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There was heated debate at the open meeting organised by the Conservatives Abroad to discuss whether the UK should leave the EU
15.04.16 - 11:42 -
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Conservatives on the Costa del Sol divided over EU vote
More than 150 people attended the EU referendum meeting. :: R. H.
Anyone who went to the Conservatives Abroad (CA) meeting on the EU referendum on Wednesday expecting to find answers, would have left disappointed. No one was going to be able to tell them how a possible separation of the UK from the EU would affect them as residents in Spain. In fact, the one thing no one could argue with was that the consequences of a Brexit are “as uncertain as the weather”, as one of the speakers Ann Fernández pointed out.
However what the meeting was able to confirm was that Conservatives on the Costa del Sol are almost as divided on the Brexit issue as their fellow party supporters are back in the UK - and that there is a great deal of interest in the subject.
More than 150 people crammed into the meeting room at the Tamisa Golf Hotel to hear speakers giving their views on both sides of the debate. They were introduced by Heather Harper, the overall chairman of CA, who had come especially from London for the meeting, and Costa del Sol branch chairman, Christine Rowlands, both of whom urged those eligible to register and vote in the referendum which is just ten weeks away.
Gloria Ketchell, life president and founder of Conservatives Abroad on the Costa del Sol, and Ann Fernández spoke in favour of the UK remaining in the EU. “Better the devil you know,” said Ketchell, stating that Britain could not just “raise its drawbridge” after years of forging links with the continent.
Fernández listed all the factors in the everyday lives of expats in Spain that could be affected by a Brexit, from medical services to driving licences, pensions and inheritance tax, education and recognition of qualifications, mortgages, arrest warrants and even the Gibraltar border.
She recalled the “bureaucratic hoops” that non-EU residents have to jump through when living in Spain, stressing the risk of the unknown, especially now that Brits are returning to Spain to buy property.
“Better out”
“Scaremongering” was a word used by Brexit supporter Gary Benham in response to some of the concerns expressed recently by ‘stay’ supporters, including the recent warnings from the International Monetary Fund and the airline Easyjet.
With regards to fears of a negative effect on free movement of trade, Benham pointed out, “We [Britain] buy more from them than them from us,” so, he said, the EU is unlikely to interfere with the arrangement.
He criticised open border policies, stating that the UK needs to be able to set its own limits for the number of displaced persons entering the country.
“I want a country that can control its own destiny and make its own decisions,” he said.
The fourth speaker, David Stanley, also offered views in favour of a Brexit. No one could argue with the initial motives behind joining a common market, to encourage trade and prevent another European war. However, since then, he said, these common concerns had “drowned in a sea of politics”.
Stanley spoke from the point of view of business owners, especially small businesses, which, he claimed, benefit little from the EU.
What fills Europhiles with dread, he said, is a “fear that others will follow” the UK if it leaves.
When the president asked for questions from the floor, a few members of the audience were eager to deliver their own speeches, rather than ask questions. Time had to be limited, objections were made and order was called.
The meeting proved that the issue of the UK’s EU referendum is close to the hearts of many British residents in Spain, but also that voters are being asked to make an important decision based on what both sides say “could” happen.