Saturday, February 25, 2012

Renounce your British Citizenship? So?

How many Britons abroad are prepared to renounce their nationality?

Britain ignores its citizens who live abroad.  James Preston, a businessman in Spain angrily declares he will renounce his British citizenship.  Yet he feels sick at feeling forced to do so.
Why does he do it?  He is denied representation at Westminster (the vote!) because he has lived outside of Britain for more than 15 years. 
He has fought before the High Court his demand to be represented as a Citizen in the British seat of power – the Parliament at Westminster.   His case and his appeal have been rejected. 
James Preston resents having the door slammed in his face.  Britain denies him the basic democratic right of representation.   He writes “We have concluded, therefore, that the contract between the State and my wife and I – the citizens – has been broken. We moved to Spain, an EU country, to represent British interests and find work, and not continue to claim unemployment benefit.” James Preston in his despair, intends to renounce his British citizenship and take out Spanish citizenship.
Britain, in this, acts as a dictator State which regards the citizen abroad as ‘subjects’ and not as free people with democratic rights.  The Government of Britain will not listen to the citizens abroad but still expects their obedience to the laws of  Britain. These are strong words but are they not true?
James Preston, is undoubtedly proud of his British (English) Ancestry which he can trace back for over 400 years. 
He left Britain in 1995.  He was then unemployed  but found work with a British company in Madrid, and has worked for British companies ever since.
He stills considers his soul is British, but in Spain you cannot hold dual citizenship. 
Because Britain will not grant him representation in Parliament he therefore feels that he has no alternative but to turn his back on Britain. 
But still the clammy mechanical claw of British bureaucracy might well hold claim on his estate at his death.
British Tax Law could still claim to his dying day that he is ‘domiciled in Britain’, because it says he will  retain his British domicile of birth!  You may think this outrageous and you are right to think so.  It is difficult  to cut yourself loose from the British State if you are born British.  The fact that his children are educated in Britain, and extraordinarily, the very fact that he has taken a case before the High Court in London to claim the right to vote displays in the eyes of the Revenue his ‘attachment’ to Britain.
It is incredible but true that for these reasons the estate he leaves could well be subject to taxation by the British State, even though he would die a Spanish citizen.
Mr. Preston also tells me that his children do not have full-blown British Citizenship but are considered as 'British by descent' because they were born in Spain. If they had been born in the UK they would be fully British.  They do not necessarily pass this British citizenship to their children. It is a crazy stupid mixed up world.  It is the last straw that, after having been insultingly refused the right to Representation, Britain could still claim a pound (£) of ‘flesh’.
It beggars belief that Britain, claiming to lead the world in Democracy so treats its own citizens who dare to live abroad.  It cannot desire, can it, that every British Citizen living abroad should renounce their citizenship? 
Should not Britain be proud of us who live abroad? To our neighbours we are the image of Britain.  Why are we ignored by our own country?
We want to be ambassadors for Britain, but Britain does not want us – except perhaps our money.
If you are moved then you can show your displeasure by writing to Mark Harper MP {Minister for Political and Constitutional Reform]– House of Commons London SW1A 0AA  --

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Elderly Britons in Europe and the Winter Fuel Payment.

To go to the Beginning and the INDEX click here

 Grit and determination are the bywords for many elderly Britons in Europe.
 It is time that the British public became aware that the elderly Briton in Europe is not treated fairly by the UK Government.  This winter has brought the situation sharply into focus.  Problems resulting from UK Government decisions are the cause.  ‘Freedom of Movement’ is understood to be one of the founding principles of the EU.  It was not foreseen that the British Government (consciously or not!) would hamper this ‘freedom’. The collapse of the £ has reduced the spending power of their pensions by over 25%.  The collapse of some investments for some - (q.v. Equitable Life) has worsened the situation. Some are looking into a financial chasm.  Many do not have inflation proofed private pensions and It would seem that inflation in France [at least] exceeds that in Britain.  The coming of the EU encouraged many to move to the continent.  Since 1973, the number of  retired Britons in France has gone from hardly measurable numbers to 54,000.   In the seven major western countries of Continental Europe there are now over 265,000 British Pensioners.  The emigration from the UK has slowed but not stopped.
 [view]  Emigration of young ‘hopeful’ pensioners is still exceeding the subsequent  deaths and those returning to the UK.  The poorest cannot afford to return!  Again and again the British pensioners abroad are treated as a different class of citizen by the UK, one hopes not deliberately, but through ignorance.  If it is not ignorance then it is an appalling failure of Government.  The pensioner in Europe expects the same treatment and respect from our own national Government as any
pensioner would be treated in the UK – not to be ignored.
Brian Cave.
The letter below is from a pensioner caught in this predicament.

  We moved to France sixteen years ago, the year before the Winter Fuel Payment was instituted.  Since then, we have met many British expats, most of whom arrived in France more than six years after ourselves, and they, of course, do receive this allowance.  Whilst we do not, of course, hold this against them; good luck to them - I'm glad they get it. But it is this blatant discrimination by the British government, resulting in the older, more frail (and in many cases, poorer) pensioners being the ones to whom this vital heating allowance is denied and this really upsets me.  It beggars belief and I am absolutely astonished that those in successive governments have been unable to see this, not to mention their breaking of European rules (as outlined by David Burrage of the British Expats Association, Spain, and yourself, on many occasions.

  Like most of our friends, when we arrived in France aged 60, we were in good health.  However, as we all know, as the years go on, many of us are beset by various illnesses and the frailty of old age.  I have had several operations and many investigations in hospital for various internal and ophthalmic problems.  My husband had a hip replacement three years ago and two other operations since then.  He was diagnosed with lung cancer a year ago, for which he is being treated with chemotherapy.  He has suffered horrific and debilitating side effects and I am, of course, at the age of 77, his only carer.  We have no family, either here or in the U.K.  There have been improvements as well as setbacks in the progress of his illness
and further chemotherapy is planned.

    As you can imagine, this past year has been extremely hard on both of us and it is only with the support of the excellent French health professionals as well as the kindness of our friends and neighbours (both French and British) that we have managed to cope.   We live on a joint pension income of 12,000 pounds sterling per annum and have to draw on our very modest savings to supplement this.   Because of our low income, we downsized seven years ago to a tiny, one-bedroomed house which my husband converted from a carpenter's workshop but his illness and treatment cause him to feel the cold in the extreme and, in spite of the size of our house, I dread to think what our heating bill will be this Winter.  Having said this, I must emphasise that we are not moaning about our financial situation in general.  Although we both worked hard all our adult lives, we were never high earners and, obviously, our pensions and savings reflect this. However, the purpose of this letter is not to plead poverty  and we have never sought financial assistance from anyone, including both British and French governments. We are content to live modestly on what we have and we feel no envy of others who are financially better off than ourselves.  We have never, for one moment, regretted our decision to live in France, but it is so dreadfully unfair that we and others in our situation are not allowed to receive the Winter Fuel Payment from the British government when our compatriots do!  And, of course, there is nothing we can do about it as, having lived in France for more than fifteen years, we are now disenfranchised as well!   We do not seek anything to which we are not entitled as bona fide British pensioners who have worked hard all our lives and paid our dues.  I would be most interested to hear someone in Parliament give a watertight reason for this appalling act of unforgivable discrimination!
     We shall always be eternally grateful for the tireless work that both you and and David Burrage  have done to try to secure the WFP for us as well as so many other rights which are denied to British expats.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

I Accuse

 (Update 2013 - This article was written in 2012 - The winter of 2012/13 was much the same with an average minimum temperature of 1.8 degrees near Cahors, with some nights to minus 5. Yet the British Government claim that we are warmer than Torquay.)

The terrible weather which came to us in France last February; was it so unusual?  Some elderly Britons in particular who retired to the Continent suffered.  But were they worse off than those who stayed in Britain?  Is the winter climate at its worst, worse than any in Britain?  The answer is, ‘yes’. 
The conditions of last February brings to mind the novel ‘Jacquou le Croquant’.  It opens in the setting of a terrible winter of the early 19th century when people died of cold in their hovels.  The snow lay deep and the wolves bayed in the Dordogne countryside as even then, [at that time even], after Napoleon and after the French Revolution, the peasants were as ill treated as before.  It was as though nothing had changed and the peasants still had to fight against the tyranny of the landed gentry. Plus ça change, la plus c’est la même chose! The Government was stubborn, and the winter was Siberian as it was this last winter.
Should the British Government have any concern for British Citizens Abroad? Yes of course.  For those who live in Europe the principle of ‘freedom of movement’ should prevail.  But the British Government resists supporting the retired Briton Abroad.  And some are in consequence deficient in funds.
My thoughts turn to another French author, Zola. He felt deeply for those unfairly treated.  In January 1898 it was he who threw down the two words ‘J’accuse’ in the journal Aurore when he challenged the French Government over the case of Dreyfus, a Jewish soldier who was unfairly convicted of treason.  Zola brought shame to the Government for its stubbornness and ill thinking .
Governments and tyrannies will not change unless they are forced to do so.  We fondly imagine that we live in a democratic and reasoning society in Western Europe. It is more fondly felt than fact. Democracy does not exist for the Britons Abroad.  The British Government denies it to them.
Times may not be as harsh as in the 19th century but elements of crass stupidity and deafness to the needs of the people are still with us.  These are matters to which we who live in Europe should attend.  The British Government, which we all would like to perceive as a bastion of democracy, is as stubborn and as deaf as any.
It is deaf to the cries of the Britons Abroad that they should be recognised.  It is deaf to the cries of the elderly Briton Abroad  that their needs should be recognised.
Let me borrow the words of Zola. I accuse the British Government of indifference towards its citizens abroad.   How truly difficult it is for any such citizen to stand up for himself.  How difficult it is for the citizen who is eighty five years old.  How impossible when the citizen is cold and deficient in funds. How difficult it is when opinions of Britons at home are manipulated by the media  against him
In the eyes of many in Britain today, the Briton who dares to live abroad is dishonoured at home.  We have Lord Lipsey who dares to say that the Briton Abroad should never be represented in Parliament.  We have governments who sign to treaties in Europe which guarantee that the elderly Briton who retires to Europe will receive the same consideration from the British Government as those who remain at home.  But in the outcome, they are deprived of income and support which those who stay at home might enjoy.  The winter fuel payment which all the elderly enjoy in Britain has not been received by the most elderly of  the British Citizens in Europe.  It was first introduced as a supplement for the elderly but it was refused to those who had retired abroad.  The Pensioner in Europe cannot make his feelings felt through the ballot box because the government has not granted to him the permanent citizen’s right to vote.
Lord Lipsey again says that such pensioners have no part to play in the economy of Britain.  Yet their pensions and much of their expenditure is demonstrably part of the British Economy.  The same British Economy prevents these pensioners opening bank accounts in Britain.  The attitude against the pensioners is further hardened by articles in the press illustrating the pensioners sunning themselves on the sunny summer shores of Spain.  In Barcelona it was minus 7 overnight this February. Most of Europe  freezes every winter, this year worse than is usual.  In Central Italy eighty centimetres of snow fell.  In Central France in February 2012 we suffered the same climate that Jacquou suffered in 1815.
The summer sun does not allay the winter's frosts.   
Successive nights last February brought temperatures of minus ten.  Numbers of British elderly residents suffered from shortage of cash, frozen pipes and a cold heartless Government, too mean to care for its elderly citizens – too mean to even grant them the natural rights of any citizen.  It is too mean to grant them a voice.
This stubbornness of the British Government is felt across the world.  Imagine the elderly couple whose children have set up home in distant Australia.  The parents would like to join them in their last few decades of life.  They are deterred because the British Government would freeze their State pensions and as the years roll by they would become poorer and poorer. 
The cold heart of Britain’s Governments is felt most severely by those who have given so much for Britain in their working lives and still remain ambassadors for British grit and determination, without the support of their Nation’s Government.