“They don’t like it up ’em!” Dad’s Army Brexitland

“dads army charge” by pshab is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

Some might feel that Brexit is trying to take us back to the rather quaint England portrayed in Dad’s Army, a world in which the country had its back against the wall fending off an evil foe, when patriotic, nationalist spirit was generated by its leaders and xenophobia was fostered to fuel the determination to win through. The brave band of volunteers portrayed in the now-classic comedy is ill-prepared, ill-equipped and, including its leaders, somewhat inept.

Re-watch episodes today and the catchphrases come flooding back: “Don’t panic!”, “We’re doomed!”, and, of course, “They don’t like it up ‘em!” The latter is often said by Corporal Jones, remembering his experience fighting in the Boer war; he uses a term about the black Africans which is wholly unacceptable nowadays, but perhaps equally bad is Captain Mainwaring’s xenophobia, expressed in his allusions to certain foreigners with their ‘shabby tricks’; indeed, he is disparaging of most European nations. All this is uncannily reminiscent of the statements made by certain of our politicians and elements of our press in generating the Brexit ‘plucky Englander’ ‘siege mentality’. 

The Brexit campaign stirred up and exploited the seemingly innate racism and xenophobia of a large proportion of the British electorate; key amongst the many empty Brexit promises were ‘taking back control’ of our borders, and ending freedom of movement… Many ‘Leave’ voters were successfully brainwashed by the propaganda of ambitious and unscrupulous politicians, and the luridly racist headlines splashed across the tabloid press. For them, this meant an end to (im)migration ‘because we’re full up’. Pity that those politicians and press propagandists didn’t have the honesty and integrity to point out that this closing of borders would have a two-way impact. It was inevitable that the removal of freedom of movement would come back to bite us too!

Blukip government – Brexit zeal, or hypocrisy?

It seems curious, to say the least, that so many members of the government and the Conservative party are themselves descended from migrants, so why are they so obsessed by Brexit? Boris Johnson himself was born in the US and has French, German, Russian, Jewish and Turkish ancestry. Priti Patel, Rishi Sunak, Sajid Javid, Dominic Raab, Kwasi Kwarteng, Alok Sharma, Kemi Badenoch, James Cleverly, Suella Braverman and Nadhim Zahawi are all first or second-generation Brits. Why are they all so keen to deny to others what their ancestors sought in coming to the UK?

Then there are other Tory politicians whose support for Brexit seems even more inexplicable: Daniel Kawczynski came to the UK at the age of six. Gisela Stuart came to the UK at the age of 19 ‘to improve her English’. Brexit has now made this option difficult or impossible for young Europeans, as reported in WCV, and just last week in the Guardian. Spanish has a very colourful expression to describe people who feel they have to try harder than others to be accepted… in this case to prove they are truly British; “¡más papista que el Papa!” (“more papist than the Pope!”)

Fortress UK or prison?

In a previous article I quoted several instances of EU citizens who arrived legitimately in the UK earlier this year, but who fell foul of the border force/immigration officials for one technicality or another; many of them suffered disgraceful treatment. Additionally, there are frequent reports of EU nationals resident in the UK who are struggling to obtain settled status to remain living here, even those with a UK spouse and children. In many cases, failure to obtain settled status would mean deportation, breaking up their families. The Independent reported on such a case on 20 December, with the heading: “I feel homeless”; “Woman with British children who has lived in UK for years denied EU settled status”. Hers is by no means an isolated case: the Independent states that currently 348,100 people are still waiting for an initial decision on their EU settlement application. Prior to Brexit, such EU nationals would not have had these uncertainties.

Additionally, Brexit has presented a major problem to the many British citizens who spend much of their time in an EU country, whether for work, holidays or retirement. The so-called ‘90-day rule’ is a major headache for Brits who own property in an EU country but who do not have residency or citizenship of that country. This rule, or more accurately the ‘90 days in 180 days’ rule, means that British second-home owners in an EU country are now bound by the rules applied to non-EU citizens. Now we are all designated ‘Third Country Nationals’ and have lost OUR freedom of movement in the EU. This means that you can only visit an EU country, or combination of countries, for up to 90 days within any 180-day period.

FrenchEntrée, a property website specialising in properties in France, explains:

 “Each time you enter or leave the Schengen area, a new 180-day period would be calculated from that date. You do not need to concern yourself about dates of previous arrivals and departures, only the total number of days spent within the zone during that particular 180-day period. So, for example, if you arrived in France from the UK on March 15th, it would be the 180 days before March 15th that would be taken into account. If you had already spent the whole months of November, December, and January in France (totalling 90 days) and hoped to return on March 15th, you would be refused entry.”

That means, in my case, that I am currently banned from travelling to the EU or visiting my house in Spain… effectively imprisoned in the UK!

They don’t like it up ‘em!

Now it has actually happened: the other side of the ‘removal of freedom of movement’ coin has started to slap Brits in the face! A UK citizen has been detained by the Spanish authorities for exceeding the permitted 90/180 days. As reported on 11 December in the Daily Express, a woman who was obviously used to making the most of our pre-Brexit freedom of movement fell foul of the new rule. She had not noticed that the stamps in her passport indicated that she had already used up her permitted 90 days. And of all the papers to report it, it was the Daily Express which did so, under the indignant headline: “Horrendous”: British woman “detained overnight in Spain over Brexit rule”. What utter hypocrisy from one of the principal Brexit fanclubs. They don’t like it up ‘em, indeed!

Do panic, Mr Mainwaring! Rules is rules, after all

The fact is that we Brits are now mere Third Country Nationals, not club members of the EU. Why should we be surprised then if the club management insists on the strict application of the rules… which our government helped to write when we were members?

Another regulation governs the validity of passports; again, a British woman has been caught out by the rule that a passport has to have sufficient remaining validity to cover the owner’s planned stay in an EU country. The Evening Standard reported on January 2 that : “she was devastated after staff escorted her from her Jet2 flight to Tenerife on Thursday morning after claiming her passport had been issued over ten years ago – meaning she could not travel to the EU under new post-Brexit guidelines.” The leeway previously permitted under the UK’s membership of the EU is now no longer applicable.

There are further examples of the impact of Brits being caught out by new rules, or in many cases pre-existing rules which used not to apply to us when we were EU citizens. The Independent cites an example: “Brexit forces British student to spend Christmas and New Year in Madrid”. Nice, one might think, except that she wanted to spend the festive season with her family in Britain, just as I did many years ago during my own student year in Spain. However, visa rules and the 90/180-day rule meant that, had she returned to the UK, she would not have been allowed back into Spain to complete her student year there.

Then, according to Indy100 on 30 December 2021: “Eurotunnel posted an urgent warning on Twitter telling Brits that “unless they hold French residency, British citizens are now considered third country citizens and can no longer transit France by road to reach their country of residence in the EU”. There is some confusion over how true this is, but the report has sparked particular indignation at the reference to British citizens as Third Country Citizens… They don’t like it up ‘em, indeed!

Screenshot, Daily Express

We’ve all been doomed!

Finally, and to add insult to injury, on 2 January, CityA.M. announced a lovely New Year’s present to blighted Brexit Brits: “Brits will have to pay for entering the EU from this year: cash and pre-approval needed as post-Brexit trips to Europe are no longer free”. We have feared that this might happen, but now it has been confirmed. The truth is that as Third Country Nationals, Brits will have to pay €7 per person and pre-register their details in order to enter the European Union from later this year, as confirmed to CityA.M. by a spokesperson for the European Commission in Brussels. This is because from now on, British visitors will visit the EU under the ‘European Travel and Information and Authorisation Scheme’ (ETIAS), which enables citizens of 61 non-EU countries to visit the EU Schengen area with travel pre-authorisation, rather than a full visa. It would have been even worse if a full visa was insisted upon, but was all this really so necessary in exchange for having the crown on pint glasses and a blue (really black!) passport that now symbolises freedoms lost?

In the space of a few days in January 2022, the Daily Express published no fewer than four more indignant articles:

2 January:

British expats in Spain BLAST EU’s response to living conditions: their inability to ‘regularise’ their homes, built without planning permission…                                     

4 January:

British expats in Spain HIT by over £23,000 visa change – must prove funds in bank account: retired British expatsare hit by a new requirement for them to have over £23,000 in their banks and apply for a visa if they want to live in Spain…                                                                                                                            

4 January:

BRITISH expats in Spain dealt BLOW over UK driving licence rule – urged to take action: the ‘huge hammer blow’ means that of course, Brits resident in Spain now have to obtain a Spanish driving licence… fair enough!

5 January:

British expats in Spain with pets FACE RULE CHANGE: yet another example of ‘poor expats’ suffering as a result of the rules being imposed on them post-Brexit…

It is interesting that the Daily Express uses the term ‘expat’. In my recent article Costa Britannia? I mentioned how the dictionary definition of ‘expat’ says that it “has connotations of superiority, being aloof from or detached from the local native community”. We should remember that NONE of this would have happened without Brexit!

Only one conclusion is possible from all this. To adapt the words of Sir Winston Churchill to suit our situation: “Never in the field of British politics has so much been lost by so many for the sake of the selfish interests of so few.”