Hope for UK citizens in Spain as government supports expat rights

Published:  20 Mar at 6 PM
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Around a million UK expats living in Spain were given a gleam of hope by the Spanish government’s announcement in favour of a Brexit deal including Brits’ rights to remain.

In an interview with the Times newspaper, leading Spanish negotiator for Brexit and EU Spanish secretary Jorge Toledo confirmed his country’s stance on the rights of Britons after the EU/UK divorce is finalised. Madrid, he said, is prepared to favour in principle an agreement which guarantees Brit expatriates the right to remain. In addition, he believes the deal should also include access to Spanish heathcare and no loss of benefits.

According to Mr Toledo, Britons’ rights to heathcare, freedom of movement plus benefits should be the subject of a reciprocal agreement which includes all UK citizens in EU member states as well as all EU nationals in the UK. He added the conditions and modalities applied to such an agreement will and should form the basis of negotiations.

The Spanish negotiator and chair of the Brexit working group within the Spanish parliament also stated all EU bloc members must work with EU Chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier. According to hints dropped by sources within the diplomatic community, Madrid may also be in favour of a separate deal supporting the continuation of the present rapport between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. At present, free movement of people and goods is guaranteed via EU rules, with many believing an end to the arrangement would be devastating for both sides.

Mr Toledo’s statement came as a relief to the million or so British citizens resident in Spain, most of whom have been living in fear since the referendum. Many are retirees with genuine concerns over post-Brexit access to heathcare in addition to the right to remain. Over the past few months, demands for at least some degree of reassurance from both London and Madrid have fallen on deaf ears.

The British government has been the focus of many expatriate protest group complaints, especially for its rejection of the Exiting the EU Select Committee’s recommendation that EU citizens in the UK be protected from the effects of Brexit. The move, they say, would have encouraged EU member states to reciprocate in favour of UK expats.
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