British-based Spaniards say ‘anti-immigration rhetoric’ behind ‘Leave’ campaign was ‘very scary’

busSpaniards in the UK with financial commitments in their country of origin said their spending power ‘dropped overnight’ after what they called a ‘shock result’ of the EU referendum.

And many of them interpret the Brexit win as a ‘victory for the far right’, which they find ‘frightening’.

Night nurse in a Cheltenham nursing home Fernando Moreno, 28, originally from Cádiz, said: “We don’t know what is going to happen to us; whether we’ll need work permits, or what.”

He added that the ‘anti-immigration rhetoric’ had dominated the referendum campaign.

“When you see the far right celebrating their triumph, it’s a bit scary.

“The main argument behind the ‘Leave’ campaign has been immigration, refugees…we’ve spent the last month or two listening to news about how we’re pinching jobs from the Brits. There are a lot of immigrants in every company, but when you see that 17 million people have voted to leave the EU and the main argument is because they’re against immigration, you ask yourself, ‘what am I doing here’?”

According to Diego Pinilla, who has lived in London for three-and-a-half years, all his British friends told him they were going to vote to remain in the EU and ‘now they’re really angry’.

The law graduate, originally from Colombia but now with a Spanish passport after spending 10 years living in Madrid, works in the restaurant sector in the UK capital.

He says many of his Spanish friends are ‘considering going home’.

“They don’t want to have to go through immigration regulation procedures and have to apply for residence and work permits,” he admits.

“If the UK doesn’t want Europe, I don’t want to be here. I’m European,” he adds.

“But for the moment I’m going to wait and see how things work out.”

Industrial engineer in Tewkesbury, 24-year-old Isidro Barroso, says he is ‘not too worried’, but is following developments with intrigue.

“Evidently, some things will change, but I guess that if we stay here and we have a job contract, they’ll give us some kind of work permit to legalise our situation in the future once these changes come into play,” the Málaga-born youngster considers.

Isidro says his foreign friends in the UK – ‘not just Spaniards, but also French, Italian, Portuguese and Czech nationals’ – had ‘high hopes’ of a Remain vote prospering.

“The Brexit will certainly make life more complicated for people who want to go and live in the UK, but I hope it doesn’t harm anyone – neither the Brits themselves, nor the three million or so EU citizens who live in Britain,” he concludes.

Acting president Mariano Rajoy has assured Spaniards in the UK that their situation ‘has not changed’ and ‘will not do so until negotiations are finalised’.

Once the UK government invokes Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty – the clause on how to leave the EU, and which has never yet been resorted to – Britain has two years to ‘quit’.

If it has not completed its negotiations by that time and has not requested and extension, or this has not been agreed, the EU will terminate its membership and all EU treaties will cease to apply.

An extension to the time limit, and any new deals to be signed, must be agreed by at least 20 member States whose populations represent 65% of all residents within the Union.

Published Think Spain 27 June 2016

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