I should be the most ardent remainer. I have lived in Spain since 2003. I worked for the European Commission on social welfare projects from 1992 until 2001. My mother was bilingual French /English and spent a lot of time in France. I love European culture and the people, but I do not love what the European Union has become.
My doubts set in in 2008 when the EC forced José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, the Spanish president at the time, to institute the most terrible austerity measures in Spain, undoing much of the social advances his socialist government had introduced and losing him the next election. The result was the right wing PP government of Rajoy and the running down of public services, as in the UK during the last Tory governments.
I am a Spanish resident, which as a pensioner I found it easy to achieve. I am part of the Spanish health service, I have a Spanish driving licence which enables me to drive my car in every EU country and an EHIC health card which means I can travel in all EU countries and access the public health service there.
My small town is keen to keep its British citizens and our Mayor has organised half a dozen meetings in the last four years with the UK consulate. The British Ambasador in Madrid has visited, to reassure us that everything will be okay.
A recent article in a local paper said ‘More than 100,000 British citizens reside in the Valencian Community, mostly on the Alicante coast. A population that has enjoyed rights that can now be seriously altered after the Brexit agreement that comes into force on January 1. A situation that worries the Generalitat Valenciana, as President Ximo Puig has recognized today.’
Everything possible will be done to ensure that life continues as much as possible as before for we Brits in Spain. Will the same hold true for the Spanish living and working in the UK? I rather doubt it.
One thing that both the COVID pandemic and the calamity that is Brexit have taught me is how privileged I am. However depressed, worried, frightened even I become my troubles pale into insignificance when I am confronted by the plight of the poorest and most disadvantaged in every country.
Everywhere I look I see neoliberalism giving an advantage to the better off. I see how the European Union could be so different but it isn’t and probably it will not be in my lifetime because the left cannot organise to defeat neoliberalism in one country , let alone in 28.
Nina Davies, Labour International CLP