Spain talks tough on expat Brexit

Published:  17 May at 6 PM
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Spain’s foreign minister is hitting out at Britain’s stance on expats.

The argument on expat rights between Theresa May and European Parliament Brexit negotiator Guy Verhofsdadt seems to be getting nastier as time passes, with neither able to get their human rights priorities in order. In addition, a recent statement from the Madrid government indicated Spain wants to retain the bulk of the EU’s freedom of movement laws with the UK. It’s referring to the principle of the right of free movement for EU citizens across the entire bloc and the need to simplify the UK’s permanent residency requirement for European expats who wish to stay in Britain post-Brexit.

Basically, the Spanish stance is ‘Protect our citizens in the UK and we’ll allow British expats the right to stay in Spain’. The EU’s Brexit guidelines state that EU citizens who’ve lived in the UK for more than five years should be granted the right to permanent residency, but Spain is attempting to include their citizens who expect to be able to stay beyond that mark. Given the complicated legalities Spain’s and the EU’s stance would initiate, Theresa May is unlikely to be impressed.

Also, according to Verhofsdadt, expat rights would need to be guaranteed by the European Court of Justice, but May is determined that Britain will not accept the court’s jurisdiction after Brexit is finalised. Spain’s foreign minister Alfonso Dastis has the impression that May and the British government are tabling far too many requirements for an agreement to be reached. His stance is that any agreement should be as broad as possible, and should strongly resemble the present situation as regards freedom of movement.

At the present moment, around 130,000 Spanish expats are living in the UK and some 256,000 Brits have made their homes in Spain. Campaigners for the rights of both sides fear the ‘bargaining chip’ scenario is still very much in evidence, causing even more disruption to lives, jobs and futures, even although chief UK Brexit negotiator David Davis has stated he’s in favour of ‘generosity across the board’. Polish PM Beata Szydlo is in favour of guaranteeing citizens’ rights, but is insisting any agreement must have European law as its base and include the right to permanent residency.
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