We wen’t on holiday, but we couldn’t tune out Brexit – Helen Martin

Don’t mention the ‘B’ word seemed the best policy for Helen Martin during a week in Spain

Monday, 30th September 2019, 7:00 am
Updated Tuesday, 1st October 2019, 2:46 am
Issues surrounding cross-border travel are about to get much more complicated. Picture: Jane Barlow

IT was Friday the 13th, not the ideal day most folk would choose to go on holiday. We were headed for Cala’n Blanes in Menorca, a lovely self-catering development with – as usual – a pool, palm trees, an apartment with a balcony, and our own TV.

It turned out to be perfect. Arrival night had the sky performing dramatically with thunder and lightning but the next seven days were full of blue skies, high temperatures and gentle breezes.

What we first thought to be a “downside” was that our TV didn’t have an English or American channel, everything was in Spanish. I considered that perfectly reasonable for a Spanish location. The only problem was that we’d miss any new Brexit adventures.

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When we set up our sunbeds by the pool next day, it dawned on us that Brexit ignorance was a good thing. Not only could we forget about it for a week, but as a Scottish couple we didn’t fancy getting drawn into a Boris debate with fellow tourists from England. The majority of people in the area near the end of the Menorca holiday season were Spanish, there were some French, German, a couple of Irish, and several English. But as we spoke occasionally to others round the pool, Brexit did come up.

One Irish lady who used to live in Menorca and now spent half her life in England, was horrified. She said she had retired UK friends who lived in Spanish territories and were worried about a Brexit loss of health treatment and how long they’d be allowed to live in their Spanish home each year. Her father had been Irish but her over -0 mother was English and she was doing all she could to get her old mum an Irish passport.

A couple from Birmingham were on the next pair of sunbeds to us. His original degree had been in politics and, aged 66 now, it was still a major obsession for him. His wife was a nurse whose retirement age had been raised to 64, putting their future plans on hold. With a family involving Italians, Spanish and Scots, they’d bought a caravan so that they could tour around Europe for any length of time between six months and a year, once her job ended and her pension paid out.

Unfortunately, that would fail depending on the Brexit deal that went ahead, as special visas would be needed to cover all these months, and travelling from one country to another might be more complicated. Again, there would be no health cover so they’d have to pay hefty travel health insurance. He added that Birmingham was a city of diversity so he had no understanding of the anti-immigrant Brexit vote.

As a nurse in Birmingham’s main hospital, his wife knew how many staff were from the EU and was aware of a potential medicine crisis.

We didn’t raise the subject with any other English guests, just in case it led to hostility. And recognising our Scottish accents, they didn’t raise it with us. We were all too polite to mention the “B” word. Menorca, especially places like Cala’n Blanes, are focussed mostly on agriculture and food, and tourism. At the height of summer UK tourists provide lots of custom.

For waiters, chefs and accommodation staff, many work on the island for summer and head home to the mainland. All EU tourist countries are wondering how their holiday trade will be affected but for Spain, a reduction of UK residents and holidaymakers could affect jobs.

And it’s amazing how this political nightmare played a part in our week’s, chill-out holiday.