RECEIVED TODAY FROM TOM BRAKE, LIB DEMS
Dear Anne Hernandez
Thank you for your letter regarding your organisation, Brexpats in Spain. May I first congratulate you on establishing and running such a successful group. Your work is incredibly valuable for many UK citizens who, as you rightly point out, are not given adequate information regarding Brexit and who feel disillusioned by the Government’s agenda for a hard Brexit.
So far, it has taken the Government 21 months to make any sort of progress in the negotiations with the EU. The process, characterised by arrogance and on-going splits in the cabinet, has been highly inefficient and embarrassing. It is worth noting that 24 hours after an outline withdrawal agreement had been struck (8 December 2017), David Davis made a remark jeopardising all of the progress made, by claiming that the agreement, covering citizen rights, the divorce bill and promises around the Irish border, was a “statement of intent” rather than something legally enforceable. This is just the latest example of the Government’s incapability of putting the national interest ahead of their party’s interest.
That is why it’s important for the Liberal Democrats to give not only Parliament but also the British people a say on the final deal. We are pushing the Government for a public vote on the deal at the end of the negotiations, so people are given a choice to vote for that deal or to remain in the EU (amendment 120 to the Bill). The British people should be allowed to decide, in a referendum, whether it is the right deal for them, their families, their jobs and our country. As we all know by now, the ‘Leave’ campaign was based on lies, such as an extra £350 million a week for the NHS, new trade deals ready to be signed on the day of departure from the EU, and an ability to keep the exact same benefits as the UK currently has inside the Single Market and Customs Union once we are outside. These lies have now been exposed and it’s only fair to give the British people a “Vote on the Facts”. We welcome Sadiq Khan, London’s Labour Mayor, to our cause and hope that more grown-up politicians on all sides will join us.
The Liberal Democrats have also tabled amendments and are campaiging in order to ensure that all the existing rights of UK citizens residing in the EU and EU citizens residing in the EU are protected. It is unacceptable that these groups have been used as a bargaining chip by the Government in negotiations and the unfair uncertainty which is being brought to many people’s lives must end. I and the Liberal Democrats have campaigned extensively within Parliament in order to secure these rights.
Be reassured that I will continue to fight against a damaging, extreme version of Brexit. I will fight to uphold the rights of Brexpats currently in Spain and I hope that this response has reassured your members that the Liberal Democrats are on your side and fighting against Brexit back in the UK.
Tom Brake, MP
Liberal Democrat for Carshalton and Wallington
0208 255 8155
Brussels, 28 February 2018
The European Commission has today published the draft Withdrawal Agreement between the European Union and the United Kingdom.
The draft Withdrawal Agreement translates into legal terms the Joint Report from the negotiators of the European Union and the United Kingdom Government on the progress achieved during phase 1 of the negotiations, published on 8 December 2017, and proposes text for those outstanding withdrawal issues which are mentioned in, but not set out in detail, in the Joint Report. It also integrates the text on the transition period, based on the supplementary negotiating directives adopted by the Council (Article 50) on 29 January 2018.
The draft Withdrawal Agreement consists of six parts – including introductory provisions, citizens’ rights, other separation issues such as goods placed on the market before the withdrawal date, the financial settlement, transitional arrangements, and institutional provisions – and a protocol on Ireland / Northern Ireland. This protocol operationalises the third option outlined in the Joint Report, in order to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland. This is the fall-back solution of the Joint Report, which applies in the absence of other agreed solutions. This draft protocol does not prejudge discussions on the other two options.
The draft Withdrawal Agreement is published online in accordance with the Commission’s transparency policy. The Commission has presented the draft Withdrawal Agreement now to first allow for time for consultation with the Member States and the European Parliament and, subsequently, for negotiation with the United Kingdom. Given that the Withdrawal Agreement needs to be agreed and ratified before the withdrawal of the United Kingdom, it is important to leave sufficient time for negotiation.
The draft Withdrawal Agreement will now be sent to the Council (Article 50) and the European Parliament’s Brexit Steering Group for discussion, before being transmitted to the United Kingdom for negotiation.
The European Council (Article 50) has called on the United Kingdom to provide further clarity on its position on the framework for the future relationship, with a view to its meeting on 22 and 23 March, where it is expected to adopt additional guidelines.
The overall Article 50 Withdrawal Agreement will need to be concluded by the Council (Article 50), the European Parliament, and the United Kingdom according to its own constitutional requirements.
The United Kingdom will leave the European Union on 30 March 2019.
On 15 December 2017, the European Council (Article 50) welcomed the progress achieved during the first phase of negotiations as reflected in the Commission’s Communication and the Joint Report of 8 December 2017.
It called on the Commission as Union negotiator and the United Kingdom to complete the work on all withdrawal issues, including those not yet addressed in the first phase, to consolidate the results obtained, and to start drafting the relevant parts of the Withdrawal Agreement. It stressed that negotiations in the second phase can only progress as long as all commitments undertaken during the first phase are respected in full and translated faithfully into legal terms as quickly as possible.
The European Council (Article 50) guidelines of 29 April 2017 as well as the general principles and the procedural arrangements for the conduct of the negotiations established in the Council negotiating directives of 22 May 2017 continue to apply in their entirety to this phase of the negotiations.draft_withdrawal_agreement
What is your line of business? Do you have British clients?
As one of the major telecommunications companies here in Spain, we have many British clients. They want fast and reliable internet connections to their families in the UK and, of course, they do want their British TV.
Do you think Brexit will have an impact on your business?
Two years ago I would say that 80 – 90% of our clients were British but now it’s probably down to around 40% so, whether it’s due to Brexit I don’t know, but the number of British clients has dropped considerably and continues to drop so there is already a change in our market.
If it’s not due to Brexit why do you think this is?
It is undoubtedly indirectly related to Brexit. In my line of work there is a lot of competition and it’s all a question of price. The British are being rather more careful with their disposable income now that the exchange rate is so poor for them but if it picks up, I hope business will too although I have heard of some who are thinking of leaving Spain as a result of Brexit.
How did you, as a Spaniard, react to the Brexit result?
It was as much a shock result for us as for the British I imagine. I don’t see it as being a good thing for Spain, I can only envisage negative repercussions. We have had our own share of political problems last year here in Spain and, of course, we are only just seeing the end of the financial recession that has us all, it is important to remain positive and trust our politicians to do the best for our countries. We have good relations with the UK and I don’t think that will change.
Following a very informative presentation by Simon Manley (British Ambassador to Spain) in Málaga on 30 June 2017 organised by Lidera and Sur we were privileged to have a very lengthy (one hour) personal meeting with him and Charmaine Arbouin, the British Consul to Andalucia and the Canaries.
We addressed several issues:
BREXPATS IN SPAIN – The first issue we should like to address is the lack of information. In over one year we have no more information, we are no more aware of our position post Brexit nor even when the official date of Brexit is. I have commented repeatedly that there is no information being released and all this speculating and newspaper scaremongering does little to help the situation. If the government has no information then please say so publicly and some of the unfounded worries of our members might be allayed, especially the pensioners who are already at their wit’s end worrying about their already limited futures and I believe that is that is positively cruel. We are not politically biased but most of our members are very angry and feel totally overlooked, we deserve answers.
SIMON MANLEY and Charmaine accepted that this has been a problem and asked how we could address it. We had raised our concerns in the past and we agreed to collaborate closely with FCO, to have links to them on our website and to receive information from them as soon as it became public. Charmaine commented that the Embassy does have a Facebook page but it has not been updated to reflect the latest government offer published on 26 June 2017 although she would look into this because she realises that social media serves an important service in diffusing information to the masses.
BREXPATS IN SPAIN – Our members have posted questions for me to put to you and I apologise if some might seem rather angry but I do think it is understandable given the circumstances. Would you mind if I read them for you to answer?
SIMON MANLEY agreed and proceeded to answer each question. Protection for healthcare and pensions is appreciated, if it is protected, but is anything going to be done about our freedom of movement in Europe and the EU citizenship? It is not a reciprocal issue as no freedom of movement is required for EU immigrants in the UK.
SIMON MANLEY said that until the final agreements are reached with the other EU27, nothing can be cast in stone though the UK is hopeful that such an agreement will be reached.
Does the Embassy have the old UK/Spain bilateral agreement which is believed was never rescinded and offers a bottom line on Social Security arrangements?
SIMON MANLEY stated that the UK is looking for agreement with the EU as a whole and not bilateral agreements as yet. Dual citizenship
SIMON MANLEY said that the UK already recognises dual citizenship but whether Spain chooses to reconsider its position on dual nationality is a separate issue. He added that it is a very complex issue and has many historical implications. How will the British government define how those already in Spain retain their residential status – padrón, residente comunitario under Art 3.3 and 7.1 Decreto Real 240/2007?
SIMON MANLEY said that this will form part of the negotiation process and promised to update us in due course. Is all this British dithering an intentional ploy because it is hoping that Brexit won’t happen?
SIMON MANLEY commented that the withdrawal from the EU is a hugely complicated business which perhaps isn’t fully understood and he hopes the government’s 26 June policy paper ‘Safeguarding the position of EU Citizens Living in the UK and UK Citizens Living in the EU’ further explains and clarifies this. He added that there has been an enormous amount of work undertaken behind the scenes. BREXPATS IN SPAIN interjected by commenting that perhaps we have not been made aware of this which is why we feel overlooked and reiterated the need for information from the British government. Many believe that the UK’s proposal is not only vague but flawed and requires clarification. The small insertion in the UK paper affects those whose pensions will be based on contributions aggregated between the UK and EU countries. Paragraph 43 states that only contributions made before Brexit would be aggregated. The current proposals say that only contributions made before exit (ie the date the UK leaves the EU, not A50 day) will be aggregated with contributions made in other EU countries to form one pension. If this goes into the final deal then contributions made in an EU country after exit day would not be aggregated with UK NI contributions, but would be paid instead as a separate pension. This is potentially serious as, for example, most countries have a minimum number of trimesters or years of contributions needed to pay a separate pension, so years of contributions could be lost. Is this correct?
SIMON MANLEY said this was a very good question but admitted he didn’t have the answer to this and agreed that we should send this question to The Department for exiting the European Union for their attention. We, the UK immigrants in Spain, in Europe, have no British representation in the EU. We are more than 300,000 citizens holding British passports and have been loyal to our British government but not any more. We fiercely resent the government’s philanderings and oversight for us. We are delighted that your presentation earlier amended your 3 priorities which did not mention us and actually put us as the first priority.
SIMON MANLEY said that everything to do with Brexit includes the British immigrants in the EU and, of course, Spain, so it remains as his first priority. Will those who have lived more than 15 years out of the UK ever get our right back to vote as was promised? We feel not only lied to but disenfranchised and betrayed.
SIMON MANLEY stated that he thinks it could happen eventually but it does not form part of the EU negotiations. The one main concern for the pensioners who make up nearly a third of UK immigrant residents is the potential loss of public healthcare and, ironically, it has nothing to do with the EU. It could be bilaterally agreed and would be so much cheaper for the UK to do so.
SIMON MANLEY commented that the 26 June policy paper expresses a firm intention to reach an agreement that will allow pensioners to continue with their healthcare in the EU and also for tourists to continue using the EHIC card though obviously the terms and wording of it will have to be amended and it is covered in the manifesto. If I change my nationality and lose my wife, and become unwell myself with nobody here to care for me, it is inevitable that I should return to the UK to family. Would I still qualify as a British citizen and be entitled to medical care and other benefits?
SIMON MANLEY said that would only apply if you became a UK national. Charmaine also pointed our that if you formally renounce your British nationality in order to take on Spanish nationality, under most circumstances, you will be able to reapply and regain your British nationality – at a cost. As a British pensioner resident here with my S1 I can get public healthcare. As a non-EU citizen post Brexit and, if I lose that right, I should like confirmation that it would mean that I still maintain that right in the UK and would be entitled to register with a UK doctor.
SIMON MANLEY stated that would only apply if you had a permanent address in the UK as a permanent resident there. The Spanish Social Security card would still be valid as a tourist for emergency healthcare and there is a commitment on the 26 June policy paper to retaining the S1 (or similar) arrangements. Will you or your office please reply to the many emails our members sent last week following your video on Facebook? I am sorry to say that in this instance silence is not golden, it is tarnishing their opinions.
SIMON MANLEY promised a reply would be sent as soon as possible. He is aware of all the emails he has received. Will pension increases be maintained?
SIMON MANLEY said that the 26 June policy paper quite clearly deals with pensions and the increases will be maintained. Residency rights. How will the start of residency be determined from issue of Residency Card, Padrón etc and when will the cut off date be determined?
SIMON MANLEY commented that this would form part of the negotiations. Bilateral agreement between UK and Spain in default of agreement between EU and UK.
SIMON MANLEY said that was still to be considered although they are quite confident that an agreement will be reached with the EU. Inheritance tax implications. Non EU nationals are in a worse position. Will there be a cut-off date when inheritance tax for non EU nationals applies?
SIMON MANLEY said that is was not yet clear what would happen, but he would endeavour to keep us informed. Driving and importing of vehicles, transporting pets. Is the government aware of the many implications on us as British immigrants in the EU?
SIMON MANLEY confirmed the need for us to keep them informed, especially of any personal but important issues we become aware of. He appreciates the many repercussions on us and assures us that the government wants to make it as easy a transition as possible. Mutual recognition of qualifications.
SIMON MANLEY said that a part of the 26 June policy paper deals with this in detail and he is confident that there will be an agreement reached for mutual recognition of British and EU qualifications. Spain is only just now coming out of a very difficult economic recession but is already unfairly economically suffering some of the Brexit implications – people who were on the verge of investing in a business here are waiting for fear of what might happen, fewer British property buyers and less permanent employment is being offered to British here. Not to say we are not patriotic to our own birth country but it grieves us to see Spain start to suffer as a result of our doing.
SIMON MANLEY repeated that one of his priorities is to maintain good relations with Spain and added that it is not in our interest or our intention to financially harm any of the EU27. Many of us are not political animals but Brexit has understandably generated a lot of political interest and sadly, seems to have given a carte blanche to openly express dislike of certain people if they didn’t vote in the same way or if they look or think differently. Brexit is going to affect us all, no matter what our political opinion is and we need to start working together to support each other and BREXPATS IN SPAIN wants to work with you but we do need to start collaborating.
SIMON MANLEY once again appreciated our offer and said he looked forward to our future and close collaboration. He said it is important that the government remains in touch with the people and since we are at grass roots level, he will rely on us to help them do just that. And finally, BREXPATS IN SPAIN is now represented in Alicante, Valencia, the Canaries and, with Charmaine Arbouin’s help, hopefully in the Balearics. I should therefore like to extend a personal invitation to you to be our Guest Speaker at Alicante University towards the end of the year or early 2018.
SIMON MANLEY confirmed in principle that he or a senior representative from the Embassy would be happy to attend.
BREXPATS IN SPAIN comment following the meeting – The team came away from the meeting feeling quite elated and much more confident of the UK’s concern for us as British immigrants in the EU. They acknowledge our criticism of the lack of information forthcoming and will make positive steps to avoid this in the future and to keep us updated and we shall share that information with our members. We appreciate Mr Manley’s time to meet with us and his honesty in answering the many questions we posed and issues we discussed. We also now appreciate more the enormous amount of work involved by all parties with regards to our exit from the EU. We eagerly anticipate a close collaboration with FCO. One of our main goals has been to separate the fact from the fiction and this collaboration should enable us to do just that and continue to update our members of factual information, as and when we receive it.
BREXPATS IN SPAIN