Anxiety over Brexit damage to UK-Spain bilateral trade

The British Chamber of Commerce in Spain fears that the Brexit result will damage trade and investment worth €30 billion between the two nations.

Anxiety over Brexit damage to UK-Spain bilateral trade

The Chamber said Spanish companies invest 21 percent of the total foreign investment in the UK while British companies invest 14 percent of their entire foreign investment in Spain.

“The British Chamber of Commerce in Spain is very disappointed with the outcome of the referendum, given that our members indicated an almost unanimous commitment to remaining within the EU,” Chris Dottie, the president of the Chamber told The Local.

“The decision to leave poses risks to the very strong British investment in Spain which has been responsible for the creation of 240,000 jobs in recent years. We hope that these risks can be minimized by the British government and European Union giving clarity as early as possible to business regarding the future trading conditions that they will face.

“The strongest short-term effect on business will be related to currency fluctuations and stock market valuations. Regarding the medium and long term much will depend on the results of the years of negotiations that the United Kingdom faces and we currently have no information or precedents to indicate how they will develop.”

But he said he hoped clarity would be quick in coming to limit the damage.

“An uncertain future is never positive but international trade will continue, relations between Spain and the UK will continue and the path to future collaboration and prosperity will become clearer during the coming weeks and months.”

The Local canvassed the views of some British small-business owners in Spain about their views on Brexit.

Carrie Frais, Barcelona-based founder of MumAbroad Spain.

“I am truly shocked by the outcome of the referendum. Speaking on behalf of many British mothers who have chosen Spain as their adoptive country we know how important the UK is to the livelihoods and jobs of those working in the tourism and property sector, not to mention all the other thousands of industries which have gained from British investment here.

“The weakening of the pound is bound to have a significant and immediate effect and no-one can be sure of other restrictions imposed on UK investment in Spain in the future, not to mention the future of British people living and working here. It is indeed worrying times.”

Nadine Walker, owner of Nest Boutique in Madrid.

“There's still a lot of uncertainty with what could happen with trade, but I am worried that this could increase the price of goods and certainly affect importation..I may have to pay import duties soon.

“Most of my products come from the UK so this could be a big blow. The frustrating part is the uncertainty of it all and the utter disbelief that many people voted blindly, not thinking of the consequences.

“One thing I guess I should take advantage of, however, is the sudden drop in the's a good time to buy (from the UK)”.

Anna Wardley, distance swimmer and businesswoman

“I was born in 1975 when the initial EC referendum was held, and after 40 years of breaking down the barriers with our European neighbours it feels like a massive step backwards to leave the EU. I run a business that does business in Europe and this is going to make it more difficult to trade with our European clients.”

Tom Evans, founder of Madrid-based Start Ups Made in Spain.

“As a British citizen who came to live in Madrid three years ago, I had a plan to build a new company in Spain. With Brexit fears as a deterrent, I've been been holding off committing fully to long term plans for the last six months. I woke up this morning to a paradigm shift where those fears have become a reality. Already I've notified my followers that I'll be closing Start Ups Made in Spain. As a non-EU citizen, I don't feel it is right to continue. It was a project established from within a community of integrated nations, intended to build bridges. I must respect the views of my fellow countrymen and take some time to reflect on my own plans going forward.”


Roger Cooke, a veteran business consultant who has worked in the property sector in Spain for 28 years, and former head of the Chamber of Commerce.

“Cutting through any emotion the reality is we have to wait and see. As I see it the public of both UK and rest of the EU does not know how this will affect prosperity of either business or individuals of either the UK or EU. That will depend on the terms of the exit and how quickly (hopefully rapidly) they can be agreed. 

“We are entering the unknown and short term this will not help business confidence at a time when there are still a lot of economic and political challenges ahead of us. Longer term we have to hope the case made by the Brexit camp will be proven to be the case and that the UK will remain a global force in a global economy rather than an isolated market which struggles to compete.”

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Brexit: Brits in EU feel European and don’t want to return home

The majority of Britons who live in the EU, Norway, Iceland or Switzerland and are protected under the Brexit agreement feel European and intend to remain in Europe permanently, but many have concerns about travel problems, a new survey reveals.

Brexit: Brits in EU feel European and don't want to return home

The research also shows that problems exist and “travel is where most issues relating to the new status currently occur”. For instance, border officials are still stamping passports of UK citizens with residence rights under the EU UK withdrawal agreement, even though they shouldn’t.

“There is constant confusion around passport stamping. I was ‘stamped in’ to France on a short trip… but could not find anyway to be ‘stamped out’ again. I think I can only spend 90 days in other EU countries, but have no idea how anyone can check or enforce that – until someone decides to try. It’s a mess,” was one of the answers left in an open question.

“Every time I go through a Schengen border control, I need to provide both my passport and Aufenthaltstitel card [resident permit in Germany] and watch to check that they don’t stamp my passport. As I am currently travelling a lot that’s been 20-odd times this year…” another respondent said.

The survey was carried out by Professor Tanja Bueltmann, historian of migration and diaspora at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, between October and November 2022. About 1,139 UK citizens replied.

Of these, 80 per cent found acquiring their new status easy or very easy, 60.7 per cent feel their rights are secure, while 39.3 per cent have concerns about their status going forward.

Staying permanently

More than three quarters (76.6 per cent) of respondents said they plan to live permanently in the EU or the other countries of the European Economic Area and Switzerland. In fact, 65.7 per cent said that Brexit has increased the likelihood of this choice.

For some, the decision is linked to the difficulty to bring non-British family members to the UK under new, stricter immigration rules.

“My German wife and I decided we no longer wanted to live in UK post Brexit referendum. In particular, we were affected by the impact of immigration law […] We cannot now return to UK on retirement as I cannot sponsor her on my pension. We knew it was a one-way journey. Fortunately, I could revive an application for German citizenship,” was a testimony.

“My husband is a US citizen and getting him a visa for the UK was near impossible due to my low income as a freelance journalist. We realized under EU law, moving to an EU country was easier. We settled on Austria as we had both lived there before… we could speak some German, and we like the mountains,” said another respondent.

Professor Bueltmann noted that the loss of free movement rights in the EU could be a factor too in the decision of many to stay where they are.

Citizenship and representation

Among those who decided to stay, 38.2 per cent are either applying or planning to apply for a citizenship and 28.6 per cent are thinking about it.

A key finding of the research, Bueltmann said, is that the vast majority of British citizens do not feel politically represented. Some 60 per cent of respondents said they feel unrepresented and another 30 per cent not well represented.

Another issue is that less than half (47.5 per cent) trust the government of their country of residence, while a larger proportion (62 per cent) trust the European Union. Almost all (95.6 per cent) said they do not trust the UK government.

Feeling European

The survey highlights the Brexit impacts on people’s identity too. 82.6 per cent of respondents said they see themselves as European, a higher proportion than those identifying as British (68.9 per cent).

“Brexit has really left me unsure of what my identity is. I don’t feel British, and I certainly don’t identify with the mindset of a lot of British people who live there. Yet, I am not Danish either. So, I don’t really know anymore!” said one of the participants in the survey.

Professor Bueltmann said the survey “demonstrates that Brexit impacts continue to evolve: this didn’t just stop because the transition period was over or a deadline for an application had been reached. Consequently, Brexit continues to shape the lives and experiences of British citizens in the EU/EEA and Switzerland in substantial, sometimes life-altering, ways.”

Considering the results of the study, Professor Bueltmann recommends policy makers in the EU and the UK to address the issue of lack of representation, for instance creating a joint UK-EU citizens’ stakeholder forum.

The report also recommends the UK government to rebuild trust with British citizens in the EU introducing voting rights for life and changing immigration rules to allow British-European families to return more easily. 

This article was prepared in cooperation with Europe Street News.