The chair of LibDems in Europe, the party for members of the UK Liberal Democrats living in Europe (outside of France), Dave Sapiro | Majorca Daily Bulletin reporter


The chair of LibDems in Europe, the party for members of the UK Liberal Democrats living in Europe (outside of France), Dave Sapiro, told the Bulletin this week that the party is very well aware of the challenges facing British citizens living and working abroad post Brexit.

Whatever the results of the forthcoming general election in the UK, it will use its voice in parliament to raise issues affecting Britons overseas, especially now that they have the right to vote again, while no longer having the right to vote in European elections - “so we can no longer have an influence in the country in which we live.”

David, who is now based in Düsseldorf, admits that he was never a “political animal” but got actively involved with the LibDems after Brexit in an attempt to see what he could do to try and help redress the damage leaving the EU caused. “Brexit was my wake-up call and I think it has been for many others.

“Yes, the Withdrawal Agreement failed to take into account the situation and the needs of the millions of British citizens working and living overseas; they got lost in the process. And the LibDems are very aware of that. So moving forward, we, as a party, have a four-stage plan to rebuild sensible relations with Europe that eventually will lead to tackling the 90-day rule one way or another. But unilaterally, it will be difficult.

“Our policy is to take immediate action to improve links with our European neighbours, including building closer ties in education by reforming the government’s Turing scheme, further steps to build confidence and establish stronger relationships with Europe, including seeking cooperation agreements with EU agencies, returning to Erasmus Plus and seeking to reach a UK-EU agreement on asylum seekers.

We want to deepen trade with Europe, e.g. by negotiating greater access for our world-leading UK food and animal products to the Single Market, securing deals on sector-specific work visas and establishing mutual recognition of professional qualifications.

Once the trading relationship between the UK and the EU is deepened and the ties of trust and friendship are renewed, the aim is to place the UK–EU relationship on a more formal and stable footing by seeking to join the Single Market, which will lead to greater freedom of movement.

Make life easier

“We want to look for ways to make life easier for Britons either already working or living abroad and those wishing to do so. As a result of Brexit, Britons -at personal and professional levels - are facing serious difficulties.

This is why the LibDems have designated two members of the Lords, two peers, to represent, on behalf of the party, British citizens living in Europe and overseas.

The next step will be to motion having MPs for overseas constituencies and this can be done without having to consult and reach agreement with the EU. This can be done unilaterally,” he said.

“However, in order for all parties, be they in power or not, to listen to what Britons overseas want or would like to see happen, they need to use their democratic right to vote so that they have a big a voice as possible in British politics.

“I know Britons overseas can contact their former constituency MPs, but with all due respect they probably don’t have the expertise or the knowledge to help.

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“So we are campaigning for equal treatment for all. Included in that would be, on a statutory basis, improving consular services which more often than not are decided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office,” he said.

“The LibDems believe most British citizens expect to get help from the UK Government if they run into difficulties when abroad but that’s not necessarily the case. At present, the provision of consular support by the UK Government is decided on a case-by-case basis. British citizens overseas need a first point of call which works and is easy to access. The LibDems want to push for a government and a system which best serves Britons overseas while trying to overcome the hurdles which have been thrown up as a result of Brexit.

“We need a change of mindset, we need to look at what needs to be done and do something about it as opposed to just talking about it.

“I think it’s wonderful that there are so many Britons working overseas. And the majority today do just that, they are not only retirees. We integrate, invest, create jobs, share our expertise and our culture. It’s a very positive experience all round and this is how we need to be looking at and approaching matters.

British politics needs to move away from being negative and divisive. As far as the LibDems are concerned, leaving Europe was a terrible idea but we’ve got to be realistic about what can be done. Like I said, we need to start rebuilding that trust because, right now, the UK is not in a good position to start renegotiating anything with Europe. Brexit can obviously never be reversed but steps can be taken to rebuild the trust and ease the friction for the sake of the people.

We need that freedom of movement back. We need to remove the barriers as much as possible and we also have to take into account Britons living in overseas territories such as Gibraltar; it’s probably had the biggest post-Brexit squeeze of all in Europe.

Many Britons still care

“The LibDems are a unionist party. We not only believe in Europe but also in the United Kingdom staying together. We don’t want Scotland to leave, just like we didn’t want the UK to leave the EU.

“We need a different type of politics. One which does not make people continually angry. Right now it’s always somebody else’s fault, we need to give the power back to the electorate. We need to restore faith in politicians, there is too much scepticism and that can be dangerous. We need to be considering what is best for the population, the electorate at large. Many Britons overseas still care very deeply about what happens in the UK.

Apart from having been born in the UK, many still have family ties, receive a pension, may one day return. So what happens in the UK does matter to Britons wherever they may be working or living at any one time. Now that overseas citizens have the right to vote back, they should use it. Registering or re-registering is easy online, be it via the government’s website or those of the various parties.

And don’t forget, those who may have left the UK before they were old enough to vote can now register to vote as well. So, there are millions of Britons who do have a voice again and we, as LibDems, would like to see people using that right. If they want to see some positive changes and a gradual improvement in their situation overseas, especially within the EU, then the LibDems are the best option,” David said.

“Liberal Democrats are the UK’s most pro-European political party. We believe Britain’s best future is at the heart of Europe – and our long-term ambition is to see the UK in that place once more.”

The “local” (Europe) party site is and from there Britons can register to vote.