Monday, 2 October 2023, 10:49
The UK’s referendum on leaving the EU in June 2016 may feel like a long time ago. However, the work of Bremain in Spain, the organisation that was set up by British residents living in Spain and concerned about the future of their approximately 300,000 fellow Britons in the country, continues.
The pro-European lobby group, which has been chaired by Sue Wilson MBE since its creation in the immediate aftermath of the referendum to defend the rights of Britons in Spain, has been busy on the campaign trail this month, with Sue being invited to speak at the inauguration ceremony of Our Star - an event hosted by German MEP Terry Reintke in the European Parliament.
Sue explained that Our Star “is the creation of German sculptor Jacques Tilly, who is behind a number of anti-Brexit works that have made regular appearances at anti-Brexit marches in London”, including the most recent one that took place on Saturday 23 September.
The idea of Our Star was adopted by the rejoin campaign after the referendum result inspired by an image showing one of the 12 gold stars of the EU flag falling out of the circle, representing the UK’s departure. While the stars actually symbolise union - twelve being the symbol of perfection and completeness and bringing to mind the apostles, the sons of Jacob, the labours of Hercules and the months in the year - and not the number of countries in the EU at the time the flag was adopted, anti-Brexiters have used the symbolism to call for the EU to “look after our star” in the hope that one day the country will rejoin.
Sue said that the UK’s Star of European Peace “is a two-metre-tall talisman representing peace and unity being exhibited and inaugurated in the European Parliament". She went on to say that Reintke, who is outspoken on her anti-Brexit views, “promised yet again to look after ‘our star’ on the flag of nations until we are ready to claim it back”.
Sue went on to say, “In her usual passionate, anti-Brexit voice, she spoke of changing public opinion in the UK, and how our MEPs - not all of them, obviously - are missed in Europe.” She added, “She reassured us, yet again, that the door is still open and that the EU are keeping the lights on for our return.”
“As I walked the corridors of the European Parliament, listening to a multitude of European languages being spoken, I keenly felt the loss of my EU citizenship, and all the rights, benefits and opportunities that go along with it,” Sue said.
The Bremain 2023 AGM took place in London with a round-up of the work that the lobby group has been involved in over the past 12 months. The work to ensure that Britons in Spain still have a voice continues and in March and June this year Sue Wilson attended meetings with the UK’s Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) to discuss restoring voting rights to UK citizens who have lived abroad for over 15 years (known as the 15-year rule) with a view to discussing the next steps, the registration process, and to establish the timescales.
In May 2023 Bremain attended a meeting with the European Commission's Specialised Committee on Citizens' Rights. Bremain said, “They were helpful, listened to the problems British citizens in Europe faced, and were keen to work with civic groups like Bremain. We envisage an ongoing relationship.”
Grassroots campaigns are ongoing across Europe and in the UK and Bremain has been involved in a number of these. The most recent and largest gathering was the National Rejoin march which took place in London on Saturday 23 September and a police source told organisers that the numbers were in excess of 20,000 at the rally.
Bremain council member and La Herradura (Granada province) resident, John Moffett, who attended the event, said, “It was wonderful to march through London once again with fellow Rejoiners and Europeans. The passion hasn’t waned one bit and it was inspiring to hear the speeches and know that the tide is turning. People are starting to wake up to the reality of Brexit and truly feeling the loss of the freedoms they had.”
Valerie Chaplin who is also a member of the National Rejoin March committee and lives in La Rábita (Granada province), said, “It was wonderful to see old friends and meet with new people who are passionate about rejoining the EU. Brexit has impacted on all our lives adversely with our EU citizenship stripped from us, the right of Freedom of Movement, study under Erasmus, work in an EU country and the loss to the EU of many swallows who used to come for the winter, now they are restricted to 90 in 180 days.”
She went on to say that it is “the same the other way". "Some of our younger Spanish friends used to work or study in the UK, but can't anymore because of the prohibitive cost, and the same goes for others who were lorry drivers, the costs and the paperwork are prohibitive, they also are not made to feel welcome in UK.”
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