On a visit to the Costa del Sol this week, Simon Manley, the British Ambassador to Spain, promised that the government's priority throughout the Brexit negotiations has been, and always will be, the citizens. He also gave his assurance that “rights will be maintained throughout the transition period”.
He claimed that the government had listened to the concerns that have been raised and said that it was those issues which have formed the way in which it has handled the negotiations.
The ambassador and regional consul, Charmaine Arbouin, hosted two talks about Brexit on the Costa del Sol on Thursday. The talks are part of the efforts made by the British Embassy and Consulates in Spain to ensure that the concerns residents raised around subjects like residency rights, healthcare and pensions are understood by the UK negotiating team and reflected in their discussions with their EU partners.
The meeting, which was held in the Avanto Restaurant in La Cala de Mijas, was chaired by Anne Hernandez, President of Brexpats in Spain, the Mijas-based platform that offers advice and information about the effects of the forthcoming Brexit.
The British Ambassador began by thanking Brexpats, in particular for the manner with which they have worked with the embassy from day one, which he said had been “genuinely collaborative, transparent and honest”.
Referring to David Davis and Michel Barnier's press conference in Brussels on Monday, which announced that a Brexit transition deal had been agreed, he claimed that this was a major step forward and significant progress had been made.
“Back in December, we came to the first big agreement on the terms of our departure from the EU. This was an agreement that, amongst other things, covered the issue of citizens' rights: we reached an agreement that effectively protects the rights of British expats already living here in Spain and Spanish residents in the UK,” he said.
The ambassador pointed out that once this is turned into a draft legal treaty, it will be the legal basis for continuity of expats rights as residents here in Spain, just as it will be for Spaniards living in the UK.
He claimed the government has been working tirelessly on what the British prime minister calls the implementation period, or the transition period, the period that will start when the UK leaves the EU next march and continues until December 2020.
“It's called a transition period because it is taking us from our status as a member state of the EU to a future relationship with them. That period, to put it very simply, will be a period in which the rules of the EU will continue to be observed in full,” he concluded.
The second meeting was held in Manilva on Thursday evening, when a panel of experts was set up to answer questions from residents.