We were sad to leave Arthur’s lovely home in Southern Hungary. If you are wondering how we met him, it was through my Spanish pro-EU contacts. Debbie Williams, who is the Chair of “Brexpats, Hear Our Voice” introduced us to Arthur online. Debbie works closely with Sue Wilson, Chair of Bremain in Spain. This is the group which invited me to join their Council as Secretary.
After leaving Hungary our next stay was with Alison and Billy, also members of Debbie’s group. They have a lovely, rural property high in the mountains of Slovenia, where we found that the GPS is not always reliable.They are the guardians of their two granddaughters who have adapted easily to the language and to school life in their chosen part of the EU. Magdalena will write more about our discussions with Alison and Billy.
Exercising freedom of movement
As I exercise my acquired right of freedom, passing easily through Slovenia, Italy and France to Spain, I am gaining an understanding of current views of British migrants and the local people we meet on the way. We are all the product of centuries of different groups of people migrating for a host of varied reasons. Some have enriched developing societies. Others have produced the misery we see in refugee camps. This has given rise to attempts to close national borders to any new immigrants.
How the hell did we get in this situation? Is it time to reflect on the core issues that result in migrations, to bring some historical perspective and enlightenment to the debate?
Immigration and the EU
Immigration is a critical issue for both the EU and the UK. But the human race has been migrating for thousands of years and will always do so. Migration causes range from people’s free will to move and settle in a new location to improve their quality of life, to forced migration to escape natural disasters, religious or political persecution and, historically, to colonise new territory.
The EU is struggling to control its external borders and internal movement of immigrants who penetrate them. Creeping political shifts to the right and efforts to exercise political control over the judiciaries in Hungary, Poland and the UK are self-defeating. Polish efforts to return migrants repeatedly to Belarus risk EU sanctions or worse. The UK is forced to reverse its immigration policy, temporarily, to solve the shortage of truck drivers and land workers.
Not just pensioners after a cheaper home and more sunshine
When we get to the Italian border we meet a Hungarian couple travelling to Torrevieja. Their intention is to rent a property prior to permanently moving to Spain. Later, we meet a Belgian couple, one of thousands of Northern Europeans who spend their winters in camper vans in Southern Europe. There is a view that most of us who have chosen to settle in other EU countries are retirees seeking a cheaper home, a warm climate and days on the beach or golf course.
However, individual and family choices to cross borders for work and pleasure foster greater understanding and cooperation between nations. Our freedom of movement across the 27 EU nations and the UK was a major incentive to settle abroad and is a sad loss, not just for us but also for our children and grandchildren left in the UK.
Then in France, I have a conversation with someone who is gathering support to bring a case to the European Court of Justice that Article 20 of the Treaty of Rome has no provision to remove the rights of UK citizens also to hold EU citizenship. He concedes, however, that such a case may take years to achieve success. Do those of us affected by it have the patience to wait for that long? What about the opportunities lost by generations in the meantime?
A week in politics is a long time
In Hungary, a professor of mathematics told us that a coalition of left and right political parties will be required to defeat Orbán in next year’s election.
Donald Tusk, with his experience as President of the European Council, is returning to Polish politics.
In France, the competition between Le Pen’s right and Macron’s centre left parties is being disrupted by the sudden rise in the opinion polls of Eric Zemmour, another far right figure, while Le Pen’s popularity falls. Marine Le Pen is to visit Orbán.
Is the focus on France’s 2022 election going to focus more on immigration and law and order? Will the EU react to a potential threat to its core values and principles to protect democracy and peace between nations?
In the UK the reality of Brexit, compared to the promises and expectations raised, must surely become apparent to move public opinion against the deception of the Johnson government. Are empty shelves, petrol shortages and sewage in our waters not enough triggers?
Working across borders
As we cross the French border into Spain, I feel I am coming home. Our first stop, however, is with Debbie Williams and her daughter Molly in Alcossebre, North of Valencia.
My conviction that pro-EU groups, not only in Spain but across the borders of all EU nations, have more reason to work together now than before Brexit, is growing stronger.
Sue Wilson pays us a visit while we are there. Magdalena has contact with Julie Hall of Remain in France Together (RIFT) who is focusing on working across borders. Freedom of Movement is one example of an issue which affects all British residents across the EU and the UK.
Like many, I have a personal interest: a grandson who since University has been working for the Kent Police. They wish to find him a placement in the EU to gain experience and build links. Will he have this opportunity if a pragmatic way of retaining some aspects of the single market and customs union cannot be found for the mutual benefit of all?
(No) future for Europe without the UK
The EU is due to hold its Final Conference on the Future of Europe in the first half of 2022. How sad is it that the UK government, despite becoming integrated within EU institutions for four decades, is not contributing to the debate? Thankfully, several UK-based pro-EU groups and we, British citizens resident in the EU, have taken up the offer to have a say at vital meetings and present our submissions.
It is a unique opportunity to make our voices heard