Spanish government approves decree giving rights to British residents in a no-deal Brexit

A pro-EU protester in Westminster where MPs vote next week.
A pro-EU protester in Westminster where MPs vote next week. / EP
  • As the countdown to a possible UK exit from the EU on 29 March continues, the British Consulate advises people to check its website

While the British parliament gets ready for a series of make-or-break votes next week, contingency plans continue to be put in place by both Spanish and UK authorities in the event that Britain leaves the EU with no agreed deal.

If Westminster MPs fail to back the UK-EU Withdrawal Agreement in a vote on 12 March, Prime Minister Theresa May has agreed to asking them to decide whether Britain should go for no-deal with the EU and leave on 29 March, or ask for an extension, keeping Britain in the EU while negotiations continue. May will be hoping the EU makes acceptable concessions to satisfy MPs' concerns that the current deal may keep the UK in the EU indefinitely to avoid a hard border with Ireland.

Meanwhile, the some 400,000 British citizens living in Spain are waiting to see what their future legal position will be. The nervous situation was calmed last Friday when Spanish ministers agreed that rights for UK nationals who are resident in Spain would be broadly kept the same as now in the extreme case of no deal with the EU.

This vote of confidence from Spain, along with the EU's draft Withdrawal Agreement confirming citizens' rights if there is the opposite outcome and an exit deal is signed, brings more comfort to British residents. Rights to healthcare, UK pensions, residency, work and in other areas would continue with or without an exit deal once Britain eventually leaves the EU.

In the decree, in the event of no deal, Britons would need to apply for a new foreigners ID card by January 2021.

The Spanish government's contingency move still has to be approved by the Madrid Congreso in the coming days and is dependent on the UK government returning the favour for Spaniards who live in Britain, something that London has previously indicated it would do.

This week British Consulates continued their activity informing British residents in Spain about the current situation. A spokesperson urged people to check the information website, Living in Spain, signing up for email updates, as well as 'following' the UK Embassy's 'Brits in Spain' Facebook page. People were also asked to share the links with their British friends in Spain.

The Spanish government also has a page, in English, to keep British foreign residents updated.