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 14 January 2019: At least we’ll know something tomorrow! Assuming Theresa May does not pull the vote on her Withdrawal Agreement again as she did in December, MPs will have to vote on whether to accept it or not. They are widely expected to reject it, and then we will have to wait to see what Parliament decides it does actually want to accept, whether that’s a “Plan B” (which currently does not seem to exist and which must be produced in three days of tomorrow’s expected defeat), or a second referendum, or a general election, or … who knows?! Meanwhile, however, Spain has produced THIS website confirming the status of British nationals living in Spain in the event the deal is accepted, and in the event that it is not (any problems with the website, just remove the “s” from the https).
Spain says that if the deal is accepted tomorrow in Westminster, the rights of British nationals living in Spain will be maintained not just during the transition period set to end in December 2020 but permanently. We will lose the right to vote and stand in elections to the European Parliament, though our right to vote and stand in municipal elections might be preserved through a bilateral agreement currently being negotiated between Spain and the UK. This applies only to those registered with the police at the official date of departure – i.e. 29 March this year. Our existing Registro certificates, however, are for EU nationals, and so from 30 March, British citizens and family members already legally resident in Spain may request a Foreigner Identity Card (TIE – Tarjeta de Identidad de Extranjero), a definitive residence document that will prove the holder’s eligibility to the rights included under the Withdrawal Agreement. The TIE will be issued immediately, as the Registro currently is, and it will specify that it has been issued in accordance with the Withdrawal Agreement.
If the Withdrawal Agreement is rejected tomorrow Spain says that it will provide a solution that in any event guarantees the legal security of British citizens and their family members legally resident in Spain before the exit date since the UK has already confirmed reciprocity for Spaniards in the UK. Spain is currently establishing the precise terms of this process, which will no doubt depend in no small part on what happens in the UK parliament after May’s deal is rejected. The Spanish Government says, however, that the terms will be governed by the following principles:
- British citizens who are resident in Spain before the UK’s withdrawal date (29 March 2019) will be subject to the general immigration regime. In other words, British citizens who are now residents as EU citizens will be subject to the regime governing citizens of a third country.
- All British residents in Spain will be considered legal residents in Spain. To obtain permanent residence prior periods of residence in Spain will be taken into account in accordance with the regime governing EU citizens.
- To facilitate documentation of all the British citizens in Spain, the registration certificates and cards of family members of EU citizens will continue to be valid until the issue of new documents under the general immigration regime (TIE cards).
Updated 20 December 2018: Given the enquiries I’m getting suggesting people are going to be worrying over Christmas about Brexit because they’ve seen a whole series of “no deal” announcements from the UK Government and EU Commission, I think it’s worth posting my “simple paperwork checklist” again: see HERE.
In a nutshell: Westminster MPs are all going off on their Christmas holidays today, and the debate on Theresa May’s Withdrawal Agreement, which she postponed recently when it looked like it was going to end in a crippling defeat, has been rescheduled and has now been confirmed (by Leader of the House Andrea Leadsom) to start on 9 January, with the vote some days later – likeliest is 14 or 15 January.
Despite the raft of policy notices about a No Deal situation, both the UK and EU still ultimately see this as unlikely, and so the prospects are either that Theresa May’s deal will be accepted in January by Parliament, in which case the UK’s departure from the EU will be controlled and there will be a transition/implementation period until the end of 2020, OR Parliament will vote for one of a range of options including a second referendum, a general election, revoking Article 50, or, still the unlikeliest scenario, a No Deal cliff-edge crash out of the EU.
We cannot know, so it is pointless worrying, what is going to happen until this debate and vote on the Withdrawal Agreement take place. All we can do is ensure our situation is as legal as possible before the proverbial hits the fan, if that is what it ends up doing. Please do read the paperwork checklist – I’ve called it quick and simple because it is – which could make all the difference given that we are going into Christmas and the New Year without the foggiest idea of what 2019 will bring in terms of the UK’s place in the world, and ours in Spain.
Updated 28 November: The British ambassador and Consulate team have been in Tenerife meeting British nationals and updating them on the latest concerning Brexit. The post about the visit and the public meeting is HERE.
Updated 25 November: The EU27 have this morning endorsed the Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration setting out the framework for the future relationship between the UK and EU. Theresa May will now be touring the UK to hold public meetings to sell the deal to the public, with Parliament expected to vote on it next month.
Also next month the UK’s High Court is expected to rule on a fast-tracked hearing to determine whether Brexit itself should be declared void. This is because of what lawyers call the “absolutely extraordinary failure” of the British Government in refusing to act on “the growing evidence of illegality in the 2016 referendum campaign and the National Crime Agency’s probe into suspicions of multiplecriminal offences” committed by Aaron Banks and the Leave.EU campaign. The case opens on 7 December and a ruling is expected before Christmas.
If Brexit is derailed either by Parliament’s rejection of the Withdrawal Agreement or a High Court judgment to void the process, the UK will be in completely unchartered territory, and a constitutional crisis will unfold with everything up for grabs across the entire spectrum from a hard Brexit to a Remain After All, perhaps via a unilateral cancellation of Article 50. Whether that would actually be possible is itself being determined by the Courts – but this time by the European Court of Justice since the UK’s Supreme Court rejected on 13 November the Government’s attempt to stop it being decided in Europe. The ECJ will hold its emergency hearing on the matter this coming Tuesday 27 November.
It will soon appear, perhaps, that the EU’s ratification of the Withdrawal Agreement, two and a half years in the making, was the easy part of the process.
Updated 22 November: For the sake of completeness, and to give anyone interested a chance to read them in advance of the Ambassador’s meeting in Tenerife on Tuesday, HERE is the text of the Withdrawal Agreement and HERE is the Draft Political Declaration. The first has been agreed between PM Theresa May and the EU, and the second has this morning been agreed at negotiator level and agreed in principle at political level: Donald Tusk has now sent it to the EU27 leaders in advance of a summit to be held on Sunday where both are likely to be approved. Assuming they are, these two documents are what will be presented to Parliament next month.
Updated 20 November: Just a reminder that HMA Simon Manley will be at the Villa Cortés Hotel a week today, Tuesday 27 November from 5.30pm for a public information meeting about Brexit as I posted HERE earlier this month. Downing Street has confirmed today that Theresa May will be in Brussels tomorrow evening to finalise the Brexit deal in a meeting with EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, and so now is the time when the deal is fully clear. It can of course still be rejected by the British Parliament, but unless it is thrown out by the ERG, the DUP, or Labour, or unconvinced Conservative Remain MPs, or any combination of them in Westminster, or a snap election or second referendum is called, this will be the Withdrawal Agreement by which the UK leaves the EU. This is therefore your chance to get information about it from the best possible informed source, the Foreign Office itself, and the UK’s own ambassador to Spain.
Updated 16 November: As I posted last week, the British Government has introduced legislation so that British nationals living in the EU will continue to have their healthcare protected even in the case of a No Deal Brexit. The new Healthcare (International Arrangements) Bill establishes the legal basis for funding and implementing reciprocal healthcare schemes for residents abroad, as well as the new EHIC arrangements. Yesterday, on Radio Sur’s English Time, Clio O’Flynn spoke to British Consul Charmaine Arbouin, and the recording of her explanation of the up-to-date situation is HERE.
Updated 14 November: The UK Cabinet has approved Theresa May’s Brexit “deal” today, and the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier has said in response that EU nationals in the UK and British nationals in EU countries “will be able to live their lives as before in their country of residence”, and that the deal will, to paraphrase, keep the UK in a Customs Union permanently. Such interpretations, however, have infuriated “Brexiteers”, and mean it is unlikely that Theresa May will be able to get the Cabinet approval through Parliament as things stand since the ERG (Jacob Rees-Mogg’s anti-EU “European Research Group”) and the DUP have both said they deplore the approval. The Parliamentary situation, to follow a cabinet clearly divided – with only Michael Gove of the “Leavers” approving the “deal” – is that some incredible bedfellows have been made over the past day or so, including Tony Blair and Boris Johnson: the likelihood of May being able to get this through Parliament in the teeth of opposition from Labour, the DUP and the ERG is slim. But for tonight, there’s a “deal”. Tomorrow? Who knows?!
Updated 13 November: The UK and EU have agreed a “withdrawal deal” at a technical level, it has been announced this afternoon. The cabinet has been summoned to Downing Street tomorrow afternoon at 2pm to agree it. If they do, it will then go to a European Council summit likely later this month, and then the UK Parliament in December, the last possible moment to get a deal through to ensure preparations are made in time to avoid a No Deal scenario.
This afternoon’s announcements, however, have been followed hot on the heels by a few others. Boris Johnson has said the deal won’t work; Jacob Rees Mogg has said his ERG’s members in Parliament will vote it down, as have the DUP. Moreover, the PM has called “key cabinet ministers” into Downing Street tonight for one-on-one meetings – it seems they will have a copy of the 400 or so page “deal document” to read through before tomorrow’s meeting but will not be allowed to take it out of Downing Street: the likeliest interpretation is that Theresa May is trying to avoid grandstanding shows tomorrow and to force any possible resignations tonight rather than during cabinet.
So, if this gets through cabinet tomorrow, it is likely to be approved by the EU council since it is Barnier’s work as much as the UK’s. It is then quite possible that it will be stymied in the British Parliament, however, because Theresa May does not seem to have the numbers to get the deal through in the face of opposition from the ERG, DUP and Labour. The options still seem incapable of being called, between deal, no deal, “people’s vote” (aka 2nd referendum), and general election. But for the moment, there’s a “deal” of sorts even if it doesn’t survive the next 24 hours, let alone next 24 days!
Updated 8 November: The Government has always insisted that it has every intention of protecting existing healthcare rights of pensioners in the EU, and this was always intended to be included in the withdrawal agreement and future relationship protocols. With talk and pressure increasing daily now, however, over the possibility of a no-deal Brexit if the withdrawal agreement is not signed off by the UK and the EU very soon, the UK Government has today confirmed that British nationals living in the EU will continue to have their healthcare protected even in the event that the UK crashes out of the EU without a deal.
The Government says that the new Healthcare (International Arrangements) Bill seeks to safeguard healthcare for expats and the 50 million people who travel abroad every year. It will establish the legal basis to fund and implement reciprocal healthcare schemes and share necessary data after the UK leaves the EU, with continued benefits including reducing the cost of insurance and making travel more viable for older people and high-risk groups, as well as providing a boost to the travel economy. The Government says that the Bill will also establish the basis for a new arrangement allowing the EHIC scheme to continue after 2020, though this is subject to agreement with the EU.
The people perhaps most concerned about these arrangements over the past two years will be the 190,000 or so British pensioners who have retired abroad, and they can now be reassured that they will continue to receive healthcare provided by the Spanish state system and covered by the UK even in the event of a no deal Brexit. Obviously this is a proposed law, and like all Bills has to go through Parliament, but it is pretty inconceivable that it won’t be passed.
Updated 19 September: We are now getting to the sharp end of being Brits abroad with Brexit looming just as it appears the various and opposing entrenched positions are about to clash head-on, as I posted a few days ago. And in the increasingly pressing situation it does appear that the message is getting through to those who have, putting it politely, been assuming they could get by without doing any of the “official bureacratic nonsense” – which is how one person has described it to me.
Incredible as it might seem to some (many?), there are British nationals living in Tenerife who are not registered with the police as legally required for foreigners living here, who are also not registered with a doctor, who don’t pay taxes here because they consider themselves “non-resident” even though living here permanently, and who don’t even have bank accounts. And now, it’s panic stations for some of them … while others remain blissfully ignorant of the danger they’re running.
So, given the situation let’s be clear. If you live in Spain, which includes Tenerife, you have to register with the police. To register they will require certain proofs of your residence, specifically your identity (so passport) plus proof that you are able to support yourself and won’t be a burden on Spain’s social or healthcare systems (so contributions as worker or self-employed or certificates stamped by a Spanish bank showing regular income or a deposit of €5,000 or so, plus full (no excess) private health insurance or, for pensioners, an S1). I’ve detailed the requirements on THIS page but THIS page also has much more information in a FAQ form about the basics of living here: there is also a “simple guide” HERE.
Registration is a legal requirement, but it’s not an automatic “right”. Spain is entitled to say that you haven’t proven you can support yourself or have sufficient healthcare cover to be allowed to live in the country. And so in the rush to register because Brexit is looming, some people are beginning to find that their years of floating above the “official bureacratic nonsense” are starting to catch up with them because they have a non-res bank account and no proof of income, use their EHICs incorrectly for healthcare, and in many instances pay untraceable rent to a British owner in cash or by transfer within the UK. The police are understandably completely unimpressed by such people’s insistence that their bald statement of self-supporting residence without a shred of proof should be enough to allow them to register.
Bear in mind, too, that this is the situation now, pre-Brexit, and for your own assurance, please pay no attention to anyone who tells you not to worry, that after Brexit things will just go on as before. They might, if there is a deal, but that can look very unlikely sometimes presently, and even if there is a deal, we cannot know right now what its conditions will be. Everyone who is anyone here is now singing from the same hymnsheet: register, and get things sorted out while you still have the chance, and if you are having problems in doing so now, it is worth resolving the issues because they could be nothing compared to what you might have to deal with after Brexit.
It’s time for anyone who hasn’t yet stuck their head up above the parapet to do so.
Updated 14 September: Following on from the EU’s guidelines on a no-deal Brexit issued in July, the UK Government has now issued its own advice. All sides are saying they want a deal, and are confident of avoiding a no-deal Brexit, but equally acknowledge that it is reasonable to prepare for the eventuality. Over the next month negotiations have to deal with some of the hardest issues which have become sticking points, like the Irish border, and even if these negotiations can be extended by a few weeks, they cannot go beyond mid-November or so without running out of time for the EU27 to get agreements through their own national and the European Parliaments.
So there is a couple of months at most from now in which we will no doubt find out if Jacob Rees-Mogg’s European Research Group will challenge Theresa May before the negotiations end, or whether Boris Johnson will challenge Theresa May on his return from Washington where he has just collected the Irving Kristol American Enterprise Institute award 2018 for exceptional intellectual and practical contributions to improve government policy, social welfare, or political understanding. And Labour shadow Foreign Minister Emily Thornberry has today gone on record as saying that Labour will not back any Chequers-based Brexit deal in Parliament regardless of what might come back from Brussels, which has said for its own part that Chequers is not a plan that can be accepted in any case. Analysts are seeing Thornberry’s intervention less as an attempt to force a no-deal Brexit and more as firing the starting pistol to trigger a general election by defeating May at a critical juncture.
Meanwhile, Gina Miller has launched an “unspun facts” campaign to “End the Chaos”, while other groups attempt to overturn the referendum result in the British and European Courts, and the High Court in London has today ruled that the Electoral Commission broke its own rules in allowing the official Leave Campaign to overspend and ensured unfairness when its job was to guarantee the opposite. If the UK’s present situation is not “a bit of a mess” it is certainly rather fluid, and it is hard to see where it is all going to go, so at least for the time being we have the no-deal advice from the British Government to be going on with. The EU’s own advice from July is in the last update immediately below, and the UK’s “Technical Notices” for a post-crash-out-Brexit are HERE.
Updated 19 July: With Westminster in utter chaos over Brexit for the last week, and with David Davis’ replacement, new Brexit minister Dominic Raab, holding his first meeting today with Michel Barnier in Brussels, the British political media is already bracing for the potential devastation of a no deal “cliff-edge” Brexit. And so too is the EU, with the Commission this morning releasing a “communication on preparedness” … for all outcomes in the Brexit negotiations. It is very clear from reading it that a no deal scenario is now up there as of virtually equal likelihood to an agreed settlement signed off in October leading to a two-year transition period from March next year.
Although the communication is a call to the EU27 national authorities and economic institutions and operators to step up preparations for any scenario, what might be of more concern to plain British citizens like ourselves is what might happen to us if the no deal “cliff-edge” scenario actually comes to pass. In this respect the communication explains that there would be no specific arrangement in place at all, either for EU citizens in the UK or for British nationals living and working in the EU. We would be in complete limbo and at the mercy of whatever bilateral agreements could be reached between the British and Spanish Governments in what would inevitably be the unchartered waters of a chaotic political and constitutional environment.
The full document is HERE, and it is self-evident that for us to have the best chance – indeed perhaps the only chance – of being able to remain living and working in Spain whatever agreements might be reached by the two Governments under those conditions, we will have to be here completely legally at that point. In fact, given that an agreement is still due to be signed off in October, if all fails and a no deal Brexit is to take place, it could be October this year that becomes the crucial date rather than March 2019.
As I explained in the last update on the 6th, the last but one update below, the only way of being legally resident in Spain is by being registered with the police and to be in possession of a Certificado de Registro. It doesn’t matter whether this says permanente or not on it because it entitles the holder to the right to permanent residence after five years anyway. What matters is that it’s the real Certificado de Registro – it will be green, and either A4 or credit-card sized, and it will have been issued by the National Police. And if the advice of the British Consul for southern Spain and the Canaries, Charmaine Arbouin, to “Register, Register, Register” was imperative when facing an orderly negotiated Brexit, it will be even more essential should a no-deal Brexit come to pass.
If you are not already registered with the police – and with a green Certificado de Registro not just a NIE – the strongest possible advice is to register now. For ease of reference, HERE is a simple paperwork checklist, and HERE is the page on documentation generally, including how to register with the police.
Updated 9 July: David Davis has resigned as Brexit secretary, and now, this afternoon, Boris Johnson has resigned as Foreign Secretary. Davis said that the Chequers cabinet approval of a soft Brexit was not something he could support as Brexit Secretary but that he did not see why Johnson should resign because it was not central to his job as Foreign Secretary. Nonetheless, Johnson has gone, and many will see it as political manoeuvering prior to a leadership challenge. Make of it whatever we will, here is Johnson’s resignation letter, effectively saying that without a hard- or no-deal-Brexit, the UK will be no better than an EU colony. Watch this space, as they say. Click the images (left) to see full size. The EU has said “nothing has changed”, but negotiators must be rubbing their hands together at the prospect of the UK in chaos thanks to these resignations and the Conservative Party’s internal warfare, and Donald Tusk has said that “it’s a shame Brexit didn’t go with these two, but maybe it still will”.
Updated 6 July: In a meeting coordinated with the Adeje FOCUS group, the Consul for southern Spain and the Canaries Charmaine Arbouin met local community and media representatives yesterday to explain the latest developments in the Brexit negotiations. The Consul, accompanied by Vice Consul Helen Keating and Consular Officer Penelope Gomez, explained that the current state of negotiations was now entering a new phase, with the UK and EU preparing to sign off an agreement in October this year prior to the UK’s official departure from the EU in March next year.
Although “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed”, the stance consistently expressed by Theresa May, the UK and EU have already finalised details of citizens’ rights, and as of December last, have moved on to other issues like the Irish border and various recriprocal agreements covering a range of issues like security and nuclear accords. From residents’ perspectives, however, it will be reassuring to hear it repeated that the agreement for our continued status is all but agreed and signed off: in the Consul’s own words, very little indeed will change from our point of view in terms of recripocal rights, continued pension increases, healthcare cover, and right to remain and reside in Spain.
Other issues like the Erasmus programme for students, for example, or photocard driving licence regulations, are still to be negotiated and determined but if nothing changes, all will be well for those who live here to continue to do so with the same rights that they currently enjoy, even if there might be one or two additional administrative hoops through which we will have to jump after the transition period, which finishes at the end of 2020.
The foregoing, however, is all dependent upon one thing, namely that the residents concerned are legally registered, and that is a message that is clearly not getting through sufficiently well or widely. It is frightening to learn that in one area of southern Spain with nearly 2,000 on a local padrón, only 300 or so were actually registered by the police as foreign residents in the country, and without being registered, their situation is at best alegal, and at worst illegal.
It is difficult to see what makes people resistant to registering, but whatever the problem is, the solution is very easy to put into simple language. The only way of being legally resident in Spain is by being registered with the police. The only way. A registration on a local council’s padrón is important to prove continued residence, and obviously provides significant local benefits, but does not of itself convey legality of residence. Equally, a NIE is essential – a sine qua non – for anyone wishing to do anything official in the country, whether sign at notary, buy a car, whatever, but again, of itself, does not convey legality of residence. To repeat, the only way of being legally resident in Spain is by being registered with the police.
Registration is legally required, but apart from making us “legal”, and providing “resident discount” type benefits, it will be the only certain proof of legal residence status at the point the UK leaves the EU. Without it, it is technically possible that British residents, who by that stage will be ex-EU nationals in the country illegally, could even be at risk of deportation. It is far less a case of nothing to lose by registering and much more one of everything to lose by not registering. In Charmaine Arbouin’s own words, if she has any message to convey at all at this stage, it is “Register, Register, Register”.
Assuming the agreements are signed off by the UK and EU in October this year, the next phase of the withdrawal will see much more in the way of bilateral talks between the UK and Spain, and accompanying the Consul yesterday was Lorna Geddie, one of four new policy advisers brought in throughout Europe to help liaise between the UK and the EU countries with which individual systems will have to be developed. The aim, Lorna said, was to streamline bureaucracy as much as possible, and develop programmes that will allow people to complete the necessary procedures as simply and straightforwardly as possible. Obviously, we will have to wait to see what Spain’s registration or residence requirements will be, but again it was reassuring to hear that Theresa May has already spoken to new Spanish PM Pedro Sánchez and the message is clear: both countries are committed to citizen rights for Spaniards in the UK and British nationals in Spain.
In all, the official Foreign Office line was clear. Residents are encouraged to speak to their regional authorities, local Ayuntamientos or community liaison groups like Adeje’s FOCUS: tell them what is needed, we were advised, because they need to make arrangements for their own local groups of foreign residents and, really, everything is up for grabs at present. Make your voices heard, tell local authorities what you want. And of course stay tuned to official channels or trusted media to be sure of knowing what is going on, and what actions might be required of us. But above all this, before everything, and more important than anything else at the moment, for our own sakes and that of our futures in Spain, Arbouin’s words are all we need to remember right now: REGISTER, REGISTER, REGISTER.
Updated 20 April: Apart from any problems the Government has with the House of Lords and the DUP, let alone the EU negotiators, another problem is pending with what can now be known as the Shindler Case. This involves a 96-year-old British man who lives in Italy, Harry Shindler, and who has just had his case accepted by the European Court of Justice. The case seeks to overturn the referendum result on the grounds that the result was invalid since he and a dozen or so other long-term expats were refused the right to vote despite a UK Government promise in 2015 to overturn that ruling on voting eligibility.
Sue Wilson, chair of BremainInSpain, said that the EU’s general court will hear the case which argues that the EU was wrong to initiate a withdrawal procedure, and that the negotiations are therefore illegal. Mr Shindler himself, in an interview with The Times, said that “the court can’t tell us to have another referendum but can say it doesn’t recognise the result. If we win, then the referendum is overturned. That would put the cat amongst the pigeons!”. Certainly it could force another referendum with long-term expats automatically having a vote.
Updated 19 March 2018: The UK Government and the EU have agreed the terms for a 21-month transitional deal as part of Brexit to enable the UK to make an “orderly withdrawal” from the European Union. The agreement was announced today by David Davis and the EU’s Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier, and clearly the UK has made a whole series of concessions to Brussels, including accepting the plan of keeping Northern Ireland under EU law to avoid a hard border with the Republic of Ireland. Also EU nationals arriving in the UK during the transition will get the same rights as those already in the country, even though Theresa May has previously said this could not happen.
Many commentators see the deal for a transition process as a complete cave in by the UK Government not least because it will keep the UK in the same position within the EU until 31 December 2020, rather than the original leave date of March next year, though without any rights throughout that period as a participating member. Business leaders, however, welcomed the news as providing the reassurance needed, and indeed Sterling immediately reached a five-month high in reaction to the announcement.
Speaking of the deal on the transition, David Davis said:
Make no mistake, both the United Kingdom and the European Union are committed to the joint report in its entirety and in keeping with that commitment we agree on the need to include legal text detailing the back stop solution for the border of Northern Ireland and Ireland in the withdrawal agreement that is acceptable to both sides. But it remains our intention to achieve a partnership that is so close as to not require specific measures in relation to Northern Ireland and therefore we will engaged in detail on all the scenarios set out in the joint report.
How this will all go down with the DUP, currently essential to Theresa May’s minority Government staying in power, is anyone’s guess, and it’s a fair while to the end of 2020, and there are still many more things to be clarified and agreed in that period. Let’s hope that we soon start to see things more clearly … 20-20 vision would be a good thing if it arrives before the end of 2020 itself!
Updated 14 December 2017: A rebellion against party whips by a dozen Conservative MPs who joined a cross-party alliance saw Theresa May lose a Brexit vote in the House of Commons last night. The vote was a key one on an amendment by former attorney general Dominic Grieve to ensure Parliament’s right to a meaningful vote on the final Brexit deal. The same cross-party alliance is likely also to inflict another defeat on the Government next week if Theresa May continues with her plan to try to set the end of the UK’s EU membership at 11pm GMT (midnight in Brussels) on 29 March 2019.
In an irony which will no doubt infuriate “Brexiters” who demanded “sovereignty” for Britain’s Parliament, it is that very sovereignty which will now be exercised by all MPs to determine whether the final deal is acceptable, not the Conservative Government. What effect this will actually have, however, is debatable, with Polish MEP Danuta Hübner, who chairs the European parliament’s constitutional affairs committee, arguing this morning that the vote will be largely meaningless because it will be a take it or leave it deal that has come out of completed negotiations by the time it gets to the MPs to vote on.
According to this view, if the deal were to be rejected by the House of Commons it should push the country into a hard Brexit, but the cross-party alliance is determined that democratic sovereignty should be the preserve of Parliament and all MPs, rather than any given Government of the day, and it will certainly strengthen the hand of anti-Brexit or anti-hard Brexit MPs through the remainder of the negotiations since David Davis and his team, and Theresa May herself, will know that they cannot simply plough ahead and agree the deal with the EU without full Parliamentary approval.
A further factor, of course, is that the British Parliament is not the only one which will have a vote on the final deal. The European parliament will also have a vote on it, and be asked to approve the deal some time before March 2019 and the end of the two-year period which started when Article 50 was triggered by the UK. The MEPs won’t be able to make any changes to the deal, but they too will have the power to reject it, though they are considered likely to rubber stamp a deal signed off by each of their national Parliaments and the European Commission.
Updated 23 October: In an interview on BBC1’s Andrew Marr show, Spanish foreign minister Alfonso Dastis said that British residents in Spain would be allowed to continue living in the country even in the event of a no-deal Brexit. Dastis said that “If there is no deal we will make sure that the lives of ordinary people who are in Spain, the UK people, are not disrupted. … the relationship between the UK and Spain is a very close one in terms of economic relations and also social exchanges. Over 17 million Brits come to Spain every year and many of them live here or retire here and we want to keep it that way as much as possible.”
Now many will understandably be wary of accepting a verbal (albeit recorded) statement by a Government minister who might not still be in post, or even still be elected, at the time the negotiations conclude. And in any case, a no-deal Brexit is seen as virtually inconceivable by negotiators, as the deputy head of mission at the British Embassy in Madrid, Tim Hemmings, said in the Brexit meetingthe other day. Nonetheless, it will be reassuring to many to hear such positive words from the Spanish authorities direct, and to hear how they view us, and our contributions to the country, a view inevitably formed against the background of all the Spanish nationals living in the UK, and whom Spain wishes to see carrying on with their successful lives without interruption.
Updated 1 September: Following the second round of negotiations, the UK’s Exiting the EU Dept has published a further joint technical note with the European Union setting out their current positions. All indications are that this round of negotiations was tetchy, testy and frustrating, but in some respects, reassuring to those of us living in Tenerife. As before, the joint technical note is in the form of a comparative chart, and it can be viewed HERE. David Davis’ summing up of the current situation is HERE.
Also as mentioned before, it is now increasingly clear that the UK has every intention of protecting existing healthcare rights of pensioners in the EU. It is a firm plank of UK policy that the British Government will “at least protect existing healthcare rights and arrangements for EU27 citizens in the UK and UK nationals in the EU. The EHIC arrangements.” This means, of course, that British pensioners in Spain will continue to have their health care arrangements protected both where they live and – when they travel to another Member State including the UK – to be able to use their EHIC.
The wording, however, could be significant in referring to existing healthcare rights and arrangements: whether new retirees will enjoy the same benefits, or whether there is to be a cut-off date for eligibility, will no doubt become clear in time. It is quite evident, though, that the number one concern of British retirees here is largely dealt with, and any pensioner already legally resident in Tenerife and getting healthcare through the S1 system should continue to be able to do so.
Updated 25 July: The British ambassador to Spain, Simon Manley, has written the following open letter to all UK citizens living in Spain.
Given the success of the Spanish State Visit to the UK the week before last, which, among other things, highlighted the importance of people to people links between our two countries, I thought it timely to return to the subject of citizens’ rights in the negotiations on our departure from and future partnership with the EU.
In the year since the EU referendum, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting many of you across the country, from the Balearics to the Canaries, along the Costas and in Madrid, and our consular teams have met many more.
I know from those conversations that there has been uncertainty for many of you. My teams and I have listened to your concerns about the future, including about your residency status in Spain, the level of your UK pensions, and your access to Spanish health and other social services, and have noted the questions you have about tax, inheritance, right to work and the implications of applying for Spanish nationality.
At our meetings, on our social media and in interviews, I have also pledged to keep you up to date as negotiations on our exit from the European Union continue. So, let me update you on where matters stand now, in light of the latest negotiation round in Brussels last week.
The UK Government has been clear that citizens are our top priority in the exit negotiations. We want an agreement that provides citizens with greater certainty about their future.
Last week, we held constructive and substantive discussions with the European Commission on the bulk of the issues underpinning our respective positions on citizens’ rights. Together we have taken a big step forward. There is a much clearer understanding on the detail of the positions on both sides and significant convergence on the key issues that really matter to citizens. You can read this technical note which compares the UK and EU positions on these issues [in the post below]. It is clear both sides want to move towards an agreement.
As you know, on 26 June, the Prime Minister outlined to Parliament an offer to protect the rights of EU citizens in the UK. We are entering the negotiations with the European Commission and the other 27 EU Member States constructively and we therefore hope that the EU27 will offer reciprocal treatment for British nationals resident in the other Member States.
Many of you will have seen press reports of our 26 June offer, whether in the UK or Spanish media. I hope you will also have read the detailed proposals which are set out in “Safeguarding the position of EU citizens in the UK and UK nationals in the EU” (https://www.gov.uk/government/policies/brexit) and I would encourage you to sign-up for email alerts (you can do so on the Home Office gov.uk page) to receive updates, to ensure that you are receiving information and guidance from official sources.
The first key element of the new proposal is residence status and working rights. Until the UK’s exit, EU citizens in the UK will continue to enjoy all the rights they currently have under EU law; they can continue to live and work in the UK just as they do now.
The same rights also apply to you, British residents in Spain. You can continue to live and work here in Spain as you always have done. After the UK’s exit from the EU, we are proposing a reciprocal deal that would protect the right of UK nationals already in the EU to continue to live and work in the EU. We hope that the European Commission and the 27 other Member States will agree to this.
The second key element is healthcare, pensions, education and access to benefits. It is our intention to treat EU citizens with settled status in the UK in the same way as if they were UK citizens for the purposes of access to education, benefits and pensions.
For you, the Government has announced that the UK will continue to export and uprate the UK State Pension and provide associated healthcare cover within the EU, issues which I know from my conversations over the last year were important to many of you.
At the moment, those of you who are UK pensioners and resident in Spain access healthcare through the S1 form. This means the UK reimburses Spain the cost of providing medical treatment. After the UK leaves the EU, we want to continue your healthcare entitlements on the same basis. Healthcare in Spain was indeed one of the case studies cited in the detailed proposals made by the British Government on 26 June (see link).
Subject to negotiations, we want to continue participating in the European Health Insurance Card scheme meaning EHIC holders continue to benefit from free, or reduced-cost, needs-arising healthcare while on a temporary stay in the EU — and vice versa for EU EHIC holders visiting the UK. We hope the European Commission will agree to this.
The British Government has repeatedly said that, until exit negotiations are concluded, the UK remains a full member of the European Union and all the rights and obligations of EU membership remain in force. You can continue travelling throughout the EU on your UK passport, without any visa requirements. You can continue to access Spanish healthcare and draw your UK pension. If you have any difficulties accessing those rights, do please let our Consulates know
I will continue to engage with you and listen to you, as will my consular teams across Spain. In the meantime, please follow me on Twitter (@SimonManleyFCO) and access the Embassy’s social media (@UKinSpain on Twitter; British Embassy Madrid and Brits in Spain on Facebook) to keep up to date with developments.
Updated 21 July: The UK’s Exiting the EU Dept has published a joint technical note with the European Union setting out their positions on citizens’ rights. It is a comparative chart, effectively, and has been published on the EU Commission and gov.uk websites and can be viewed HERE. It maps the alignment between the two parties’ positions, to prioritise future discussions, and summarises and compares them. Green indicates convergence, red indicates divergence, and yellow indicates where further discussion is required to deepen understanding.
Updated 26 June: In a parliamentary statement today in the House of Commons, Theresa May has said:
the UK will continue to export and uprate the UK State Pension and provide associated healthcare cover within the EU. We will continue to protect the export of other benefits and associated healthcare cover, where the individual is in receipt of those benefits on the specified cut-off date. And subject to negotiations we want to continue participating in the European Health Insurance Card scheme, so that UK card holders could continue to benefit from free or reduced cost healthcare while on a temporary stay in the EU and vice versa for EU card holders visiting the UK.
Whilst this is framed within the UK’s offer on the rights of EU nationals living in the UK, an offer which EU negotiators say does not go far enough, it seems pretty inconceivable to me that May or whoever is PM at the time could go back on this position of preserving pensioners’ rights to pension increases and healthcare, and the EHIC system, regardlesss of the form of the final settlement.
Updated 22 June: Brexit negotiations have started and already the UK has had to concede that residents’ rights (along with the divorce settlement and the Irish border) will have to be agreed before any trade agreements can start. With now only 21 months – and counting – remaining of the 24 months within which all agreements need to be finalised, Plaid Cymru MEP Jill Evans is publishing a new report on the possibilities that exist for British nationals to retain EU citizenship regardless of what might be agreed in the negotiations.
The study was launched on Tuesday in the European Parliament, and the researchers will present their findings to the European Commission and the European Parliament. It is based on the report – ‘The Feasibility of Associate EU Citizenship for UK nationals post-Brexit’ – prepared for Evans by a team of researchers at Swansea University. One possibility explored by the study is a new status of ‘associate citizenship’. Jill Evans said that the “report is an important contribution to the debate around UK citizens retaining their EU citizenship, or having the right to become associate EU citizens”. She continued that many people still strongly considered “European” as part of their self-identity “and are horrified at the thought of losing their EU citizenship, with all the benefits it brings”.
Guy Verhofstadt?, leader of the ALDE group (Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe) in the European Parliament said that the proposals were interesting and should be explored. Any British residents of Tenerife who did not want to see the UK leave the EU will certainly agree. Meanwhile, negotiations, such as they are, continue, but it will be a boost to the spirit of those who wanted to remain in the EU to see that someone is considering how they might be able to do so.
11 April: The FCO held a live Q&A session on Facebook today as I posted HERE, and in essence, FCO Consular Director Julia Longbottom reiterated all I’ve said below on this post, namely that everything of concern to British residents or property owners here will be the subject of negotiations which will take place over the next two years. No-one’s situation changes in that period, and there will be no new information until negotiations start, and it will then be a matter of policy as to what details the Government will release about those negotiations. When there is any clear information I will publish it here.
Updated 29 March: And so, today is B-Day, starting the two-year process of negotiation for the UK’s departure from the EU. From what the UK’s Exiting the EU Department says, together with comments from EU diplomats, particularly chief negotiator Michel Barnier from France, there is a clear agenda for discussion. First will be the €60bn “divorce bill”, and providing agreement is reached on that, second on the list is the residence rights of EU nationals living in the UK, and by extension, those of Britons living in the EU. At least this should provide an early clarification of our residence status and rights to remain in Spain. Today, then, is when it actually starts to get real.
Updated 20 March: The British Government has announced that Theresa May will trigger Article 50 to start the Brexit process on Wednesday next week, 29 March.
As I said below last month, the official position is that the residence situation of British nationals currently remains the same as before the referendum, and there is no additional requirement for a work permit or extra documentation, nor anything else to enable British nationals to continue living and working in Spain. The current requirements HERE remain valid until further notice.
Having said that, triggering Article 50 sets a clear start date for the two-year Brexit procedure, and since everything will then be a matter of negotiation, today’s announcement makes the next nine days a very good time for anyone who needs to formalise their legal position in Spain to do so. If you are living here and have not registered with the police, or are not on your local Ayuntamiento’s padrón, I would urge you to do so before Wednesday 29 March in case that date becomes significant in any determination of a right to remain in Spain.
Original post 7 February 2017: The UK’s Foreign & Commonwealth Office has reminded British residents in Spain that their residence situation currently remains the same as before the referendum. The FCO’s page is HERE for general advice on residency requirements.
I myself am frequently asked about the situation of Brits in Tenerife now that the UK “has left the EU”, but the UK has not left the EU yet, just voted to do so. As of this moment, and until two years after article 50 has been triggered, the UK is still in the EU. The decision reached in the referendum is currently being taken through Parliament, and it seems that Theresa May intends to trigger Article 50 (a power that Parliament has now given her) by 9 March, which would then become the starting point of the two year negotiating period.
In the meantime, there is no additional requirement for a work permit or additional documentation, nor anything else to enable British nationals to continue living and working in Spain. The current requirements HERE remain valid until further notice.
Beyond that, absolutely everything else will have to wait for the two-year process of negotiations, and I will post any firm information as and when it becomes available throughout this period. In the meantime, I would urge anyone living here who is not registered with the police (and with a Certificado de Registro), or not on a council padrón, to do so immediately.
In this respect, it is worth clarifying one question I’m repeatedly asked by people who have or had plans to move over in the next few years, namely whether “following Brexit, would it be wise to apply for permanent residency now?” The answer is, of course, that as is clear from the link to the current requirements linked to above, those living here do not have a choice to “apply for residency” but are under a “requirement to register”. Anyone living here should already be registered with the police, and anyone who is planning to move over cannot guarantee anything by pre-emptively getting a Certificado de Registro now, which in any case would mean making a false declaration of residence in Spain.
In any case, everyone should bear in mind that the Certificado de Registro is a certificate for EU nationals, and so might be replaced by some other requirements once the Brexit procedure is complete and the immigration conditions for Brits as non-EU nationals are confirmed.
So to reiterate, the current situation will remain the case while Brexit negotiations continue, and everything will have to be determined by negotiations yet to come. Nothing firm can be said until those negotiations are completed. For my more general thoughts, please see below for the post I originally made before the referendum took place, and for the UK Government’s advice for British nationals travelling and living in Europe in the wake of the Leave vote, please see HERE.
The following is what I originally posted in June 2015:
Maybe because it’s been in the news a lot lately, or because David Cameron is in Brussels right now telling the EU what it must do if the UK is to stay in Europe when the referendum is held at some point over the next two and a half years (link), but I’ve had a few emails lately asking what the implications would be for expats in Tenerife if the UK opted to leave. Obviously, to quite a large extent, this is a matter of opinion, perspective, and judgment, but there are one or two firm facts that we can at least use to help form views. The main questions I’m asked concern medical arrangements, pensions, and residential status, and so to cover these in turn:
First, medical arrangements. Clearly the reciprocal arrangements for EU member states could stop if the UK left the EU. This would leave pensioners without an S1 system whereby their cover in Spain is funded by the UK. There is a safety net in Spain, so it’s not inevitable that pensioners would be without health cover, but there are criteria: anyone who was first registered as a legal resident in Spain (with a Certificado de Registro) before 24 April 2012, and who has remained legally resident throughout, and who has an annual income of under €100,000, and who has no other healthcare cover, can apply to be registered for free healthcare in Spain as a resident. Whether UK nationals would be deemed to have “no right to any other healthcare cover” given that the NHS would cover them if they returned to the UK is another matter. It also seems likely that any rights under the reciprocal European healthcare system which provides British travellers with EHICs for emergency care and cover while out of the UK would be lost. These matters are among many which will form part of the negotiations to be undertaken during the Brexit procedure.
As far as pensions are concerned, the UK will pay these to whichever account an entitled pensioner requests, but David Cameron has said that if the UK leaves the EU, there will be no increases of British pensions for those living in the EU, just as pensioners living in, say, Australia, find their UK pensions frozen at the rate applicable at the point they left the UK. The Government has made noises following Cameron’s statement that suggest this may be negotiable, but the only firm statement made at present is that pensions of British pensioners within the EU will be frozen if the UK leaves the EU. The date at which the pension rate would be frozen is a matter of complete conjecture.
With regard to residence status, Spanish and European law gives residents of an EU nation state the right to reside permanently in another EU nation once they have been legally resident for five years. Once the UK leaves the EU, however, British citizens cease to become “residents of an EU nation” and so their right to remain cannot be taken for granted. That right also extends, though, to member states of the EEA (European Economic Area) and so unless there’s a “hard brexit”, the UK should remain in that group, thus preserving its citizens’ right to remain in Spain if they have been here legally for five years (again, this implies being in possession of a Certificado de Registro and being able to prove essentially continuous residence, presumably by means of an additional Certificate of Empadronamiento from an Ayuntamiento).
Assuming there is some right to remain for those who have been here legally for five years, it is not clear to me what the position would be for those who had not been here for five years, but under EU law I cannot see how Spain could just expel people who had arrived here legally and who had been officially processed. Regardless of length of residence, however, the status of anyone who had not registered with the police and acquired their Certificado de Registro would be “irregular”, rather than “illegal” – just as it is at present.
When it comes to the inheritance and gift tax reductions of 99.9% newly introduced in the Canaries from January 2016, and which apply to tax residents and non-residents alike, one of the few criteria that apply to receiving the reduction is that it applies to non-residents providing they are resident in another EU member state. This is because the non-discrimination requirements are based on EU regulations, and if the UK were to leave the EU, then the discount for inheritance and gift tax would no longer be available, as it is presently not available for those resident outside of the EU.
Incidental questions I’m also asked relate to driving licences – the UK’s involvement in the EU’s photocard licence scheme would be questionable; the effect on the exchange rate – this is a money expert’s question and even if I were one, which I’m not, I doubt I’d be prepared to guess! One thing is clear, howeer, and that is that anyone given the right to remain would retain their right to resident discount on travel within Spain because it is a subsidy given to Canarian residents, regardless of origin.
Obviously the above isn’t “factual” in the normal sense, and some things which are “facts” could change because policy or decisions can be altered, or there might be residual agreements put in place were the UK to leave. But that’s my best attempt given what is known at present to address the concerns I’m increasingly finding people have. I hope it helps, and I’m more than happy for this to be discussed however you like below.
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