Speakers at the conference on Brexit held at Palma's CaixaForum.

19-12-2016Joan Torres

A panel of experts from across Spain gave a conference in Palma on Monday night at the CaixaForum (Grand Hotel) on the possible consequences of the proposed British divorce from the European Union. All agreed that it was a fundamental change for Britain which could have lasting consequences. But the panel, which included the British Consul General to the Balearics and Catalonia, Lloyd Milen, had mixed views on Britain's future if and when the now famous Article 50 is triggered by Theresa May. One panel member, Miguel Otero (principal researcher at the Real Instituto Elcano) said that he doubted that Britain would ever leave. Lloyd Milen said that the Foreign Office in Spain was working around the clock to ensure that the whole process ran smoothly, while Barcelona-based British writer Matthew Tree said that scaremongering by the media had helped the "Leave"campaign.

Balearic vice-president and tourism minister Biel Barceló said there was deep concern in many quarters over Britain's exit, while Josep Francesc Conrado, president of the CaixaForum, said that the move had caused much uncertainty which could hit the Balearic tourist industry along with exports and of course the British expatriate population.


Matthew Tree: Barcelona-based British writer
He was scathing about the British government, indicating that it was "lost" and said that Britain was close to institutional chaos. "Britain has never attempted to change the European Union," he said, adding that unlike the Scottish referendum on independence there had been no real political support for a breakaway from the European Union or even demonstrations calling for the exit. He said that he was deeply concerned at the important rise in the number of attacks on foreigners in Britain since the referendum and blasted some sections of the media for their Eurosceptic stance which had helped give victory to the "Leave"camp. "The political classes are lost. They simply do not know what to do next."

Miguel Otero: Real Instituto Elcano
The principal researcher at the prestigious Real Instituto Elcano said that he doubted that Brexit would ever actually happen. He warned the European Union that if the British had a change of heart then they should be welcomed back with open arms and not humiliated in any way. "The British are principled people, who believe in democracy," he said, adding that he doubted that Britain could form part of the EU single market if it was out of the European Union. "A thousand treaties have to be changed in the space of two years, an almost impossible task," he said, adding that the British establishment had to decide what to do. He also cautioned whether the British people actually supported the idea of referendums and their results.

Pol Morillas: European Affairs at CIDOB
The chief researcher at the Barcelona Centre for International Affairs said that during the referendum campaign there had been plenty of "lies" and "half truths" and these policies would now be very difficult to implement. He pointed to the claim from the "Leave" camp which suggested that leaving the European Union would mean more money for the National Health Service, which had been shown to be completely untrue. He said that the Brexit result had been a serious blow to the European Union because rather than expanding and moving towards greater union it had lost a member. But he also warned Britain that there would be tough negotiations ahead and said that a tough line from both sides would make things very difficult. He said that Britain probably had more to lose from leaving than the EU but he added that times of changes were blowing through the European Union. He said that Britain would probably find it difficult living outside the union and he said that while Brexit meant Brexit, no one was too sure what Brexit actually meant.

Lloyd Milen: British Consul General
Lloyd Milen had the most difficult job of the night because the other members of the panel were all opposed to Britain's move, but he made some good points and held the government line throughout the conference and debate. "We are working at the moment to ensure that the whole process runs smoothly," he said, adding that the Foreign Office had been holding a series of meetings with British citizens across Spain to get their views on Brexit and their fears. He said that he felt European because of his family background and he had once worked for the European Commission, but he added that the British people had spoken in the referendum and the will of the people was a vital part of democracy. The British Consul General said that it was a certainly a complicated process and there were concerns amongst British citizens living in Spain. He indicated that the worries of British citizens had been passed back to the British government but he also said that British tourists didn't come to Majorca because Spain was a member of the European Union.

Josep Francesc Conrado of the CaixaForum said that the Brexit vote had some serious implications for the Balearics and its economy. "At the moment there is plenty of uncertainty, we do not know how the vote will affect the British tourist industry, Balearic exports, the purchase of homes in the islands by British citizens, etc," he said, adding that it was a time of much concern, especially if British tourists needed travel visas to visit the European continent.

Biel Barceló underlined the importance of the British tourism market to the Balearics, indicating that 30 per cent of all tourists who visited the islands were from Britain. He said there was plenty of uncertainty.

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