Champions of expat Britons
It was Bremain in Spain’s Sue Wilson, MBE, who introduced me to Mike Phillips when I was looking for someone to write about Spanish healthcare for Kent Bylines. [See link below.] Mike and I later decided to travel through Europe together. As secretary of the group he invited me to attend the 2021 Annual General Meeting of Bremain in Spain in Málaga.
There are about 360 000 British expats living in Spain. That is more than the population of Medway. Brexit has affected them in all sorts of ways. Yet many of them were not allowed to vote in the 2016 referendum, because of the rule that excludes British Citizens who have resided outside the UK for more than 15 years.
Mike had already mentioned the two linked associations representing the interest of the largest diaspora of British in mainland Europe: Brexpats Hear Our Voice, headed by Debbie Williams, and Bremain in Spain, chaired by Sue Wilson. Both have received the MBE for their efforts to manage the damage to British lives in Spain due to the UK leaving the EU.
Priorities for the year ahead
This year, in a strategic meeting Bremain in Spain decided what the group’s priorities for the coming year should be. Now that Brexit has happened, remaining in the EU has been replaced with the vision of rejoining. If you are interested in a more detailed report on the new strategy, which was developed after a survey of members’ opinions, Mike will give you an account in his next article.
Apart from me, another member of the UK Bylines Network attended the Bremain in Spain meeting. Mike Zollo who writes for West Country Bylines is a so-called “sparrow” who commutes between Spain and the UK as the new post Brexit regulations restrict the time Brits are allowed to spend in Spain.
A freelance journalist, Jennie Rhodes, has written about the Málaga meeting I attended. She writes for the English language edition of a Spanish National paper. Watch out for my article on her life in Spain as one of the young, working British migrants who have settled in the country.
Campaign for the right to vote in UK
In Sue Wilson’s latest campaign for Bremain, she works with veteran Harry Schindler, OBE. Shindler, who turned 100 this year, received an MBE in 2014 for his work as founder of the Association for British in Italy. Britain’s ambassador to Italy, Jill Morrist, congratulated Schindler on his OBE, as “an inspirational figure: veteran of allied landings at Anzio in WWII and champion over many years for the right to vote for British nationals abroad.”
Sue and Harry have worked with the British ambassadors to Italy and Spain and have lobbied UK Parliament to protect the rights of Britons living in the EU. Schindler has lived in Italy since the 80s and has tirelessly fought for the rights of the British abroad. He campaigned to reinstate the right to vote to Brits having lived abroad for more than 15 years.
The UK government had disenfranchised Brits who often still have strong links to the UK and whose lives were most affected by Brexit by not giving them a vote in the 2016 Referendum. Many, like Mike, are drawing service pensions from the UK and have grandchildren there whom they visit often.
The British government promised to return the right to vote several years ago. After recent remarks by Rishi Sunak in Parliament, the British migrants in Spain have high hopes that this time the Government will keep its promise at last.
Málaga for the tourist
Málaga city was a revelation to me. I have flown to Málaga Airport several times before. However, it was always just on my way to further South on the Costa del Sol. My husband and I had a friend who owned a pretty cottage whose garden went straight to the sea. It’s a shame we never bothered to make a visit to the city of Málaga itself.
Without sounding like a travel guide, I can’t help enthusing about what Málaga has to offer: a magnificent cathedral, excavations of a Roman amphitheatre and romantic little streets where people sit enjoying the delicious tapas with a variety of fabulous local wines.
And, last not least, a beautiful sandy beach a few minutes walk from the city centre.