OPINION: Whether leave or remain it’s time to accept the bureaucracy in Spain

With a "no deal" Brexit looking more and more likely, Sue Wilson of Bremain in Spain, reflects that those best prepared to face it are the ones who least wanted it.

OPINION: Whether leave or remain it's time to accept the bureaucracy in Spain

Well, here we are, just three weeks from the end of the Brexit transition period, and still none the wiser about what the future will hold. Despite Boris Johnson’s dinner date in Brussels on Wednesday, we are no closer to knowing whether it’s deal or no deal. Where’s Noel Edmonds when you need him?

Boris Johnson is welcomed by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in Brussels on Wednesday. Photo: AFP


British citizens and businesses are finally waking up to some truths about Brexit. While many unknowns remain, dependent on whether there’s a deal, we are aware of many of the realities. Life outside the single market and customs union, with or without tariffs or quotas, has taken away our freedom of movement and will cause significant economic harm.

As we grapple with the necessary paperwork required to make ourselves legal and secure in Spain, some are dealing with the new landscape better than others.

For those who still have a vote, our viewpoint re the Brexit referendum is relevant to our post-Brexit position. It has been suggested that Remain voters are better prepared and adjusted for the transition process. Not that I’m suggesting it’s about the skills we possess. Rather, it concerns our perceptions of what Brexit entails.

If you voted leave in 2016, for whatever reason, you possibly believed that your life in Spain would not change significantly. After all, that’s what the Leave campaign said – especially Michael Gove. Regardless of whether Leave voters have changed those Brexit expectations, there’s no doubt they better understand what will change and what they must do.

For the people who insist that Brexit is the best thing since sliced bread, the villain is the EU, and their rules are unfair. How dare those pesky foreign bureaucrats make them apply for a new driving licence or register with the local authorities! They forget that the UK helped write EU rules and knows what they are, even if they act like they don’t.

A mountain of paperwork can be daunting, even for those who are familiar with the processes. While some paperwork is new and Brexit-related, much of it has always been the legal requirement here in Spain. The difference is that people can no longer turn a blind eye to the requirements.

Leave voters are entitled to be angry about the impact of Brexit on their lives – deal or no deal – but they are not alone. Remainers are also angry and have been since 2016. For five years, we’ve known what to expect from Brexit. We were accused of ‘project fear’, pessimism and talking down the country.

We never dreamt the UK would be crazy enough to go for it hook, line and sinker. When proved wrong, we thought that no British government would embark on life outside the EU single market.

We didn’t choose the future that is facing us, but we have prepared ourselves for what’s coming. Unlike the British government, apparently.

At this 11th hour of the negotiations, Johnson is still ranting about ‘sovereignty’ and being an independent country. These notions seem old-fashioned and incongruous in a modern, global world.

File photo taken on April 15, 2016 of Boris Johnson during a rally for the pro-Brexit “Vote Leave” campaign. Photo: AFP


Commentators across the UK – from the Bank of England to industry and business, and the government itself – have outlined the scale of economic damage. Think of Covid damage, only much worse and longer lasting, even if a deal is agreed by the new deadline of Sunday.

Any Brexit deal will be bad for the UK, for years to come. No deal would be even worse. If Johnson fails to compromise in the next 72 hours, the no deal scenario will be on his head. It won’t be down to poor negotiation skills, or an intransigent EU – it will be a choice. Johnson’s choice.

If he takes that path, I hope he will enjoy being king of a small castle, cast aside by the major players in the modern world. When thousands of people lose their jobs, businesses close their doors, and British citizens go hungry, Johnson’s optimistic clichés won’t outlast his time in power.

I trust he will find sovereignty as tasty as the rotting fish that the UK will be unable to sell.

By Sue Wilson – Chair of Bremain in Spain


Member comments

  1. You are right Sue. Thanks for your help with the bureaucracy from those of us who’ve just (hopefully) jumped the hoops in the last minute!

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BREXIT: Spain and EU suggest removing Gibraltar border

Madrid and Brussels have approached the British government with a proposal for removing the border fence between Spain and Gibraltar in order to ease freedom of movement, Spain's top diplomat said Friday.

BREXIT: Spain and EU suggest removing Gibraltar border

“The text presented to the United Kingdom is a comprehensive proposal that includes provisions on mobility with the aim of removing the border fence and guaranteeing freedom of movement,” Foreign Minister José Manuel Albares said, according to a ministry statement.

Such a move would make Spain, as representative of Europe’s passport-free Schengen zone, “responsible for controlling Gibraltar’s external borders”, it said.

The Schengen Area allows people to move freely across the internal borders of 26 member states, four of which are not part of the EU.

There was no immediate response from London.

A tiny British enclave at Spain’s southern tip, Gibraltar’s economy provides a lifeline for some 15,000 people who cross in and out to work every day.

Most are Spanish and live in the impoverished neighbouring city of La Línea.

Although Brexit threw Gibraltar’s future into question, raising fears it would create a new “hard border” with the EU, negotiators reached a landmark deal for it to benefit from the rules of the Schengen zone just hours before Britain’s departure on January 1, 2021.

Details of the agreement have yet to be settled.

With a land area of just 6.8 square kilometres (2.6 square miles), Gibraltar is entirely dependent on imports to supply its 34,000 residents and the deal was crucial to avoid slowing cross-border goods trade with new customs procedures.

Albares said the proposal would mean Madrid “taking on a monitoring and protection role on behalf of the EU with regards to the internal market with the removal of the customs border control” between Spain and Gibraltar.

The deal would “guarantee the free movement of goods between the EU and Gibraltar” while guaranteeing respect for fair competition, meaning businesses in the enclave would “compete under similar conditions to those of other EU operators, notably those in the surrounding area”.

Although Spain ceded Gibraltar to Britain in 1713, Madrid has long wanted it back in a thorny dispute that has for decades involved pressure on the frontier.

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