THERE are certain things in life that simply don’t make sense: Donald Trump’s speeches, tomatoes being a fruit and the fact that Beyonce still hasn’t divorced Jay-Z.
But nothing leaves me more completely flummoxed than the Spanish bureaucratic system.
I thought I empathised with the frustrations of immigrants in Britain. But like childbirth or being kicked in the balls, you can never fully understand the pain until it happens to you.
To permanently live, work and eat patatas bravas in Spain, expats must have a TIE residence card, which automatically assigns a foreigner’s identity number (N.I.E) alongside it.
In 2019, 365,967 Brits officially registered in Spain. But since the UK collectively gave EU membership the boot, our VIP pass through the paperwork maze has been ripped from our self-entitled clutches and red tape has become an instrument of torture to garrot us with.
First I visit Estepona police station, but in the current corona climate, walk-ins are a no-go. Online, the only appointments available are in Ronda, so I accept my fate and fill up the car with petrol.
It becomes apparent on arrival that Manuel from Fawlty Towers has left the hospitality industry and taken up a position processing immigration paperwork. Here, ‘I know nothing’ isn’t an excuse but a solemn promise. Every person has the memory of an Alzheimer’s patient, the personality of a door knob and the attitude of Lauren Cooper. Bothered? They are not.
With a deadpan glare, Manuel tells me to go to Malaga. When I enquire as to why, his reply stings: “Because you chose Brexit,” he claims. I assure him, I did not. Anyway, isn’t Britain in the transition period until December 31? “Please leave my office,” he says.
Of course, the trouble began in England. Somewhere amongst the onslaught of debates and negotiations, I had been sold an optimistic lie: Brits could break up with their European partners, keep the perks of a multinational relationship and live our merry lives while taking back control of our country – whatever the hell that really means.
This type of lie is called an ‘informational cascade’. In other words, it is repeated so many times it is spoken into existence. The lie gains credibility, yet it is actually an avalanche of misinformation. And, in the Comisaria de Policia, there’s a stick of reality dynamite ready to blow it to smithereens.
When I call the office in Malaga, they tell me to go back to Estepona where my quest began. And so, the bureaucratic tumble dryer starts up again, hurtling me round in circles while bashing my head against the sides with a Catch-22. There is no semblance of sanity to this procedure and it progresses at the speed of a three-toed sloth; a snail moves faster.
Alas, it is already time to face the consequences for our country’s democratic choice. When looking in at the EU members club from outside in the cold, it is clear life is going to get a lot tougher for Brits wanting to remain abroad.