Most in the country wanted Britain to "Remain" in the EUby Jessica Abrahams / June 25, 2016 / Leave a comment
On the evening of 23rd June, as the last of the British voters were heading to the polling stations, Spaniards were instead gathering in the warm night air to celebrate the festival of San Juan by lighting bonfires and dancing in the streets. In Barcelona, the city I’m lucky enough to call home, thousands descended on the beach to set off fireworks, take a late-night swim and drink and dance at the small outdoor bars lining the sand. But amid the revelry, a small group of curious minds gathered around me as news of the referendum started to roll in through the early hours of the morning. We watched our smartphone screens in quiet disbelief as it became increasingly clear that “Leave” had won.
Spanish attitudes to the referendum have been complex. TV commentators and newspaper editorials were vocally agitated about the impact a Brexit would have on the Spain’s economy, still struggling to recover from a long malaise which has seen unemployment remain at exceptionally high levels: it stood at 21 per cent in the first quarter of 2016. Trade relations with the UK are worth many billions of euros annually to Spain; hundreds of Spanish companies operate on British soil (and vice versa); and Britain accounts for its single biggest source of tourists. In a poll conducted shortly before the referendum took place, a strong majority of Spaniards said they did not believe a Brexit would have a marked economic effect on Spain. But Brits are already saying that they are less likely to book a holiday in Europe, now that the pound has tumbled against the euro; and Spain’s IBEX stock market suffered more than the FTSE on the day the result was announced, dropping 12 per cent—the biggest daily fall in its history.