The start of a new year is a time for reflection. It’s a time to look backwards, consider what is a good riddance and what we’ll miss. More specifically, it’s a time to look forward, to wonder what the future might hold and approach tomorrow with a clean slate and fresh hope.
The fact that we’re leaving the EU in less than a month is obviously a huge – and, for me, an extremely sad – factor this new year. Despite all our efforts, and three successful delays, Brexit is happening. However, I refuse to let Brexit steal my hope for a better, brighter future. Thankfully, that future will be here in Spain.
The result of the UK general election in December made many of us feel like completely turning our backs on the UK. For some people, it was the final impetus to start applying for Spanish citizenship. For Brits in the UK dreaming of a Spanish retirement, it was the stimulus to fast-track their emigration plans.
The election, and Brexit itself, have made Brits in Spain value our lives here more than ever. Although many of us loathe Brexit, its implementation has, at least, brought some element of certainty. After over three and a half years of living in limbo, we now have more idea about the future. With the Withdrawal Agreement preserving some – if not all – of our valued EU citizenship rights, there’s at least some assurance of a certain level of protection.
With each new year, I become more appreciative of my adopted country. The list of Spain’s attractions is long and needs no explanation. I don’t remember when I first knew that Spain would be my forever home, but I certainly know that now.
Spain has changed me in many ways, yet at this time of year, I’m especially aware of how British I am. No matter how long I live in Spain, I won’t want to sacrifice my turkey dinner on Christmas Day.
The Spanish may like Brussels sprouts, with their proudly European name, but they seriously underestimate the value of parsnips!
However, despite having a Scottish husband, I would gladly swap ‘Auld Lang Syne’ for a glass of cava and a dozen grapes!
As I consider the pros and cons of becoming a Spanish citizen, I’m acutely aware that my six decades as a British citizen are ingrained in my nature. Hard as I might try, I’ll always retain the British characteristics that made me who I am today. It’s been some time since I was proud of Britain, but I still value many aspects of the British character that formed my upbringing.
Brexit has changed the way that Brits look at themselves, and others. It has shaped my life 24/7 since June 2016 and will, no doubt, do the same in 2020. While I can no longer hope to stop Brexit, there’s still a lot to hope and fight for.
We’re leaving the EU at the end of January, but that’s just the start. If we thought that the negotiations over the Withdrawal Agreement were tough, we haven’t seen anything yet. The discussions over the future relationship have yet to begin and will take years, despite the prime minister’s insistence that a trade deal can be negotiated by the end of 2020.
As we look to the future and pledge to eat more healthily, exercise more, be kinder to others or save the planet, many people will be thankful that we are getting Brexit done. Even those who never wanted Brexit will be glad of some resolution. The prime minister would like to remove the word Brexit entirely from the conversation. I will make this pledge now – while the final relationship with the EU is undetermined, Brexit will still be in my dictionary. While there’s still a threat of no deal at the end of 2020, Brexit is not done, and cannot be ignored.
I’ve started the New Year as I mean to go on by taking a long walk around my beautiful Spanish village. As I count calories over the coming weeks, I’ll also be counting the cost of Brexit, and holding those responsible to account.
So, let’s start this new year full of hope. We may not be where we hoped but we can mitigate the damage and create the best possible future. Brexit may have stolen Britain from many of us, but it’s not going to steal Spain. If I had to give up one or the other, Spain would win hands down.
By Sue Wilson – Chair of Bremain in Spain