POINCIANA – So what is it about the EU that has so many British residents scratching their heads?
Could it be, said Wendy Farrell, that too many of the 27 member states of the European Union rushed into the pact, and Britain was one of the few countries smart enough to be remain autonomous?
“We wanted to preserve our currency,” said Farrell, who was raised in England but has spent the past decade living in the United States, operating a business in Poinciana.
“And didn’t we do well!” she laughed. “The British Pound is so much stronger than the Euro.”
Farrell, who run Signature Promotions with her husband Chris and is here in the United States on a E-2 business visa, said most of her fellow Britains do not regret the decision to stay out of the European Union, and insist they were smart to stick with tradition.
“Of course we were,” she said. “We’re Brits!”
Farrell is far from the only British resident living in Central Florida or running a business here. Polk and Osceola counties in particular have become home to a fast growing number of British residents who came here to start a business, including local restaurants and, in one of the strongest fields emerging in this region, the vacation home industry. These homes – marketed to visitors to come to this region for extended stays and prefer to enjoy their vacation in a fully furnished house with multiple bedrooms, a kitchen, and a private pool, rather than a hotel room – originally appealed most strongly to the region’s British and other European tourists.
The British have also been a strong force in the second home market in this region. That’s why Tom Gallagher never has trouble finding an audience when he speaks about the EU.
“I lecture for the British Isle Heritage Club,” said Gallagher, who lives at Solivita, the active adult community on the Polk County side of Poinciana — which, as he noted, has its own club made up of British residents.
Gallagher, a former Wall Street lawyer and corporate real estate attorney, isn’t from England himself – he’s a New Yorker by birth. But he taught constitutional law and he knows quite a bit about the European Union – more, he said, than some Europeans do.
“I give lectures on English history and EU law,” he said. “To me, it was fun, and I thought I ought to know it.”
Understanding EU law, he said, isn’t as easy as it might sound. With more than 500 million inhabitants, the EU developed a single market through a standardised system of laws that apply to all the member states. Passport controls were abolished, common trade policies are maintained, and a monetary union called the eurozone was established in 1999. The EU is made up of treaties, and has its own judicial branch, formally called the Court of Justice of the European Union. It consists of three courts: the Court of Justice, the General Court, and the European Union Civil Service Tribunal. Together they interpret and apply the treaties and the law of the EU.
“People are running around Germany and France and the EU laws are very different” in each country, he said.
Gallagher has found an audience for his lectures because of the growing number of British residents living in this area – enough, said Eileen Sawtelle, that Solivita, where she lives, has its own British heritage club. But not everyone in the club is British — including Sawtelle, who is an American.
“It’s for people with a British heritage, and we have a lot of people from Britain here,” Sawtelle said. She was quick to add, “I have absolutely no British blood — but my husband does. It’s a long story.”
Gallagher said he knows the British have a fierce independence that makes membership in something like the EU seem anathema to them. He learned that recently when he was talking to the British Isle Heritage Club about the EU, and one person in the audience, he recalled, pointed out that in England, the pound is still used to buy goods and services, thank you very much.
“They don’t use the Euro, they don’t use anything like that,” Gallagher said. “She bent my ear off – ‘This is England, we don’t use money like that!’ “
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