Barclay hopes strong links with Spain will continue after Brexit

British Ambassador Hugh Elliott and Steve Barclay chat before the meeting in Madrid. :: AFP
British Ambassador Hugh Elliott and Steve Barclay chat before the meeting in Madrid. :: AFP
  • During a visit to Madrid the Brexit secretary met Spanish foreign minister Josep Borrell, who said citizens' rights are an absolute priority for Spain

British Brexit secretary Steve Barclay said on Thursday after meeting Spain's acting Foreign Minister Josep Borrell in Madrid that the "strong links" between the two countries began before they were in the European Union and he was confident they will continue after Britain leaves the EU.

Barclay described the meeting as "warm, positive and constructive" and said the meetings with Spanish business owners and British citizens had also been interesting. He thanked the Spanish government for approving a decree with contingency measures in case of a no-deal Brexit, saying that it showed support for British residents of Spain. He also said the UK government enormously values the contribution made by thousands of Spanish citizens in Britain, and he hopes they will stay.

Borrell said Spain was confident that between now and 31 October it would be possible to reach an agreement which would allow an orderly Brexit, given that nobody wants a no-deal option. However, he repeated that the UK must present specific proposals and stressed that for Pedro Sánchez's government the protected rights of Spanish citizens in UK and British citizens in Spain are an "absolute priority".

In a breakfast meeting organised by Europa Press on Thursday, Barclay warned that the Spanish economy would suffer from a hard Brexit and said he doubted that small and medium businesses are prepared for that. Borrell later asked what information Barclay had about the state of preparation by Spanish companies, and admitted he had little information about the British situation.

"I can only believe what the British government tells us, and I hope we deserve the same credibility as them," said the head of the Spanish diplomatic service.