Standing room only at Manilva Brexit meeting

The ambassdor during his speech, with Derek Langley, Dean Tyler Shelton and Mario Jiménez.
The ambassdor during his speech, with Derek Langley, Dean Tyler Shelton and Mario Jiménez. / A.B.
  • Heated questions during the fourth Manilva Brexit Seminar as a panel addressed the concerns of British residents in Spain

Hundreds of people packed into a Brexit seminar organised by Manilva town hall on Wednesday afternoon. Britain's ambassador to Spain, Simon Manley, was there to discuss issues affecting Britons, including pensions, driving licences, residency and health care.

Some 350 Britons crammed into the meeting room in Sabinillas to hear a number of experts talk about Brexit before questions were taken from the crowd.

There were some lively questions from the floor, as some attendees expressed frustration that there weren't, as yet, clearer indications as to what the exact procedures for UK residents will be after Brexit.

As for how British citizens should best prepare for Brexit, Simon Manley stressed that the most important thing to do before Friday, 29 March, was to get a green resident-registration card.

Simon Manley said: "Having that green piece of paper that you get from the police, if you haven't got it yet, or you know someone who lives here who hasn't got it yet, please apply now. There is nothing more important that you can do to prepare for our departure from the European Union than getting that green piece of paper and ensuring that you have proof of your legal residency here in Spain. Because that, deal or no deal, is the access point for the rights and services that you should enjoy.

"It's worrying what's happening, but we are working with the Spanish government, as well as our own government, to ensure that we can try and give as much clarity as we can and as much certainty as you can have moving forward.

"Because I think we all know our determination as a government is that all of you who have chosen to come and live here in Spain and other parts of the European Union can continue to live in the EU, just as those three million Europeans who have chosen to live in the UK can continue to live, work and study in the UK if that's what they chose to do."

One contentious issue that cropped up was how Britons living abroad for more than 15 years could not vote in the referendum to leave the EU in June 2016.

Manley explained that the bill to allow UK citizens living abroad to retain their right to vote indefinitely would have its final reading in parliament on 15 March.

Some people in the crowd also touched on issues with Gibraltar and how there might be problems travelling across the frontier post Brexit.

Gibraltar was a concern

Simon Manley added: "As you might imagine, we are in daily contact with the Gibraltar government about these issues and I think the British, Gibraltar and Spanish governments know the importance of border fluidity."

He explained it was important not just for Britons, but for the 9,000 Spaniards who cross the border every day to work, and the Gibraltarians who spend their money in the Campo de Gibraltar.

He added: "It is in our shared interests that that border remains a fluid border and we can work together to promote the security and the prosperity of the entire zone around Gibraltar. It's something that we are in daily discussion with the Gibraltar government and the Spanish government about. And yes, we have our differences, those are clear, but we all have a desire and interest to share security and prosperity in the whole area."

Also speaking at the meeting were; the mayor of Manilva, Mario Jiménez; the mayor of Casares, Pepe Carrasco; Carlos Jordan from San Roque council; Dean Tyler Shelton from Manilva town council; Derek Langley from the British Chamber of Commerce in Spain; Alex Radford from My Lawyer Spain; Myra Azzopardi of Citizens Advice Spain; Joni Burnett of the Colegio de Administradores de Fincas de Málaga; Álvaro Valera Martínez from Caixa Bank; and Charmaine Arbouin, British Consul for Andalucía and the Canary Islands.

After everyone had finished speaking, questions were taken from the crowd. Receiving a cheer from the public was Raymon Moonilall, 55, who has a business in Gibraltar. He said: "First of all I'd like to thank the representatives from the local town halls as they seem to care more about us than the English government at the moment."

Second referendum?

"Effectively most of us were thrown under the big red bus with the lie by the government and by the fraud referendum. I disagree totally with you; there should be a second referendum because it was fraud. It was based on lies.

"I would like Mr Manley to take back a message to the British government which is that many people here paid their taxes and social insurance in the UK for forty odd years, like my parents, and were denied that vote. And if there is a second referendum [...] I would ask you to take the message back that we want a right to have a say."