by Bev Haigh-Jones
Our first personal Brexit story relates to Peter, a UK citizen now aged 54, who has spent his life involved with yachting and sailing. Having obtained a prestigious Royal Yacht Association qualification as an instructor, Peter has lived and worked in Spain since he was 21, teaching sailing, but that has now come to an end, thanks to Brexit!
Peter’s RYA qualification is no longer recognised in the EU, meaning that the business that he has built up over 22 years is no more. Things were bad as a result of the Covid pandemic, but our exit from the EU has been the final nail in the coffin. Peter has official residency in Spain, but not citizenship, as this would require relinquishing his British nationality. He could apply for a Spanish qualification, but this would take 18 months and would cost around 6,000 Euros. The business that he intended to eventually sell as a going concern to fund his retirement is now worthless, apart from the sale value of the boats themselves. In fact, Peter’s only income at present is the Covid relief being provided by the Spanish Government.
How can this be an acceptable consequence of Brexit? Peter cannot be the only person affected by this change, there must be hundreds, if not thousands of people in similar positions, about to lose their lifestyle and livelihood, through no fault of their own, many of them deprived of even the right to vote on this life-changing issue.
Our second Brexit story concerns Brigitte, who has lived in the UK since arriving as a Swiss au pair in the sixties. She fell in love with the UK, met and married a Brit, took British citizenship in 1973 and lives in Cornwall. She was shocked and dismayed by the result of the EU referendum and, despite being a British citizen for nearly 50 years, no longer feels that she is welcome in the country that is her home. Brigitte is Peter’s mother. Two generations of the same family adversely affected by Brexit.
We often talk of the problems faced by EU citizens, many of whom have lived in the UK for a considerable time, who now find that they will no longer be legal residents unless they successfully apply for settled, or pre-settled status. The truth of the matter is, that the issues created by Brexit affect us all, UK and EU citizens alike, in ways that are unknown to most of us. However, they should not have been unknown to the government that drove us headlong into the disaster that we are now experiencing. Their duty was to act for the benefit of all, but a situation farther from that reality would be hard to imagine.
On a much lighter note, Brexit effects are also being experienced closer to home. On a recent visit to a Post Office, I found myself sixth in the queue. People ahead of me were sighing and grumbling about the already extended waiting time and, fifteen minutes later, the queue had grown to fill the shop and numbered around twelve. The reason for the delay? The unfortunate person at the head of the queue was attempting to send a small package to Bulgaria! Not only was the sender unfamiliar with the required processes and forms of post-Brexit, but so was the counter assistant. In fact, she had to make at least two phone calls to clarify certain aspects with a colleague.
My progress to the front of the queue took twenty-five minutes. If one considers that this scenario could be occurring across the UK, it is perhaps just as well that many people are currently furloughed, with plenty of time on their hands.