Across the Pyrenees

A highway with cars on it and mountains in the background

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View of the Pyrenees in Spain approaching from France – photo contributed by the author

Magdalena and I depart Lonigo in Northern Italy and, after an overnight stopover in the heart of Cannes, we find ourselves climbing the hills of Languedoc, southwest France, in dark and tumultuous rain. The traffic slows to a stop, one lane is closed, and our progress is obstructed. It strikes me that humanity is in just such a position. I reassure Magdalena that when we cross the Pyrenees the sun will shine again. And it does.

The search for peace in our times

We often forget that the vision of a European Union was not only for a single market in coal and steel and a customs union. It was primarily to bring peace and prosperity to the warring nations of the European continent, which it has achieved for the lifetime of those born in Europe  at the end of the last war. 

Mankind’s social and religious institutions have always clashed in a struggle for influence over their population’s minds. Church and State have evolved varying degrees of cooperation, from disestablishment of the Church in a governing role, to extreme Islam where there can be no such separation.

Military regimes, often introduced as a “temporary measure” find it difficult to relinquish power they gained by a coup. There are still wars raging over ethnic strife. Sectarian differences (Shia-Sunni) pulse through power politics in the Middle East. In such an ever changing world how does humanity develop a long term vision of its future?

Globalisation

Over the past 250 years the human population has grown exponentially. There has been an explosion of scientific, technological knowledge and an industrial revolution. We are now the only species we know of that is aware of its own evolution. That brings huge responsibilities.

It has also resulted in a creeping globalisation of trade, migration and travel and the rise of global companies and financial institutions.

But are existing national, or even international, institutions strong enough to curb the excesses of globalisation? Or even to rein in the big global companies who avoid tax, misuse data or emit excessive carbon? Globalisation has considerably complicated the difficulties involved in reaching agreement on solving the world’s current problems.

The Local level

 Even at a local level, the Brexit referendum has caused divisions between families, political parties and nations. Low electoral turnout indicates apathy and growing distrust in the integrity and ability of politicians to deliver their promises. We must remember that all politicians, however we might view them, are only humans trying to cope with situations never faced before.

But we must hold them to account whenever they act in their own selfish interests and fail to stand up to the challenges of global warming, the increasing gap between the rich and the poor, fairness in countering pandemics and human corruption.

The survival of humanity depends upon it. During our travels we are encouraged by the growing swell of individuals and groups we have met that are working together to make their voices heard.

“In Limbo” nowadays means a place of uncertainty, on the threshold, out of sight and out of mind, forgotten. Brexit has caused many individuals and families to be stuck in such a state because of new border restrictions, and new rules on passports and citizenship. You can find the effects of Brexit on individuals left in limbo at https://www.inlimboproject.org.

We finally reach Spain!

Debbie Williams of Bremain Hear Our Voice, seated, wearing a blue hat bearing a yellow sticker with the Motto, Bollocks to Brexit.
Debbie Williams MBE – contributed by the author

It is a privilege to receive an invitation to stay with one such group working with others, managed by Debbie Williams MBE, Chair of Brexpats, Hear Our Voice, and her daughter Molly. They work closely with Sue Wilson MBE, Chair of Bremain in Spain.

It is through Debbie’s network of members that we have gathered the aspirations and feelings of British migrants in the EU. We learn that her group’s aims are complementary to Bremain in Spain’s, no doubt helped by Sue and Debbie being relatively close neighbours. I’m now proud to be a member of both groups.

At Bremain in Spain’s AGM in Malaga late October we will discuss our strategy to work more closely with the European Movement to focus on campaigning for stronger ties with Europe and protecting the rights of UK nationals in the EU.

We are concerned that the longer the UK and EU diverge, the greater the damage will be done to the UK’s reputation in the world as well as to its economy. We also need, in conjunction with the UK and EU, to identify areas where working together closely we can find pragmatic solutions to the difficulties Brexit has caused.

To achieve that we, the British migrants in the EU, need representation within both the UK and EU Parliaments. Our voices will be heard. We cannot divorce the UK’s future from the Future of Europe. You can find more information at https://futureu.europa.eu/?fbclid=IwAR2LG4dfGNi3wC6ZRUS-dybNZBIyXXMdrtwk0Wiaa_aL_BEk8ENnVMZe00I&locale=en

Photo below is Penyal d’Ifach in Calpe, our “Rock” in Spain from the window of our hotel where we stay to catch up with some article writing! 

Penyal d’Ifach in Calpe, a large jutting rock visible from Mike and Magdalena's hotel, where they have stopped to catch up with their writing.
Penyal d’Ifach in Calpe – contributed by the author