“DEAL or no deal, your rights will largely be respected.”
This was the reassuring message from the British Consul in Alicante at an event in Algorfa last Thursday to update UK nationals on the latest Brexit developments and how Britain’s departure from the EU will affect their situation in Spain.
Sarah-Jane Morris told the packed meeting room that while the situation regarding the withdrawal deal Mrs May’s government had agreed with the EU had clearly changed following the British Parliament’s crushing rejection, the issue of citizen’s rights essentially had not.
Speaking exclusively to the Euro Weekly News, the Consul said even in the event of a no-deal Brexit, she believes British expatriates in Spain can expect most of the rights they currently enjoy to remain in place, but stressed UK nationals must ensure they are legally resident.
The Consul clarified this means registering as a temporary or permanent resident in ‘Extranjeria’ (immigration) offices, and that having an NIE and being registered on a municipal ‘Padron’ are not enough.
Referring to residents who are on the central register, Sarah-Jane Morris said, “We’re confident they will be fine, because the Spanish have said so, and also the Spanish have said they will treat British nationals here on a reciprocity basis, in the same way Spanish nationals are treated in the UK.”
The Consul also explained what she meant by the “majority” of rights, commenting, “What’s not clear is what’s been negotiated around for example onward movement.”
The Consul further commented, “We do not know yet how the Spanish will treat British nationals who do not have residency and are living here all year round.”
On the subject of voting rights in local elections, the Consul explained the EU 27 have said this is member state competency. She revealed that as a result of negotiations with Spain in recent months an agreement is due to be signed under which British nationals would retain that right, with or without a deal.
“It’s actually the first bilateral. And because of the local elections in May, Spain has been top of the list as a priority because we knew there were British nationals standing and voting.”
Commenting on whether Mrs May would be able to come up with a deal acceptable to the British Parliament and the 27 member-states, the Consul remarked, “It’s really difficult to say what’s going to happen next.
“What we do know is that if you’re resident and you’re registered here, then you’re in a strong position to say the rights I had when I moved here I will continue to enjoy.”
Up-to-date advice for UK citizens living in Spain is available at gov.uk/living-in-spain. The British Embassy also recommends following its Brits in Spain Facebook page, and signing up for alerts from the gov.uk page to ensure receipt of accurate information.
In addition, the Spanish Government has set up a Prepared for Brexit section on its Moncloa website.