of fortified wine and 2 litres of spirits (both half of your allowance).

Flying into Spain from the UK

While British borders are laid back when it comes to travelling with food and drink, the rules are much tougher when entering the EU from the UK.

Most importantly, tea bags – longed for by Brits the world over – are allowed. Marmite, which is vegan, is also fine to bring but Bovril, which contains beef stock, is not.

Travellers arriving in the EU from Britain can, according to the European Travel Retail Confederation (ETRC), bring the following quantities of alcohol, so if you fancy a British tipple in Spain over the summer such as Pimm’s it is possible, within reason: 4 litres of still wine and 16 litres of beer, 1 litre of spirits, or 2 litres of sparkling or fortified wine.

If you arrive in the EU from a non-EU country, you cannot bring any meat or dairy products with you. That means no Wensleydale, no Cornish Brie in your ploughman’s lunch and no British bacon to enjoy in Spain for English breakfast fry-ups.

Ploughman's lunch

British cheese for your Ploughman’s lunch is not allowed. Photo: Glammmur / WikiCommons

The EU’s strict rules mean that all imports of animal-derived products technically come under these rules, so even your custard powder to make rhubarb fool or bars of your favourite chocolate are now banned, because of the milk.

Be aware, however Spanish customs do not always check your suitcase, so you may be able to get away with bringing in a small packaged item such as a chocolate bar, without it being confiscated. 

Similarly, if you’re planning on asking a friend or family member to bring you over some sweets, cakes, or other home comforts, be aware that the ban includes all products that contain any meat or dairy as an ingredient – which includes items like chocolate, fudge, and some sweets (because of the gelatine.)

You are allowed to bring a small quantity of fruit and vegetables as well as eggs, some egg products, and honey. Restricted quantities of fish or fish products are also allowed: eviscerated fresh fish products (gutted, with all the organs removed), and processed fishery products are allowed up to 20 kg or 1 fish, so you can enjoy some Scottish smoked salmon in Spain over the summer if you want.

If you’re travelling with kids, note that powdered infant milk, infant food and specifically required medical foods are allowed up to 2kg, as is the case for pet foods. 

Clotted cream for cream teas won’t be allowed to be brought into Spain. Photo: Tuxraider reloaded / WikiCommons

This means that even the classic British summertime favourites such as sausage rolls, scotch eggs, packaged trifle and clotted cream for your cream tea will not be allowed because of the meat and dairy they contain.

It is worth noting that these strict EU rules also apply to sending products by post, so if you were hoping to get around the newly applicable legislation by having someone send you a delivery some Devon fudge, they will probably be intercepted and confiscated by Spain’s postal service, unfortunately. 

READ ALSO: Are there limits on bringing medicines into Spain?