AFTER meeting with British prime minister Theresa May, Mariano Rajoy released a statement from the Palacio de la Moncloa reassuring expats that their interests would be looked after in any Brexit settlement.
The acting Spanish prime minister told May that although he “profoundly regretted” the result of the referendum, since he was committed to defending the interests of Spaniards in the UK, by the same token he would defend expats and British businesses in Spain.
“In the same way that Spain is going to defend the interests of Spaniards in the UK, the British who are living in Spain, the millions of tourists who visit Spain and the British companies based here should keep calm,” said a written statement from Moncloa Palace, Rajoy’s official residence.
There was no joint press conference after their working lunch and choreographed stroll through the palace gardens but an official release said that “Rajoy told the British Prime Minister that Spain wants to carry on the same close and friendly relationship with the UK.”
There was only a fleeting mention of Gibraltar, with Rajoy understood to tell May that Spain would not accept the territory he once labelled an “anachronism” staying in the EU single market. The release made more reference to Rajoy’s rabid opposition to Scottish independence.
“Mariano Rajoy also expressed to the British Prime Minister that Spain supports the integrity of the UK and will not encourage any kind of secessionism related to the exit from the European Union,” the statement continued.
The PP leader, who looks set to fight a third election in December, made the remarks as Scotland set forth a bill that could pave the way to a second independence referendum as promised if Britain voted for Brexit.
Rajoy fears that any progress on Scottish independence could set a precedent for Catalonia’s own demands for full autonomy, an issue that has the very real potential of breaking up modern Spain.