By Bev Haigh-Jones

We are hoping that this will be a regular feature of our newsletter, highlighting the problems suffered by so many people as a result of Brexit. If you have a relevant story to tell we would love to hear from you.

This month we focus on Martin and Linda. They are Cornish residents who are strongly pro-European with children and grandchildren who benefited from the Erasmus scheme, and appreciate the value of what we have lost.

In earlier years, Martin and Linda bought an old boat, which they renovated themselves and used for many a happy holiday travelling around Europe. From the boat, they progressed to a caravan, another renovation project and more European travelling. However, 17 years ago, they went a step further by buying a small cottage in Brittany for around 20,000 euros and proceeded to renovate that. This allowed them to continue to take low-cost holidays in the area that they love. Much love and hard work went into the French cottage and the couple divided their time between there and their home in Cornwall. They developed many local friendships and felt a part of the community, in what became their home for nearly 50% of each year.

Martin and Linda are enthusiastic gardeners, and once the cottage was complete, they fell into a routine. They would spend the winter and early spring in Cornwall, cultivating vegetable plants for transportation to their garden in Brittany. These would be planted and grown on out there and, at the end of summer, when Martin and Linda returned to the UK, they would bring with them the fruits of their labour; potatoes, parsnips, beetroot, carrots, butternut squash and apples – but no longer!

Thanks to Brexit and the rules that now apply to the transportation of living plants, they can no longer take seedlings that they have grown themselves from the UK to France. To continue growing over there, plants would have to be purchased in France, resulting in far higher associated costs, and when they returned to the UK, most, if not all of their produce would have to be left behind.

Why? Because now, thanks to Brexit, they are limited to 90 days within each 180, meaning that they can’t stay for the entire spring and summer making growing for a season difficult, if not impossible. Instead of looking forward to their continued retirement enjoying the benefit of their previous hard work, Martin and Linda are now forced to reconsider their long terms plans.

This is yet another overlooked and sad consequence of the Brexit disaster. Martin and Linda had worked hard for their lifestyle and it has been ripped away from them. They are understandably, “angry and frustrated”, with justifiable cause. They are also angry on behalf of others who have been affected by this miscarriage of democracy. They have many friends in the performing arts who can no longer travel freely for their work, they know that many thousands of young people will no longer benefit from the marvellous Erasmus scheme, and they know that they have been sold down the river by this government, as we all have.

Our ‘lighter note’ this month is from Sean. He and his family were originally living in Nottingham, but moved to Bavaria in 1980 as a result of work. They were there for 20 years and, during that time returned to the UK three or four times a year for holidays. At that time, pre-tunnel days, it necessitated both train and ferry travel, resulting in transiting other countries such as France, or Belgium. This was before the introduction of the euro and Sean feels that their travels would have been a lot less confusing if that change had been made earlier and he would have been happy to see the UK do the same.

Sean and his family left Bavaria and returned to the UK to live and retire in Cornwall. Whilst working in Bavaria, Sean had developed a liking for Bavarian beers and found that they were not readily available in the UK. However, they were available via mail order, so he received regular deliveries of 24 bottles and even taking account of shipping costs, found that they still compared favourably with the standard beer prices in our supermarkets.

That, of course, was before Brexit! Now, Sean’s supplier will no longer deliver to the UK, citing additional paperwork and costs as their reason. There appears to be no prospect of this changing in the near future, either.

This is yet another example of how Brexit affects not just large business, but filters down to all of us in one way or another, as well as impacting on people in the EU. The Bavarian beer supplier has lost some of its market, plus Sean’s daughter, who still lives in Germany is unsure how she and her family’s future will be affected, as the situation has been distorted by the Covid pandemic. The uncertainty and damage are indeed widespread.