The Brexit post: EU Parliament approves Withdrawal Agreement so UK leaves EU on Friday at 11pm

The Brexit post: EU Parliament approves Withdrawal Agreement so UK leaves EU on Friday at 11pm

Updated 6pm: And the EU Parliament has approved the Withdrawal Agreement. If anyone had any remnants of any doubt, they can no longer maintain them. The UK leaves the EU at 11pm this Friday, in 53 hours time.

Updated 5pm: The UK Government has issued THIS advice on travel to the EU from January next year. Of course the page will be updated with further information as negotiations continue and agreements might be reached throughout this year, and anyone who wishes can register for email updates.

Updated 4pm: To add to this morning’s update from the FCO about driving licences, that is the official UK stance. Nothing changes until the end of the year. BUT as of this morning, Tráfico is saying that they will not accept exchanges after Friday. They say they will advise if they are told anything different. DVLA meanwhile is not replying to any requests, and has not been for the last fortnight.

I know this will be seen as confusing, and I and others are already said to be making a fortune from “scaremongering”, but I give you the facts and you decide what to do with them. For the record, it is officially released info so if it’s “scaremongering” I am at worst a conduit rather than source, and for the absolute record, I do NO work in this field and so have not earned a single cent from anything related to Brexit. Nor intend to.

Updated 29 January: The FCO in Madrid has clarified about driving licence exchange applications. The 31 Jan deadline only applied to a No Deal situation and there is now a deal, already passed by the UK Parliament and to be passed by the EU Parliament later today. This means that the 31 deadline does not exist, and exchanges can be made throughout this year … and can be applied for at any time, but obviously the sooner the better. The FCO says:

We know there has been some confusion around the exchange of UK driving licences and whether you need to start the process by 31 January. The information currently on the DGT website referring to the need to register your details by 31 January would apply only to a no-deal scenario. The UK is set to leave the EU with a deal under the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement. In practice this means that the rules around the exchange of UK licences will remain the same during the transition period. You will have until 31 December to exchange your UK licence for a Spanish one under the current rules, so there is no need to worry if you are unable to start the process before 31 January. But don’t leave it til the last minute – book an appointment on as soon as you can. Remember you can exchange your licence anywhere in Spain – it doesn’t have to be where you are officially resident. Once you have made the exchange, your Spanish licence will be accepted in the UK when you visit and you can exchange it for a UK licence again should you return to the UK permanently.

Updated 28 January: British Consul Charmaine Arbouin has sent the following message to British nationals in Spain.  

The Withdrawal Agreement which sets out how the UK leaves the EU has now passed into UK law, which, once the European Parliament has ratified it this week, means that the UK is leaving the EU with a deal on 31 January.

This is very positive news for UK nationals who are resident in Spain, as the Withdrawal Agreement contains some really important protections for your rights:

  • You will be able to continue to live and work in Spain
  • UK state pensioners will continue to have lifelong healthcare as long as they remain living in Spain. This also applies to residents who claim a UK state pension in the future
  • Your UK state pension will continue to be uprated
  • You will be able to exchange your driving licence until the end of 2020 without taking a driving test and your Spanish licence will be accepted in the UK when you visit

Those rights will be protected for as long as you live in Spain, provided you are legally resident here by the end of 2020.

The Withdrawal Agreement also provides an Transition Period (from 31 January until 31 December) during which time nothing will change for UK Nationals in Spain.

Charmaine Arbouin said: “The approval of the Withdrawal Agreement is a very important step for UK nationals living here. It provides reassurance on key rights, such as being able to continue to live and work here, and for pensioners to have lifelong healthcare and uprated pensions. Alongside those rights, you have obligations – the main one being to make sure you are registered with a green residency certificate. This remains a valid document after 31 January and we will communicate any details on future residency processes once we have them. For further information visit the Living in Spain Guide on”.

To view the latest video message from HMA Hugh Elliott to UK nationals visit HERE.

To put your questions to HMA Hugh Elliott and Regional Consular Policy Adviser Lorna Geddie join our Facebook Live Q&A on Friday 31 January at midday (CET) HERE.

Information for UK nationals can be found at

The Brexit post: EU Parliament approves Withdrawal Agreement so UK leaves EU on Friday at 11pm

The Brexit post: UK’s ambassador visits Canary Islands with Brexit just over a week away

Updated 25 January: There is seemingly enormous concern suddenly about the situation for “swallows”, those part-time residents who visit Tenerife for several months each winter. Clearly they are in a difficult position right now because they often visit Tenerife for more than three months and after 31 December 2020 will be restricted to 90 days in any 180 as are all other 3rd-country nationals (please see below, especially 20 January update).

The current legal situation is that when a part-time resident arrives in Spain they must register within three months and in reverse, deregister when they leave Spain. That way they can stay as long as they’re registered, and when they return to the UK will have access to the NHS. Without registering on arrival, they will not be legal in Spain – it’s one thing to be illegal as an EU national in an EU country but another thing entirely to be an illegal alien! – and without deregistering, they will be on record as living in Spain and so not entitled to the NHS when back in the UK because the right to use the NHS is a residence-based entitlement.

This could be problematic of course because of the tougher registration requirements for 3rd-country nationals but such is the system. The UK’s Ambassador to Spain, Hugh Elliot, has confirmed that the British and Spanish authorities are aware of “the swallow issue”, and the matter is firmly on their radar BUT he cannot confirm that special rules will be put in place or be able to be agreed in the bilateral negotiations which are ongoing throughout this year and naturally which are yet to be concluded. He also stressed, contrary to what many “swallows” think and allege, that the UK and Spanish authorities are not only planning to monitor and enforce these systems, they are already talking to each other and doing so.

Updated 24 January: The President of the European Council Charles Michel (Donald Tusk’s old post) and the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen (Jean-Claude Juncker’s old post) have just signed the Agreement on the Withdrawal of the UK from the EU, opening the way for its ratification by the European Parliament. This was a formal event this morning. Pic from the EU.

Updated 23 January: The Withdrawal Agreement Bill has now received Royal Assent. The UK’s departure from the EU is now UK law. Now the Withdrawal Agreement goes to the EU Parliament to be debated next Wednesday, 29 January. The EU Parliament works in similar ways to the UK Parliament with committee analysis and oversight, and several EU Parliamentary committees have now recommended MEPs to vote for it. There is no chance now, in my opinion, that the EU Parliament will reject the Withdrawal Agreement, and so the UK will leave the EU at 11pm on Friday next week.

Updated 22 January: Local journalist Clio O’Flynn got an interview on Monday with Hugh Elliot, the UK’s new Ambassador to Spain on his first visit to the Canaries. Clio spoke to him at a lunch hosted by the FCO for those who work alongside the British Consulate as partners, as well as British-run charities and organisations. Obviously the main topic of conversation was Brexit, and you can listen to the full interview HERE.

Updated 20 January: To save any more questions about the 90/180 days rule, please see HERE. It is a calculator from the EU’s own Schengen website, and as it says:

Short-term visitors to the Schengen countries that do not need a visa and holders of multiple entry visas valid for at least six months and with 90 days of duration of stay, are not permitted to spend more than 90 days within 180 days in the territory of the Schengen Area.

Travelers often get confused by this rule, and fail to calculate how long they have stayed in Europe, and how long they are permitted to remain.

They need be confused no longer, and I will no longer answer questions on the 90/180 day ruling. Please use the calculator.

Updated 6pm: To some, it seems the 90 days in 180 rule is confusing. So to clarify, the period is not calculated by calendar year. This means that visitors cannot come for 90 days in October, November and December and then stay on for January, February and March as a separate 90 days in a separate year. This is because the 180-day period keeps rolling. As the Schengen Visa website HERE explains: anytime you wish to enter the Schengen, you just have to count backwards the last 180 days, and see if you have been present in the Schengen for more than 90 days throughout that period.

British nationals will not need a visa to enter the Schengen area after Brexit because we have been granted an exemption but the timings remain firm, and the Extranjería has said they will start stamping British passports on 1 February this year so they will be able to monitor … though as I’ve already said, the rule comes into force for us at the end of the implementation/transition period, i.e. at the end of 2020.

The Brexit post: EU Parliament approves Withdrawal Agreement so UK leaves EU on Friday at 11pm

The Brexit post: important advice as Brexit is just a fortnight away

Updated 16 January: I am receiving increasing numbers of increasingly panicked emails looking for “the workaround”, i.e. the loophole, to “residencia” as it continues to be called. There isn’t one. The situation is:

  • The UK leaves the EU in 16 days time.
  • This means that those registered here will at some point over the next year have to change their police registration document (properly called a Certificado de Registro but also known as a green NIE, green card, residencia) to a third-country nationals’ card, the TIE (tarjeta ID extranjeros). We don’t yet know the system, and information will be published when we do.
  • Those who are not yet registered will have until the end of the year to do so, but we cannot guarantee that the criteria (see HERE) will remain as they are currently after 31 January.
  • It is therefore vital to register before 31 January if at all possible … BUT … those who register are those who are coming here to live, and the registration is itself a formal declaration that the person is living in Spain.
  • British nationals who just want to retain EU advantages for free movement after Brexit when they just visit for a few months or so at a time sadly simply cannot do so. This is because they cannot register as residents unless they are prepared to make a fraudulent statement to the Spanish immigration authorities that they are living permanently in Spain.
  • As things stand, the UK has a transition period which ends on 31 December this year. After this period, British nationals will become subject to the Schengen area restriction of 90 days in a rolling 180 day period. They will not need a visa. Those who are legally resident in Spain (ie registered with the police) will obviously not be considered “visitors” for these purposes.
  • During this year, British nationals will continue to be able to arrive for more than 90 days but the Spanish authorities have confirmed that passports will be stamped from 1 February 2020, and readers should be aware that they remain required, technically, to register if coming for over three months – and then deregister when leaving. As said above, we cannot guarantee that the registration criteria will remain the same after the end of this month, but certainly after the end of this year they will become very much more stringent, as they currently are for all other third-country nationals.

The Brexit post: EU Parliament approves Withdrawal Agreement so UK leaves EU on Friday at 11pm

The Brexit post: PM says Brexit to be wrapped up for Christmas

Updated 20 December: The Prime Minister’s Office has issued the following statement about “getting Brexit wrapped up for Christmas”.

Today, Friday 20 December, the newly formed Parliament will begin the process of ratifying the great new deal the Prime Minister negotiated with the EU.

The European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill will have its Second Reading in the House of Commons. The Bill will then complete the remaining stages in both Houses of Parliament and get Royal Assent as soon as possible in the new year, so the UK can leave the EU on time on January 31st.

The new Bill will implement the Withdrawal Agreement negotiated with the EU, and changes have been made since October to:

  • Legally prohibit Government extending the Implementation Period beyond December 31st 2020
  • Restore power to UK courts, by giving them the ability to consider ECJ rulings that have been retained in UK law
  • Give Parliament greater oversight by requiring ministers to report annually on disputes with the EU under the Withdrawal Agreement
  • Repeal spent legislation that now serves no purpose, including the Cooper Act and the Benn Act

Our commitment to continue the highest standards on workers’ rights, environmental standards and consumer protections will be honoured by provisions in separate legislation, including the Employment Bill announced in the Queen’s Speech.

Ahead of the Bill’s introduction, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said:

Today we will deliver on the promise we made to the people and get the Brexit vote wrapped up for Christmas.

Now MPs will start the process of passing the Bill. Then, at the beginning of the new decade, at the beginning of a new dawn for our country, our parliamentarians will return to Westminster to immediately finish the job, take us out of the EU on 31st January and move this country forward.

After years of delay and rancour in Parliament, we will deliver certainty and hard-working businesses and people across this country will have a firm foundation on which to plan for the future.

Next year will be a great year for our country – the year we get Brexit done, boost NHS funding, invest in infrastructure and level up access to opportunity and prosperity across our great nation.

It will mark the start of a new decade where the United Kingdom will champion trade, innovation and science and meet global challenges with old friends and new across the world.

Read More:

The Brexit post: EU Parliament approves Withdrawal Agreement so UK leaves EU on Friday at 11pm

The Brexit post: UK ambassador to Spain explains what result of GE2019 means for Brits in Spain and the implications of leaving the EU with a deal on 31 January 2020

Updated 17 December: The FCO has released the following video of the UK’s ambassador to Spain, Hugh Elliott, saying that it explains what the result of the General Election means for UK Nationals living in Spain and the implications of leaving the EU with a deal on 31 January 2020. Registering as a resident remains the key action point. For further information see the Living in Guide at The FCO adds their apologies for the subtitles being slightly out of sync, but say that they thought it was more important to get the message out sooner rather than later!


Updated 16 December: A suggestion for British nationals to acquire associate EU citizenship made three years ago by Guy Verhofstadt has resurfaced now through an initiative by Jolyon Maugham, barrister and founder of the Good Law Project. As I understand it, it was a suggestion Theresa May rejected but which Maugham, supported by the likes of Richard Dawkins, thinks that Boris Johnson might consider. For those who are interested in signing the petition, which Dawkins says “would be a wonderful way for Mr Johnson to move towards reconciling Britain’s two warring tribes”, just click HERE.

I accept this is a contentious subject, and this is likely to be a topic generating anger, mockery,  and more, so I would just ask people interested to click the link, and everyone else just to ignore. It is a post for information, not a direct suggestion.

Updated 15 December: The Adeje volunteer Focus group has another batch of appointments for those who still need to register with the police. Brexit Day now is likely to be 31 January assuming PM Johnson gets the Withdrawal Agreement passed in the House of Commons as he is expected to do. There are therefore just six weeks left until the United Kingdom officially leaves the European Union.

If you are a British national living in Tenerife and still not registered as resident in Spain, or are unclear as to the permanent nature of your status, these appointments are specifically for the purposes with the Spanish authorities, and as before, they are only available through FOCUS. Anyone who is still not registered to reside legally in Spain, and who meets the criteria for registration should email FOCUS at putting RESIDENCY as the subject line of the email. In the body of the email, explain your specific situation (working, self-employee or non-working) and give your contact details: you will be contacted in due course to be allocated an appointment. Please note that if you do not speak Spanish you might need to arrange a translator to accompany you to the appointment.

The Focus group cannot deal with any queries by phone; this is simply to allocate appointments and provide information of documents needed for your appointment.

Updated 13 December: After a landslide victory for the Conservative Party last night, there will at least no longer be Parliamentary paralysis. Those who wanted to remain in the EU and stop Brexit were always up against it, with all analysts assessing the chances of a second referendum as never better than 25%, usually much less. Now, the Conservatives are likely to have a Queen’s Speech and a minor reshuffle before Christmas, and then in January, “Get Brexit Done”. The focus will then shift to the Implementation Period, now much reduced from the initial two years to just one: Johnson has until the end of 2020 to get a trade deal with the EU and has refused to request an extension.

For its own part, the EU has already reacted with pleasure, not to the result as such, but to the scale of the victory as indicated by the exit poll. At least there’s clarity, they say … along with “Goodbye to our British friends”. Another goodbye might yet be due to Scotland, with the SNP looking to make such gains as to be in virtual total control north of the border. With regard to the other border, in Ireland, the DUP are unlikely to trust Johnson now but he will no longer need them, and Irish reunification cannot be ruled out. It could be that the UK will exit not just the European Union, but its own.

Next year, then, will be momentous, because not only will the UK leave the EU on 31 January, the following 11 months will see hectic negotiations for the country’s future trading and political relationship with the EU. Domestically, almost certainly pressure will be applied from Scotland for an independence referendum, and a civil war is equally likely to erupt in Labour over the direction, and indeed the soul, of the Party. As to the Lib Dems, long thought to be wrong in following a focus-group-led policy of Revoke and so ignoring the 17m or so who voted Leave, their future seems likely now to become something of an irrelevant sideshow.

Conservatives and Leave supporters will be jubilant after this election result. Naturally so. Their opponents will be distraught because this, unlike other elections, will change the shape and future direction of the UK and, of course, take the country out of the European Union. As such, it has been an election of values as much as politics. The losers will be in sore need of comfort, and it is in short supply, but at least, at last, there will be clarity, and paralysis was helping no-one. And Johnson will have such a majority that not only will he not need the DUP, he won’t need the ERG either: that is a crumb of comfort for those who are hoping for a softer Brexit. No-one really knows what sort of Brexit Johnson wants, but he has the chance now to pivot not just to a hard Brexit, the hardest sort that the ERG want, but to a soft central one. That at least is now a possibility. I hope it brings some comfort to those in distress on a monumental night.