surinenglish

A love affair stronger than Brexit

Just over six months ago, a lot of us in Spain thought that we were in a bad dream, that something surreal was happening but that we would soon wake up and discover with relief that the UK didn't vote for Brexit after all. Then for a while perhaps we kidded ourselves that the country would see sense and everything would go back to normal.

But no, Brexit is real and one step closer this week after the Commons vote. It's going to happen, and a lot of people are happy about it.

Now Brits in Spain, and EU citizens in Britain, are waiting to see the outcome of talks that could change nothing, or could alter their circumstances considerably. "We'll have to see," said the British ambassador in Marbella last week, almost as if we were children impatient to know whether or not we'll still be allowed to go to the party.

What Simon Manley is right about is the extraordinary relationship between our two countries. Spain has always attracted the British, with an invisible pull, luring us in, getting under our skin, bits of it clinging to those who have to leave, forcing them to come back. This pull can come in a variety of forms: sun, sea and cheap booze are enough to get many hooked, while others, from Gerald Brenan to writers and artists of today, have found something intangible that fuels their creativity. Some are lured by the 'duende' of flamenco, others feel the need to immerse themselves in the "real" Spain, heading for the remotest of villages (inevitably only to find that another Brit got there before them) and even British fugitives still think this is a good place to hide from the law.

Now though, it's another group of Brits that the local authorities are hoping will fall for the pull of southern Spain, for a different reason altogether: to do business. Instead of leaving work at home when rushing to the sunshine, business leaders learned at the SUR event in London this week that they can bring it with them.

Add incentives, lower costs, technology and talent to the rest of the attractions and the cocktail may have been enough to ensure that some stepped out into a cold February night on Wednesday with a bit of Spain under their skin.

Brexit might complicate life for British residents in Spain, we don't know, but it is not going to mess with the love affair Britain and the British have been having with Spain for decades.