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A British MP for the Costa del Sol? PDF
Sábado 28 de Noviembre de 2009 20:59

A British MP for the Costa del Sol?

Giles Tremlett, the Guardian correspondent in Madrid, wrote an interesting piece in that paper on 1 November 2009, on the subject of ex-pats being disenfranchised. It was subsequently picked up by The Olive Press here in Andalucía and provoked an interesting online debate on its website.

The story raises some important issues.

If you’re interested, you can read the original article (Give a Commons seat to the member for Costa del Sol, 1 November) by Tremlett at


Following its publication, the Guardian website was inundated with posts and the entry was closed after 118 comments.

Unfortunately many of the posts were very negative. As a British-born man who worked his entire career in the UK, but who has now, as an early retiree, decided to live in Spain, I was shocked by the many ill-informed and vitriolic comments posted there.

If you read Tremlett’s original article, he makes an excellent and valid point about him and countless other British residents who reside abroad being disenfranchised. Unfortunately, however, his proposed solution of diaspora MPs is flawed.

As a part-time, freelance journalist and 40-year-long hispanophile, I admire Tremlett’s perceptive and largely accurate writing. His recent book “Ghosts of Spain” is outstanding.

I’m afraid the “abuse” that has been hurled at him on the Guardian website for daring to raise an extremely important issue is typical of the garbage I regularly come across in English-language newspapers and on their websites down here in southern Spain, eg the Olive Press website and the Euro Weekly News (Leapy Lea and his Daily Mail-reading acolytes who write in to support his racist and anti-British rantings).

As far as I’m concerned the volley of criticism aimed at “ex-pats” – no, we’re actually immigrants, and uninvited guests, to boot – is all about envy and small-mindedness.

Although English-born, I am a fluent Spanish and German speaker. As a result, I am blessed with three separate social lives related to each language group, all of which I find fascinating, albeit different. Within those groups, most people, irrespective of their nationality, are mono-lingual. But I don’t think any the less of them. I happen to be a trained linguist; they are trained carpenters, electricians, police officers, sales executives, hoteliers, all skilled in their own fields. Many of them have tried to integrate and learn Spanish and are successful to varying degrees. But they are all committed to living here, are resident, on the padrón (electoral roll) and, on the whole, pay their taxes here.

There are indeed stereotypical British ex-pats and I chuckled at Frank Little’s five definitions on the Guardian website thread, because I know people who fit each of the categories. Unfortunately, there wasn’t one into which I and many of my friends would fit.

Nevertheless, the answer to this representation problem is quite simple and was identified by many posters. If, as an EU national, you are tax resident in another EU country, you should have the right to vote in all elections, local, national and European in that country, and not in the country of your birth. Simple, straightforward, no argument.

The sooner Brussels takes note of this and changes the law to remove the current anomalies, the better. And as for those who criticise, on the grounds of envy, those of us who have legitimately moved countries within the EU, well, perhaps we should just ignore them.