My name is Chris Marshall and I am a Remainer. I know that is a brave statement to make in a county where around 58% voted Leave, but if you will indulge me I will (briefly) explain.
Four (4) months ago my wife Sandra and I moved back to Staffordshire from Spain, where we had been based for fifteen (15) years, so I suspect it is no surprise really that as we were living in Spain at the time of the Referendum I was a Remainer.
Discussing this at the time with Spanish friends they assumed that my reasoning was because of the freedom of movement for individuals, the seamless paperwork and processes for our pet transport business (www.alstrays.com), the global issues such as terrorism, climate change, poverty and animal welfare facing countries best addressed together rather than individually, and the acceptance that whilst the EU was far from perfect and had become far too powerful, it was far from broken and as the old saying goes …. if it aint broke don’t fix it. Besides Cameron had tried to negotiate a better deal for the UK within the EU so they were bemused that anybody would think a better deal could be negotiated from the outside.
All valid points, but not the overriding reason for my view point.
I would have liked to have the confidence to vote Leave: the confidence that we had world class products and services, desired the world over; the confidence that we had leaders with the gravitas and experience to negotiate our departure and the new era trade agreements to generate jobs, wealth and pride in our country; the confidence that we clearly understood the strengths and weaknesses of remaining, the opportunities and threats of leaving.
Only time will tell if I was correct but a relay team that has seen the baton passed from Cameron, to May, to Johnson is going to need a superhuman finisher to even get us to the finish line, never mind over it.
Which brings me to the point of this article, and back to my bemused Spanish friends, who I caught up with recently.
To say they were bemused is being polite, but in addition to their incredulity, the other noticeable emotion they expressed was one of sadness.
I would like to report that this was sadness at the thought of the UK leaving the EU, but in reality they along with the majority of German, French, Portuguese, Dutch and Belgium clients and friends I have talked to over the last three (3) years just think we are extremely naive and making a mistake. There is no real sense of loss, or that their lives will be adversely effected, which is somewhat surprising when you consider how many under 25’s from across the EU have come to the UK for work since the crisis of 2008, as the common view is that the remaining 27 EU countries will share the burden and opportunity created by the UK’s departure.
Without question there is a high degree or arrogance amongst them that we need them more than they need us, and when questioned on this they simply refer to the way the negotiations have been handled by both sides, and that in terms of modern history no single country has succeeded on their own. To be honest I felt on unstable ground here, not least because I recently watched an excellent movie called Hurricane, based around the Polish RAF Squadron 303, one of the most successful and decorated of all Squadrons, yet at the end of the war a survey of UK citizens saw over 50% saying the Polish fighters should be sent back to Poland and all the hardship, death and uncertainty that faced them. It seems ‘our’ attitude to immigrants has changed little, and as for the people claiming during the referendum campaign that we won the war on our own so why did we need Europe ……..
Their sadness was based around the fact that we voted for something not clearly defined – and while I will agree the majority of people I talk to who voted Leave did so happy with the thought of a No Deal a significant number did so in the belief that they had been promised a deal and whilst this divide exists it is surely impossible to claim a unanimous 51.89% accept ‘Leave means Leave’.
Lovers of a good debate they are sad that the Brits they talk to (tourists and residential tourists) struggle to explain to them the benefits of Leaving, what it entails, and how life will be better. To be honest they are somewhat scornful of the lack of political awareness ‘we Brits’ have when it comes to our countries politics – past and present.
Buy way of a tip I suggest you avoid engaging a Spaniard in a debate about Independence. Catalonia is the best known, but the Basque region and Galicia will draw equally strong debate and views, as will the debate regards Madrid or Barcelona being the capital of Spain. If you do get sucked into one of these debates prepare to be impressed by the depth of passion and knowledge, and the overwhelming feeling that they really care about these issues.
I have to be honest that this general level of passion and knowledge is not something I have encountered to the same degree here in England. Anger, yes. There seems more anger about Brexit, or more accurately the lack of, than anything else, but as a generalisation the question Why tends to elicit the response Because.
To close I will leave you with an example of the different approach to being in the EU, which demonstrates their perception of our naivety and why they don’t have the issues we have about the strength of the EU: currently if you buy a car in the EU and want to import it – so a UK car into Spain, or a Spanish car into UK, the law (simply) states that as you have already paid the VAT in the original EU country you do not need to pay the VAT in the EU country you are importing into. In the UK when you do this you complete a HMRC form and get confirmation before proceeding with the import via DVLA. In Spain, they charge you 20% of the original value of the vehicle! Each year the EU fines Spain for doing this and each year Spain happily pays because the fine is less than the revenue they receive. Spain wins, the EU wins the consumer loses.
Attend the meetings, agree the way forward, go back and do your own thing. Works for Spain and other countries so maybe we just needed to stay in the EU and learn to play the game better?