Blogs in this series

Life in Culebrón is a disconnected series of pieces about the banal and ordinary of everyday life in an inland Alicante village seen from my very British perspective.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Toodle Pip

I got up early this morning to check the result and, rather as I'd feared, the UK had voted to leave the Union. I wasn't in the least surprised but I was shocked.

To me, on a day to day basis, at the moment it means very little. My only real concern is about the exchange rate. I get a pension paid in sterling. As the pound loses ground against the euro I get fewer euros to spend for the same number of pounds. Of course, when the two years and three months are up, then I suppose I'll have to relearn Fahrenheit and furlongs but at least I will be able to recover my blue passport, rest assured that a cucumber is a vegetable and eat curved bananas till the cows come home.

The concerns of  expats of my age are mainly around health care and pensions. Reciprocal arrangements within the EU mean that pensioners get free medical care in Spain and there is no problem with the UK state pension being paid here with all its rights intact. In all likelihood something reasonable will be hammered out between the UK and Spain over the next couple of years and those of us who have been out of the UK for a while will find we have some sort "grandparent" rights. 

Of course there is nothing to stop the UK Government going the other way and denying we expats all sorts of things that are currently considered as rights. The Spaniards might also be mean to us when we no longer have citizenship. We already lose the right to vote in the UK if we stay away too long so why not take away other benefits? "You've been out of the UK for 10 years? No healthcare for you then my lad - and as for benefits". In 1981 dear old Maggie changed the status of lots of people who had always considered themselves British. There's no reason at all why somebody, in the future, should not do the same to the likes of me. And the Spaniards used to tax Britons more than nationals when, for instance, we sold a house. In a couple of years that could well be back on the books.

If you start to think about the number of things that have a European tinge to them, from the CE safety mark and Erasmus students through set aside for farmers and low priced mobile phone roaming or maybe the blue channels at your holiday destination then, I don't envy the poor sods who have to try to piece it all back together over the next twenty seven months.

It's strange that on the day that expat healthcare in the EU is in doubt  I went to a hospital to visit a British friend. He's had a heart incident. He is in the new hospital down in Elche. I've seen the inside of lots of Spanish hospitals for one reason or another, but it's the first time I've been on the wards. In fact it wasn't a ward, it was a private room with telly and internet (though that cost 4€ per day). In the hour or two we were there two doctors came in to see the patient and both of them spoke English. We had one cleaner and two nursing auxiliary types also pop in to do this or that and all but the cleaner spoke to us in English too. The story of the treatment sounded quick and professional. All in all I suspect that our friend is in safe and professional hands. I should mention that the hospital expects that our friend has somebody at his bedside to deal with those little things all the time. If he needs a crash cart that's the hospital's job but if he needs his pillows fluffing or help getting his slippers on then that's a job for the patient's friends or family. I wonder if the hospital will still be there for me in two years and three months when I have a heart incident?

Oh, and one last thing. If you voted to leave the EU because you had concerns about its structures or funding then fine - I don't agree with you but a reasoned argument is a reasoned argument. On the other hand, if, as I suspect, you voted to leave the EU because of immigration, floods of people coming to take our jobs, classrooms full of children who can't speak English and a terrible strain on the NHS from foreigners then I think you're xenophobic at the least and probably a raging racist bigot.

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