AS SPAIN'S north-eastern region of Catalunya seeks to break away from the mother country in the eyes of the world's media, the fact that a chunk of national territory has already 'left' Spanish soil this...
'Special treatment' for UK in Cameron's new deal annoys Spaniards
SPAIN'S reaction to UK prime minister David Cameron's 'new deal for Europe' has not been reported, although Spaniards and British expats alike have had far more to say than their acting government.
Cameron has admitted he has achieved a deal which allows 'special treatment' for the UK within the Union, which has alarmed some Spaniards who believe other countries may try to follow suit, leading to the purpose of the EU being undermined.
They are also affronted by the idea of Spaniards in Britain having to wait up to seven years to claim in-work benefits if they need them, when the same would not apply to Brits in Spain if Spain had a similar system.
British expats have mentioned little on social network fora about the contents of the deal, but are more concerned about the referendum itself and what will happen to them in the event of a 'leave' vote prospering.
The British government admits it has 'no Plan B' for what to do if it is forced to honour a 'leave' vote, and has merely said it would 'try to come to arrangements that protected British nationals as much as possible'.
But nothing is guaranteed, and anyone who has not been in the UK as a resident in the past 15 years cannot vote in the referendum – an estimated one in three Brits in the EU.
Campaigning to stay in the Union covers issues such as migration, and the excellent contribution to the UK that EU nationals working there make – 90% of them work or study, and only 2% are unemployed – and insisting that the pressure on the NHS is far outweighed by the taxes EU nationals pay into it.
An estimated 1.8 million 'foreigners' use the NHS, according to a BBC 2 think tank, of whom many are born to British parents serving abroad, or even include British expatriates returning to the UK to see their usual doctor and not mentioning that they no longer live there.
Also, most EU migrants are young, fit and working-age, the think tank adds.
National security is another major issue which the 'in' campaigners say could be seriously affected by a 'leave' vote – cooperation between police and Intelligence services in different EU member States is largely helped by the mere existence of the Union.
Spain's ambassador for the UK recently said the joint operations between Spain's police and Intelligence, with the help of Europol and other member State forces, has been helped by being part of the Union.
He said terrorist attacks have been stopped in the UK, drug-smuggling thwarted before it hit British borders, and violent criminals fleeing justice brought back to Britain to be tried and imprisoned whilst Spanish and other EU-national criminals hiding in the UK have been extradited.
The UK government's campaign to stay in the Union will now start in earnest ahead of a referendum which has been announced for June 23 this year.
Any British expatriate in Spain who has not registered to vote and has been a UK resident in the past 15 years should do so as soon as possible via the government's website, Gov.uk/register-to-vote.
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