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HISTORIC DAY: ITV filming in Irish bar on the eve of Brexit vote in La Duquesa

I STILL remember it like it was yesterday. 

After filming with ITV at a bar in the British expat haven of La Duquesa, we huddled around the projector screen, hoping for the best but fearing the worst.

No sooner had Nigel Farage admitted defeat when Sky News suddenly declared that the UK had voted to leave the European Union. 

A collective gasp filled the room.

Tears were shed before we discovered that county after county – many of which had relied on EU funding – had returned a Leave majority. 

Counties like Cornwall, which received hundreds of millions of pounds of EU cash after being granted Objective One status in the late 1990s. 

The funds paid for the Eden Project, a tourist attraction which has welcomed more than 18 million visitors and boosted the local economy by more than €2 billion. 

It also paid for the transition of the Newquay RAF runway into a full civilian airport and poured around €200 million into Cornwall’s universities. 

Eden Project Cornwall
The Eden Project in Cornwall was funded by the EU

It was a story repeated across the country (mostly in England), where the poorest regions, despite massively benefiting from the UK’s membership to the bloc, rejected the EU en masse. 

It was something that those of us living on the continent – and the overwhelming majority of Olive Press readers – simply could not comprehend. 

For we had benefited first hand from freedom of movement and the right to live and work in the EU. With much ease, we had upped sticks and created new lives in a beautiful neighbouring country. 

A country where the help of the EU is appreciated, praised and widely reported in the media. 

Perhaps that’s where the UK went wrong. Seldom did the British press report the billions in EU funding across the UK. The majority of the overwhelmingly right wing press smeared the bloc with lies and sensationalist headlines for decades, slowly but surely implanting distrust and disdain for our European counterparts. 

So many lies, in fact, that in 2016 the European Commission created a special task force to debunk the decades of misinformation made by the British tabloids.

Express Cover
UPHILL BATTLE: British tabloids stoked fears about immigration to help win Brexit

The more than 400 myths ranged from the absurd (that fishing boats will be forced to carry condoms) to the ridiculous (that zippers on trousers would be banned).

Other mistruths said the EC was going to ban darts from pubs and make unwrapped sweets illegal. And typically, a ridiculous claim made by the Sun that the Queen would have to make her own tea thanks to new EU rules, was actually referring to a law enacted by the UK itself in 1993. 

The onslaught of misinformation painted a picture of an overbearing EU, led by Germany and France, interfering in the minutiae of everyday life of British citizens. 

By the time the referendum was announced, undoing decades of brainwashing in the space of a year was no small feat. 

A feat made even more difficult by the Leave campaign and the likes of Nigel Farage, who brazenly traded on half truths and lies (cue the Brexit bus promising 350 million pounds a week for the NHS).

It was a vicious campaign which saw the right wing faction of the UK political spectrum appeal to the worst parts of human nature – racism, isolationism and xenophobia. 

Breaking Point Poster
VILE: Breaking Point poster was a low for the Leave campaign

Who can forget one of the lowest moments, when, a day after the murder of MP Jo Cox, Nigel Farage revealed the ‘breaking point’ poster, showing refugees from war torn Syria marching to Europe out of desperation (as if Britain leaving the EU would stop them seeking shelter on Europe’s shores). 

Voters were also told by Liam Fox that a free-trade deal with the EU post-Brexit would be ‘the easiest thing in human history’ – despite multilateral trade deals typically taking years to complete. 

Michael Gove claimed Turkey could join the EU within four years, causing a massive influx of immigrants to the UK – yet, much like the EU army, there was no prospect of that happening.

But that didn’t stop the Leave campaign putting out an election broadcast in the last 30 days before the vote depicting the ‘threat’ of 76 million Turks joining the EU and moving to Britain. 

The broadcast ended with a split screen, with one side showing a rude foreign man barging an upset old white woman out of the queue in A&E (representing Remain), and the other side showing the woman being happily treated without delay (representing Leave). 

It was abundantly clear that the Leave campaign had no qualms in stoking racism and anti-immigrant fervour to get the result they wanted. 

And that they did. 

And with the slimmest of majorities, the UK is set to leave the EU at midnight tonight. 

MARCHING: The Bremain in Spain gang at a Brexit protest

In the years after the vote, British expats in Spain and across the EU fought their best to overturn the result or to at least end up with the softest of Brexits. 

For the likes Bremain in Spain, Brexpats and British in Europe, we thank you for you tireless work in having our voices heard back home and for fighting for our rights continuously.

It has been an exhausting battle, but we can rest assured that every possible front was fought and that at least some victories were made.

We must accept Brexit now, but we must not let it define us. 

Let Farage and Ann Widdecombe play the fools, as they did this week, waving their flags with glee on their last day at the European Parliament. 

Let them fester in their hate and bigotry and downright idiocy…we know better. 

Flag Waving
EMBARRASSMENT: Nigel Farage joyously waves Union Jack on last day at European Parliament

Now is the time to show our neighbours that we are more than Brexit, that we are open-minded, caring and respectful. 

We must continue to fight the worst aspects of what caused Brexit whenever we see it – be that misinformation, racism, bigotry or xenophobia of any kind.

We may shed a tear tonight, but let it be known that for the majority of British expats, this was not our call.

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