The following are updates (latest first) on the current situation while Brexit negotiations take place. At present nothing is confirmed, with everything still to be determined through the two-year process. Please also see HERE for general thoughts on the situation of British residents of Tenerife.
Updated 13 March: Continuing the series of events for UK nationals on Living in Spain and Brexit, British Consul Charmaine Arbouin, Vice-Consul Helen Keating and the consular team will be updating residents with the latest information on Brexit and what this means for UK nationals living in Spain on Friday 22 March in Golf del Sur. The event is taking place at the Rendezvous Restaurant in the Winter Gardens complex at 11:30am. There is no need to register beforehand.
The team will be covering a range of issues, including residency, registration, healthcare and pensions – so whether you have a specific question about living in Spain or simply want to know more about how Brexit might affect you, please come along and talk to them. Consul Charmaine Arbouin said: “As we move closer to 29 March, we will continue to do all we can to update citizens as and when we have more information. In the meantime, I continue to urge all UK nationals living in the Canaries to ensure you are correctly registered and to stay up to date with the latest news, by signing up for email alerts and visiting the Living in Spain guide on gov.uk and following our Brits in Spain social media channels, including on Facebook.”
These events are part of an ongoing programme of outreach and events being held across the country, details of which will be available on Brits in Spain social media channels and in English language media. Advice for UK citizens living in Spain can be found on gov.uk/living-in-spain. The Foreign Office also recommends following their Brits in Spain Facebook page, and to sign up for alerts from the gov.uk page to ensure you are getting accurate information.
Updated 13 March: Theresa May lost her second “meaningful vote” last night by a margin double that which the EU said would effectively close the door on the Withdrawal Agreement. Tonight there will be a Parliamentary vote on No Deal, and tomorrow there should be a vote on extending Article 50 … or more accurately, a vote on whether the UK should request the EU to grant an extension, something they have said they will only do if there are concrete reasons for such an extension, in other words not just for more of the same shilly-shallying that has been going on for the past three years.
Whatever happens now, Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez has said tonight:
The British Parliament has decided not to ratify the Withdrawal Agreement reached between the Heads of State and Governments of the European Union and the United Kingdom. It has done despite additional guarantees that, with great effort, had been offered by the Union. This decision, which I regret deeply, means prlonged uncertainty just a couple of weeks before the point when Brexit should, in theory, take place. We can learn a lot from a process that keeps the British people in a real dead end.
Without taking three factors into account it is impossible to understand Brexit: nationalism that advocates withdrawal from a perspective of exalted myths and false nostalgia; the advance of the extreme right; and the simplification of democracy around the figure of the referendum as a tool from which to offer easy answers to complex problems.
The years prior to the referendum in June 2016 were marked by the rise of UKIP, a political force that made the departure of the United Kingdom from the EU its raison d’etre. In order for the party’s narrative to gain traction in British society it resorted to constant demonization of the EU and consciously ignoring the real needs of British nationals. All with a single aim: that leaving the EU should monopolize the UK’s political agenda.
We saw a phenomenon repeated that has been seen historically in Europe: a minority and extremist faction imposing its ideas by means of conditioning other political actors – actors who sacrifice pragmatism with devastating consequences.
The referendum took place, with the result that we all know.
This decision method is similar to circumstances we find ourselves in today: a simple yes or no answer to complex questions with far-reaching consequences. A binary decision mechanism with mutually exclusive alternatives that obliterated the wealth of nuances that are natural to democracy. That is the vision of democracy that deserves to be preserved in Europe.
All kinds of exaggerations and lies were served in the campaign. It was said that there would be extra money for the NHS; that there would be access to the single market, or that trade agreements were the easiest thing in history to achieve.
The top priority of the Government of Spain has always been the same: to offer rigour, certainty and security in this process – especially to residents and those involved in the economy – and to strengthen the bonds of the future relationship with a country with which we are linked by deep ties of all kinds.
On a day like today, the important thing is that Spain has done its work. We Spaniards are prepared for any scenario, Deal or No Deal.
To manage the UK’s departure with confidence, last November, once I verified the guarantees on Gibraltar that Spain needed, the Heads of State and Government endorsed the Withdrawal Agreement and approved the Political Declaration on the future relationship.
This Agreement offers peace of mind and security to those who have made vital decisions based on the UK’s decades-long membership of the EU, to preserve their rights and ensure that the UK would honour the financial commitments made in that time.
It also foresees a transition period to allow progressive adaptation to the new circumstances, as well as advance in the negotiation on the future relationship between the EU and the UK.
The Agreement also guarantees that the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland will remain invisible, preserving peace and the spirit of the Good Friday Agreement. Incidentally, few examples demonstrate more clearly the key role played by Europe in healing wounds that have festered for generations. Open wounds about forgotten borders that some are eager to replace.
The Withdrawal Agreement offers all the guarantees, certainty and security possible for an orderly exit. And it is complemented by a Political Declaration that marks the way to a mutually-beneficial future relationship.
In respect of Gibraltar, the European Council and Commission adopted a joint declaration in which, for the first time in history, a determining role for Spain has been recognized including a veto over future relations between the colony and the EU. The guarantees obtained have been strengthened by including the clarification on the territorial scope of Article 184 of the Withdrawal Agreement in the new joint instrument. Thanks to this, we are in a privileged position to build the future of shared prosperity between the country and Gibraltar in coming decades.
To reach this agreement, the 27 Member States made maximum efforts to be flexible. Sadly, when the most intransigent nationalism monopolizes debate, any concession or pact is interpreted as betrayal.
In January, the UK Parliament found itself faced with the dilemmas posed by the destruction of a framework of political, legal and economic relations of more than 45 years. It was the logical culmination of a process contaminated by simplistic rhetoric posed by a divisive mechanism like a referendum.
MPs did not ratify the Withdrawal Agreement, nor were they able to reach a minimum consensus on actual existing possibilities – No Deal departure, negotiated agreement, or Remain. The ultimate result of the referendum decision has been total political deadlock.
In any case, faced with a No Deal exit, I would like to send a message of calm. The Government of Spain approved a royal decree on 1 March with contingency measures covering all aspects linked to the withdrawal. The Governent has also set up logistical measures with the approval of an offer of public employment for the most affected sectors like Customs.
The European Commission, for its own part, has adopted the measures necessary in respect of its own areas of competence.
After its withdrawal, the United Kingdom will stop being part of the EU, but not of Europe. It will continue to be a very important partner, especially for Spain, the first country by number of British residents and tourists in the EU.
The measures we have adopted protect the rights of British citizens residing in Spain, and the British Government has announced that it will do the same in respect of Spanish residents in the UK.
Our bilateral relations are excellent and will continue to be so, and the UK will be able to count on Spain as partner and ally. Looking to the future relationship, I want to maintain the greatest mobility for our citizens and connectivity between our two countries, as well as the closest possible cooperation in respect of security, the fight against organized crime and terrorism.
Whatever happens from now on, the EU has to continue the process of integration. The next European elections will be decisive. Two clearly defined options are are set against each other. One looks back to the past, rejecting diversity and afraid of the future. The other is clearly pro-European, committed to reason and common sense, and through treatise and the spirit of agreement. It is time to step forward for that Europe. It is time to protect Europe if we want a Europe that protects us.
Next Thursday at the European Council I will continue working to guarantee the security and certainty of Spaniards and Europeans, and for the validity of a single framework in the world which requires the commitment of European Governments to continue advancing, all in defense of the European model, the only model that has been able to combine economic development and supremacy of rights, freedoms and values for which it is worth continuing to fight.
Updated 7 March: Most British passport holders will not have a problem but some will so it’s worth reminding travellers that Schengen rules require travellers from outside the Schengen area to have at least six months left on their passport. The UK is currently in the EU so there’s no problem even though the country is not a Schengen member, but in a No Deal Brexit, where the UK leaves the EU without a deal, anyone with less than six months left on their passport will not have a valid passport for travel to Spain, which is in both the EU and the Schengen area.
If one of the various possibilities for a deal succeeds in the next three weeks then after 29 March there will probably be no issue for travellers, at least as long as their passport is valid for the expected duration of their trip, but anyone planning now to travel after that date can’t wait to hope for a last minute deal to save them renewing their passport if it’s coming up to its expiry date. The UK’s Home Office has provided THIS website for British nationals holders to check if their passport will be valid for their intended visit, and if it needs to be renewed then it really needs to be done immediately because it can take three weeks to get a new one issued.
Updated 2 March: At the end of January, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said that Spain would be introducing a law for Spain’s Brexit contingency measures which included important provisions in regards to citizens’ rights and business (see updates on 14 and 30 January below). This has now been approved by the Consejo de Ministros (the Spanish Cabinet), and its details are HERE. In response, British Ambassador to Spain Simon Manley said:
The UK Government’s top priority remains securing a deal with the EU that wins the support of the UK parliament. However, like any responsible government, the UK Government is planning for every eventuality. It has already announced a series of no deal contingency measures, published extensive advice to business and citizens, and has guaranteed the rights of EU nationals living in the UK. I am pleased to see that the Spanish Government has today announced a series of detailed Brexit contingency measures, should the UK leave without a deal. The Royal Decree offers important assurances on issues like residency and access to healthcare for the more than 300,000 British nationals who have chosen to make Spain their home, and for the many millions more British tourists who visit Spain each year. I welcome too the announcement on customs procedures to avoid potential obstacles to the free movement of goods, which will be important to both British and Spanish businesses who trade in or between our two countries. It is also welcome that the Spanish government has made clear that the measures will apply to Gibraltar, with special consideration for maintaining flows across the border. This will provide some certainty to citizens and businesses in Gibraltar and Spain, and helps to protect the close economic and social relationship between the Campo de Gibraltar and Gibraltar.
Health Minister Stephen Hammond said:
This is a positive step forward in securing an agreement which will enable British expats to access Spanish healthcare in the same way they do now. This should also give reassurance to the millions of British tourists who travel to Spain every year using the EHIC scheme for free or reduced medical costs if they need to see a doctor or nurse. Our next priority will be to continue our work with other EU member states, so that healthcare access for all UK and EU nationals are protected in a no deal scenario.
The British Embassy in Madrid and its network of consulates have held over 100 outreach events all across Spain in the last two years, explaining the implications of Brexit to resident UK nationals and answering their questions. Through these events and through the Embassy’s digital channels they have underlined the importance of British nationals living in Spain being correctly registered.
Being correctly registered means being registered with the National Police and in receipt of a green document, the Certificado de Registro. Its age and size – whether A4 or credit-card size – are irrelevant, and it does not need to bear the word “permanente”. Permanencia is something that happens automatically after five years legal residence, and those who like to see the word on their document can change it for one that says permanente but this it is not a requirement.
It has long been the case that that British nationals who live in Spain for more than 3 months of the year, should hold a certificate of registration from Extranjeria. Spain has announced today that, through the Royal Decree, UK nationals living in Spain will maintain their legal residence status after 29 March and that they, and their family members, will have until 31 December 2020 to get a Foreigner’s Identity Card. Further information on the process for obtaining this card will be released in due course. The key message – and NOW – is that it is essential for all British nationals living in Spain to check their residence status and ensure they are correctly registered.
On healthcare, the UK has offered to fund healthcare in Spain for UK nationals who would benefit from the S1 / EHIC schemes until 31 December 2020 on a reciprocal basis. The UK is also protecting healthcare for Spanish nationals in the UK. Through the Royal Decree, the Spanish Government has said that it will introduce measures that will protect healthcare for UK nationals in Spain, whether they be residents or visitors, under existing reimbursement mechanisms which have seen the UK Government providing £250m last year to Spain for the healthcare costs of British nationals in the country, and the Spanish government paid the £4 million for the healthcare costs of Spanish nationals in the UK.
The official Spanish “Brexit” website is part of the Interior Ministry’s site, and it is HERE. Spanish PM Sánchez said that his goal was to preserve the rights of Spanish and British citizens, as well as protecting a normal trade flow and Spanish economic interests in the event of a chaotic Brexit without a deal, and in this respect, Spain was acting unilaterally. In other words, this is Spain’s gift even though the UK has not yet guaranteed reciprocity; it’s almost certain to reciprocate, but it is thanks to Spain alone at present that we have these reassurances and I think it is important to recognize this.
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