THE British Ambassador to Spain, Simon Manley holds an incredibly important position now that Britain intends to leave the European Union as he represents the UK in one of its most important European trading partners and whilst in Malaga today (February 3) granted Euro Weekly News an exclusive interview.
Mr Manley spent the day travelling between Madrid, Malaga and Marbella firstly to visit the English Cemetery and then to discuss Brexit at a special event organised by the British Chamber of Commerce in Spain, both of which will be subject to separate articles but he was generous in finding time to speak to Spain’s largest English language newspaper.
He is often mentioned in the media but generally articles concentrate on what he is saying today and in this interview, he agreed to give more of an insight to the man himself and his history prior to his appointment as well as his current role.
After leaving Latymer Upper School in Ravenscourt Park, London he went to Oxford where he did study Spanish, although it was a little rusty when this appointment was agreed. He entered service with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in King Charles Street London in 1990 and has worked his way through the service.
His career has seen two postings to the Embassy in Brussels, one to the British Consulate in New York, two periods of secondment to the European Union and most recently a return to London where he was Director of European Affairs and Head of Counter Terrorism in the FCO.
Whilst one might assume that the role of counter terrorism would sit with the Police and Security Services, the Foreign Office also has to have a very close involvement in such matters especially when British citizens suffered as happened in both Bali and Mumbai but he also took an interest in the Middle East and worked closely with other senior officials in governments around the world.
In the days when the government would simply pick a new Ambassador to post overseas, many were the times when the ‘old boy network’ came into play or an irritant such as the Duke of Windsor would be placed in a safe posting such as the Bahamas but for several years the majority of such posts have been advertised as new jobs and candidates appointed on merit.
This was the case with Simon Manley who had to spend four months in a language laboratory to ensure that his Spanish was completely up to date.
Spain is one of the most important positions in the diplomatic service worldwide, with more consulates than any other country because of the size of the expatriate population and the enormous amount of trade (€46 billion (€53.5 billion) per annum) which occurs between our two countries.
His role is just not just a commercial one nor indeed as an observer of expatriate and tourist needs as a lot of this is dealt with at ground level with the consulates but because of his background he has close relationships with the Spanish government over matters of security and there is also considerable co-operation in matters of criminality.
Britain is important to Spain as 2016 saw 18 million tourists visit and this figure is only likely to increase.
Putting words into his mouth, a general conversation confirmed that it is a little frustrating for him to be unable to give any guaranteed information concerning Brexit and how it will affect Britons in Spain as until negotiation are completed no-one knows what the results will be although it is government policy to try to have the case of expatriates agreed at the earliest opportunity.
Part of his role is to try to explain to the government and civil servants in the UK, the hopes, expectations and fears of those British passport holders loving in Spain and the need for their wishes to be incorporated into any Brexit negotiations.
Finally he touched upon Gibraltar and the fact that he works closely with the Governor and Chief Minister to promote the aims and aspirations of Gibraltar to the Spanish government and media and has a great deal of respect for the people and the multi-cultural society that exists there.