SIMON MANLEY, the British Ambassador to Spain met with expatriates on Wednesday April 19, with the aim of discussing people’s concerns.
In coordination with the Foreign Office and the Department for Exiting the European Union representatives from a range of organisations in the area were invited to meet with Mr Manley.
The round-table event offered an opportunity for attendees to share ideas and concerns directly with the Ambassador and a senior representative from the Department for Exiting the European Union.
Alongside the Ambassador was Sarah-Jane Morris the British Consul in Alicante, Simon Fairweather Head of Political Team based at the British Embassy in Madrid, and the head of Spanish Healthcare.
Representatives from the community included Michele Masson from Help Vega Baja, the president of MABS, MICA group, The Samaritans and Karen Maling Cowles a business owner from Benidorm.
The meeting started with a video message from David Jones MP, Minister of State for the Department for Exiting the European Union, who was unable to attend the meeting following the sudden announcement of the June general election.
A key point during the meeting was to reassure the expatriate community. That securing an early agreement on the status of UK nationals in the EU was a top priority of the UK government, once formal negotiations have begun.
These negotiations, however, will only commence once a very long list of terms is agreed for Brexit. In particular the government team had prioritised expatriates rights for healthcare, education, immigration, benefits and contributions.
Discussions included the scaremongering that social media sites and some newspapers were creating. It was clarified that at present no laws or anything else had been changed, everyone still had the same rights as they did before Brexit was announced, and the Spanish authorities would not suddenly begin deporting British citizens.
Karen Maling Cowles had been asked by several people to raise the issue of schooling, with many parents concerned that as their children were in Spanish school they would have to make alternative arrangements.
“It was clarified that Spain has a legal obligation to provide education,” Karen said, “all children between the age of six and 16 have this right, and this will not change irrespective of your nationality.”
Questions were raised about the benefits of changing nationalities to become a Spanish national. It was made clear that should an individual do this, they would then not be protected by the consulate should the need arise. It was confirmed that, so long as a person has residency, they would continue to have the same rights as a Spanish national.
Karen said: “It was a really positive meeting, with an opportunity for us all to express the concerns of our communities. A key point for me is that everyone should stay calm about the whole process, once completed the effects on expats will be very minimal, if there are any at all. It is not in Spain’s interest for us to up and leave.”