The announcement on Thursday of a last-minute deal between the UK and the EU came as many British residents in Spain rushed to complete their paperwork to prepare for Brexit.
The images of Boris Johnson’s handshakes with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and other EU leaders in Brussels do not mean that British residents in Spain can stop fearing a no-deal exit.
As Sue Wilson, chair of the organisation Bremain in Spain, points out, the deal still has to be passed by parliament. “The only way this will gain support in Westminster is if it is attached to a confirmatory referendum,” she said.
The president of the Costa del Sol-based organisation Brexpats in Spain, Anne Hernández, also expressed her doubts that Boris Johnson would get the support of MPs to pass his deal onSaturday.
Protecting the rights of British residents in Spain is the principal objective of Hernández’s organisation and she pointed out that the part of the new deal related to citizens’ rights has not changed since Theresa May’s deal.
“So we are at least mentioned and to some degree covered but quite how covered I am yet to see,” Hernández told SUR inEnglish on Thursday.
Meanwhile Brexpats representatives are on their way to 10 Downing Street to hand in their petition to demand that citizens’ rights be ring-fenced ad infinitum, regardless of whether the deal gets through or not.
“We moved here understanding the Ts & Cs and now they are all changed. To say pensioners access here to healthcare can only be guaranteed until 31 December 2020 is cruel; many elderly, lonely, confused and infirm are worried sick,” Hernández said.
More cheerful about the deal was the British Ambassador to Spain, Hugh Elliott, who spoke to the press after a meeting of European ambassadors with Andalusian president, Juanma Moreno.
Elliott described the news as “positive”, praising the work of the negotiating teams. With an ordered Brexit, he said, there will be a “transition period” with “all the reassurance that implies” as “all rights will be guaranteed” if the UK leaves the EU with a deal.
Speaking on the subject of the rights of workers who cross the frontier with Gibraltar every day, Elliott praised the “fluid coordination” on the part of the Andalusian government.
“Andalucía has made very extensive preparations to ensure that all will be as positive as possible after Brexit,” he said.
Meanwhile the British consulate continues to offer residents on the Costa del Sol advice on how to be best prepared for Brexit, whatever happens this weekend in London.
Following an intensive information campaign on the part of the British government, residents have been rushing to make appointments in recent weeks and days to ensure they can prove they were living in this country on 31 October.
Just as the ambassador Hugh Elliott pointed out in an interview with this newspaper last week, the steps residents should take were repeated by the UK’s ForeignSecretary Dominic Raab in an open letter to UK nationals living in Spain:
“300,000 Britons have made Spain their home. No matter the terms of our departure from the EU, you will continue to be able to live and work in Spain,” he said.
“But to make sure your daily needs are met, there are some steps you must take to get ready for Brexit on 31 October. You’ll need to register for residency, check your healthcare cover, verify your passport validity online and exchange your UK driving licence for a Spanish one.”
More information and advice will be offered at the consulate’s pop-up events around the region. Residents are also encouraged to go to the Living in Spain Guide (gov.uk/livinginspain).