British expatriates living in Spain are becoming increasingly concerned about whether they will be able to participate in the municipal elections in Spain in May 2019 - a date which falls within the transition phase of the UK's exit from the European Union.
Despite the fact that the UK government has promised to restore voting rights for long-time expat residents in Europe, this will probably not happen until 2024. Worse still, those expat residents who have represented their communities on Spanish local councils may well find themselves prohibited from standing after the UK's departure in March 2019.
Brexpats in Spain, the platform set up to defend the rights of British citizens in Spain, is commencing a nationwide campaign to raise awareness of these issues, working with mayors and local councils, and the local, national and international press. The campaign, which has the backing of the Spanish political party, Ciudadanos, will also petition MPs in the UK.
“There is a problem on the horizon that, until very recently, has been ignored, forgotten or just overlooked. It is also an issue that some expats living here permanently do not understand, or maybe even care about, but it is vital to our continued lifestyle in Spain and our integration into the Spanish life,” Anne Hernández, President of Brexpats in Spain, explained.
The president believes that the right to vote in Spain has not been properly considered, claiming that Spain and the UK will need to sign a bilateral agreement that will enable expats to vote in the local elections. She also stressed that the situation must be identified and solved before the end of this year.
“We are aware of the limited time we have left to find a solution, given that the local elections are just one year away. At present, expats cannot vote in the UK if they have been out of the country for more than 15 years. We cannot vote in the EU elections and now, no vote in the municipal elections here in Spain,” Anne said.
“We will be completely disenfranchised. It begs the question as to quite what we British residents in the EU stand for, even though we proudly retain and defend our British passports,” the president continued.
Simon Manley, British Ambassador for Spain, is assisting Brexpats and has already forwarded copies of the campaign to the British Prime Minister, Teresa May; the Cabinet Office and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. He has also raised the problem with the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Although the lobby has already received considerable support, Anne Hernández said: “We need expats to show their support for the campaign. Time is of the essence so please go to our website and download the letter, add your name and NIE and forward it to your local town hall. We are simply asking the UK and Spain to constitutionally recognise our right to vote,” she concluded.
Those wishing to know more about the campaign - and other issues that might affect expat residents after the UK's exit from Europe -can attend a special meeting held in Torremolinos next Thursday.