The UK has left the EU and I have decided to report on how our departure has affected our now ‘ex friends and partners’. In the first of a short series, I travelled to Spain and visited a typical Spanish city, Benidorm, to gauge the Spanish response to Brexit.
I already know (from Wikipedia) that Benidorm has a population of around 70,000 and am determined to discover what underpins the Spanish economy and what effects Brexit will have on them.
Looking around, from the sheer number of unfinished hotels, I instantly sense construction is a major player in the Benidorm marketplace.
I arrive at my hotel (nearly finished), an all-inclusive affair, populated mainly by Brits in replica football tops and matching tattoos. I look forward to my first taste of the famous mediterranean diet. Well, immediately I can see that this is some sort of myth and that the majority of the food on offer is made up of roast meats, chips and sponge puddings with custard. Lovely.
The next day I take a walk around town to investigate some more.
Benidorm is one of the most ethnically diverse places in Spain, with a large contingent of Asian and Islamic immigrants, most of whom appear to be shopkeepers, but are easily outnumbered by the Brits abroad. Despite Brexit, we are still a proud nation of explorers.
Retail is obviously key to the Spanish economy and swimming pool shops and tat are popular. I can also report that even outside the confines of my hotel, British food, in the form of all-day breakfasts, totally dominates the Spanish market.
Spain has a large and important role in the automotive industry. Indeed, the industry is one of the country’s largest employers, and Spain is the second largest car producer in Europe (after Germany) and this is visible everywhere.
The future of driving is electric and Spain is at the vanguard of these developments; there are single and double-seater electric cars everywhere, and I am sure that where Spain leads, the world will follow.
Judging by the state of some of the driving after they leave the Bulldog, the Rockstar and Trotters’ Independent Traders (my favourite as it goes), the Spanish can’t develop driverless cars soon enough.
In the Old Town, outside a bar, an old man who looks like he has been in a fight (scabs on his face and hands) asks me in French if he can sit down. In fluent French, I reply that he can and he asks if I am English. Which he is also. He says he has lived in Benidorm for 50 years, his surname is Marrs and the pub he now owns in the Old Town is called Marrs Bar.
He says he has had several bars over the years, both his children went to university in Madrid and are now taking over his business interests (and, hopefully stop him fighting). I ask him about Brexit and he says he thinks it will have no effect on Spain whatsoever. He has employed all sorts of nationalities in the past, but will probably be slightly more reluctant to employ the Brits.
In fact, he says he regrets having employed any staff at all, as if he hadn’t spent every day on the beach and instead done all the work himself, he would probably be a millionaire and wouldn’t have skin cancer (it wasn’t a fight).
I tell him which hotel I am staying in and he wants to know if any of the residents are worried about coronavirus and I say that no-one has mentioned it to me and does he think it will affect trade in Spain? He says that it is inevitable the virus will affect Benidorm badly, because they receive visitors from all over the world, but that; “No-one gives a shit. The Spanish are so laid back they just don’t care, but they are sharks when it comes to business.” I wish my new friend well and walk back pensively to my hotel for a massive lunch.
The hotel claims it does not permit groups of stags or hens, but the football shirts with ‘Ginger’, ‘Shagger’ and ‘Fatty’ on the back tell another story.
Actually, it is a relief the stag and hen dos are there, because the majority of the rest of the hotel’s residents are pensioners, many of whom are staying at the hotel for 6 to 8 weeks. They are incredibly brown and steal sachets of jam at breakfast.
This is a good deal for them. Their state pension probably covers their all-inclusive stay, there are trained staff and defibrillators on site and even a 24-hour pharmacy (a quite-well stocked vending machine). In many respects the hotels in Benidorm are acting as a necessary care system for the UK’s elderly and should be applauded for looking after those our own government can’t be bothered with.
I ask around to find out the general consensus on Brexit. Obviously, these old residents are reaping the rewards of the UK having been in the EU; free healthcare, good weather and access to their pensions is guaranteed for another year. They must hate Brexit. But no; every single one who could be bothered voted for it. Coming from north of the Watford Gap, as they all do, these are the people responsible for the demolition of Labour’s ‘red wall’.
The stag dos are more laid back and Spanish in their views, as in they don’t give a shit. Funny lot the Brits.
Spain’s ideal growing conditions and its proximity to European markets, has made citrus fruits its leading export, so in return for lemons, plus olive and sunflower oil, we give Spain our grandparents. Next year we will probably charge them a bit more to import their fruit, but in return they can start charging properly for looking after our OAPs.