In the wake of the Brexit referendum on 23rd June 2016, as many of us grieved, pondered and tried to make sense of things, a number of pro-active individuals started to campaign. Some campaigns were linked to legal challenges around the vote itself; some campaigns were about celebrating Europe and saying to our fellow EU countries ‘we don’t want this!’ Some were simply an overflow of anger and grief. Not all of those initial campaign groups had a long life. However, some of the most enduring, and necessary are the groups which emerged to campaign for citizens’ rights. The EU is ultimately all about citizenship – though this barely made it into the Leave/Remain discourse in 2016. It is terrifying enough to many British citizens living in the UK that a marginal vote, won by dishonest propaganda, is on the verge of taking away a whole chunk of our citizenship rights. But for others, this is combined with an uncertainty about their homes, families, friends, jobs, indeed, their whole way of life.
For those from other EU countries living in the UK, we saw campaign groups like The 3 Million and the beginning of projects to collect testimonies such as Our Brexit Testimonies and the resulting book, In Limbo. The reflection of these groups are those representing British citizens who have made their homes in other EU countries. What of their rights? One of the most high profile campaign groups representing British citizens abroad is Bremain in Spain.
Having seen founder Sue Wilson speak at the march in London earlier in 2017, and having recently interviewed her for this blog, I am keen to expand further on Bremain in Spain, their mission, and the people they represent.
The Bremain in Spain Mission
Bremain in Spain is a forum for British migrants who have chosen to live in Spain, either full of part-time.
The mission is to campaign to remain in the European Union and to protect the right of pro-European members, regardless of the outcome of the Brexit negotiations.
We believe in a tolerant, outward-looking and caring society which, we believe, is best achieved by the United Kingdom remaining a member of the EU.
We support the rights of EU citizens who have made a life in the UK, or who may wish to do so in future.
We believe that freedom of movement is a positive force for the health and wealth of the UK and the EU, and for their respective citizens, regardless of nationality.
Bremain in Spain mission via www.bremaininspain.com
Bremain in Spain are actively campaigning on a number of initiatives and are helped by a team of skilled and dedicated volunteers. They actively encourage members to become involved in their campaign activities.
But it’s not just about campaigning. It’s also about community and collecting stories. A striking feature of the response to the Brexit referendum has been our urge to collect and curate personal stories, particularly in the face of a UK government which barely recognises the 48% of Brits who voted to Remain, let alone the views, fears and fundamental rights of those not allowed a vote. Just as In Limbo collected and published testimonies from EU citizens in the UK, Bremain in Spain has been collecting testimonies too, through collating their contributions to James Beadle’s Brexit Testimonials. They can be found on the website and make for powerful, moving reading:
What is also noteworthy about Bremain in Spain is their engagement with, and vocal reaction to, each new political development. Affiliated with The European Movement and British in Europe, this is a serious group, watching the ebb and flow of negotiations very carefully, and always with something to say.
For example, on 24th July 2017, the group’s words to the press carried the pain and frustration of citizens on both side of the negotiations, with regard to the lack of focus on citizenship rights, when Sue Wilson commented:
“Yet again, it seems that money was more important than people. We have been holding our breath, waiting for some positive news and reassurance that we will be protected. We have repeatedly been told we are the number one priority in these negotiations but it hardly looks that way, does it? Everyone says how important we are. However, we don’t feel important: we feel invisible. How much longer must people live with uncertainty and worry?
“When news re citizens’ rights was finally forthcoming, it wasn’t the news we hoped to hear. Far from reassuring us, the EU’s comments about freedom of movement sent shockwaves throughout the British community. The offer on citizens’ rights, presented weeks ago, reassured us that the EU intended to protect all our rights and freedoms, as if Brexit had never happened.”
“This new threat to our freedom of movement is of great concern, especially to those who work, or wish to work, in more than one European country or travel across borders from home to their workplace. However, we must keep things in perspective. We must remember that the official EU position, which met our needs, was in the negotiating directive of 22/5. Any amendments to the content of that directive would have to be agreed by all members of the EU27.”
And they are also clear that, whilst they are not shy of putting pressure on EU negotiators, most Britons living in other EU countries widely perceive that the fault lies with the UK government. More from Sue Wilson:
“Theresa May’s offer, far from being ‘fair and serious’, would see our rights downgraded, should the EU choose to reciprocate. When May’s offer was put forward, it was lacking in detail and would see EU citizens cast as second-class citizens in the UK. By contrast, the EU offer on citizens’ rights would enable us to live as we do now. This is all we’re asking, and we expect EU citizens in the UK to be treated the same way. It is the UK government, in trying to limit the rights of EU citizens in the UK, that is putting us and them at risk.”
Bremain in Spain is a welcome strong, informed voice in the Brexit debate. It’s not just about Spain. And they are determined too:
“Our most important fight is to stop Brexit from happening and keep the UK in the EU. If we’re successful, no matter how long it takes, now matter how much damage has been done and sleep has been lost, every minute of pain and suffering will have been worth it and the celebrations are likely to last for ages.”
Sue Wilson, Bremain in Spain
Bremain in Spain website
Bremain in Spain Twitter: @BremainInSpain
Bremain in Spain Facebook