BRITAIN’S Minister for Exiting the European Union (EU) has travelled to Madrid to meet with spokespeople for groups representing expatriates as well as Spanish politicians and business leaders.
Robin Walker’s trip included talks with members of the Brexpats in Spain, Bremain in Spain, EuroCitizens and ECREU groups at the British Embassy in the Spanish capital.
Issues including health and social care for expatriates in light of Britain’s withdrawal from the EU in March 2019 were discussed. There were also talks on outreach and communications with Walker and Embassy officials.
The aim of the meetings was to provide the groups with updates on ongoing Brexit negotiations as well as an insight into Britain’s diplomatic work in Spain, its embassy said.
Walker said he was pleased to meet with the representatives and update them on what the government was doing to safeguard their rights.
“I valued the opportunity to hear their concerns about residency, pensions, onward movement and voting rights and the uncertainty many of them still feel over Brexit,” he said.
The minister added the government’s top priority had always been to secure the rights of citizens and that the draft Withdrawal Agreement did that for British nationals in Spain.
“In the unlikely event we leave without a deal, the Prime Minister has confirmed that all EU citizens living in Britain before March 29 2019 will be able to stay.
“I want British exptas in Spain to know that, during my meetings, I have underlined how valued and significant it would be if the Spanish Government now offered them the same reassurance,” Walker said.
Simon Manley, Britain’s Ambassador to Spain, said strong people-to-people links were at the heat of Britain’s relationship with Spain.
“There are 180,000 Spanish people living in Britain and some 300,000 British people have chosen to make Spain their home.
“I am pleased that Robin Walker was able to meet with representatives of British nationals’ citizens’ rights groups in Spain as well as Spanish government officials,” Manley said.
“As the negotiations continue, both the Embassy and consulates will continue with the outreach events we have planned through Spain, with some 20 events planned between now and the end of the year,” the ambassador added.
The meetings follow comments from the president of Brexpats in Spain, Anne Hernandez, claiming the patience of her and her group’s members was running out over Brexit.
“Theresa May’s failure to mention expatriates in her statements has shown how little we matter to her,” Hernandez said.