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BREXIT

Eight reasons why Spain is very worried about Brexit

A leaked report has revealed the true extent of the Spanish government’s fears over the negative impact that Brexit could have on Spain.

Eight reasons why Spain is very worried about Brexit
Photo: AFP

The internal report commissioned by Spain’s Brexit commission, which is headed by Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Sáenz de Santamaria, was leaked to Spanish daily newspaper El Pais and published on Friday.

The report made it clear that Spain would be more in favour of a “soft Brexit”, the scenario that least castigates London for abandoning the EU but it acknowledged: “Theresa May’s speech on January 17th is definitive…it excludes a new relationship framework that supposes the continuance of the United Kingdom in the single market.”


Photo: AFP

Here are the key points of concern for Spain as outlined in the report.

Damage to Spain’s GDP

Britain’s withdrawal from the EU will threaten Spain’s GDP growth, trimming it by between €2 billion and €4 billion (0.2-0.4 percentage points) said the report.

Force Spain to increase its EU contributions

Without the UK in the European Union, Spain fears it will have to stump up more funds to contribute to the shortfall and may have to increase its budget contributions by €888 million. The report also warned that Spain’s poorer regions, such as Melilla and Murcia may lose out on European funding.

Fall in exports

Spanish exports to Britain would fall by €464 million ($490million) per year under the best-case scenario which the report defined as Madrid reaching a bilateral trade agreement with London after Brexit.

But the report said the fall in exports could reach as much as one billion euros per year, with the food, auto and pharmaceutical sectors especially hard-hit.

Spanish business interests in the UK

It also said that some of Spain’s largest companies could be adversely affected because of their significant business interests in the UK. For example 12 percent of the revenue of Spain’s largest bank, Santander, is generated in the UK. While Telecoms giant Telefónica has a UK revenue share of 30 percent and energy utility Iberdrola generates 12 percent of its revenue in the UK.

Together those three companies account for a third of the value of the Ibex 35 index.

Tourism


Photo: AFP

With the tourist industry being one of the main driving forces of economic growth in Spain, and Britons making up one in five of foreign visitors, Spain is concerned that Brexit willhave a negative impact on tourism.

The fall in the value of sterling against the euro that has already occurred since the Brexit vote and may well fall further could discourage some of the 17 million British holidaymakers who came to Spain last year, or so Spain fears.

Gibraltar


Photo: AFP

Details were not provided about the exact impact Spain fears in regards to Gibraltar, the British Overseas Territory at the southwestern tip of Spain but the report acknowledged that it will have a negative impact on the free movement of goods and people across that border.

Spain has repeatedly said that the best solution for The Rock would be to negotiate a joint-sovereignty agreement, a scenario dismissed out-of-hand by the Gibraltarians themselves.

Future of Spanish football players

Photo: AFP

The consequences of Brexit could be felt by Spanish players signed to British football teams.

“Brexit could affect Spanish players in the United Kingdom,” says the report.

Santí Cazorla at Arsenal, Juan Mata at Manchester United, Diego Costa at Chelsea and David Silva at Manchester City are among the Spanish stars who play in the Premier League.

Spanish citizens in UK and British expats in Spain

Photo: AFP

It said there are 102,498 Spanish nationals officially living in Britain and 391,000 Britons registered as living in Spain – although we know that the real figures in both cases is much larger – including 105,000 pensioners who cost Spain's public health system around €250 million per year.

Free movement of people, which allows any citizen of an EU country to work anywhere across the 28-nation bloc, is “the most relevant detail in the (Brexit) negotiations,” the report said.

“Spain is interested in maintaining the conditions of free movement,” it stated.

So what next?

Spain's attitude towards negotiations seemed positive with a source telling El Pais:

“The aim is to get some certainty for citizens and to help the [European] commission in its role as a negotiator. At the end of the process, the UK can’t find itself in a better situation outside the EU than in it. But if London doesn’t play dirty, the best thing would be not to do mutual damage.”

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BRITS IN EUROPE

Brits in Europe won right to vote for life in UK but questions remain

After years of campaigns and promises British citizens living abroad finally won the lifelong right to vote in UK general elections in April 2022. But campaigners say more needs to be done to allow all those Britons abroad to be able cast their votes easily.

Brits in Europe won right to vote for life in UK but questions remain

What’s in the law?

The Elections Act 2022 introduced several changes to the current legislation on electoral participation. Among these, it removed the rule by which British citizens lose their voting rights in the UK if they have lived abroad for more than 15 years

The new rules also abolished the requirement to have been previously registered in the UK electoral roll to become an overseas voter. In addition, the registration in the electoral roll will now last up to three years instead of only one year.

It is estimated that these changes could increase the number of overseas voter registrations by some 3 million. But the way new measures will be applied in practice is still to be defined.

READ ALSO: ‘Mixed feelings’ – British citizens in Europe finally get right to vote for life

Defining the practicalities

Under the new law, Britons living abroad will have to register to vote in the last place they were registered in the UK. This means that people who have never lived in the UK will be ineligible to vote, regardless of how long they have been overseas, while those who left when they were children will be able to use a parent or guardian’s address.

But given that the UK does not require residents to register with local councils, how to prove previous UK residence? “Typical documents accepted as a proof of residence are Council tax or utilities bills, but not everyone will have them or will have kept them in an international move,” says Fiona Godfrey, co-founder of the British in Europe coalition.

Ballot papers are pictured in stacks in a count centre as part of the 2019 UK general election. (Photo by ANDY BUCHANAN / AFP)

Other questions concern how people will effectively cast their ballot. UK citizens overseas will be able to vote by post or by proxy or in person at their polling station if they are in the UK at the time of the election. However, few people are likely to travel to the UK for an election and in the past there have problems and delays with postal voting.

The Electoral Commission has recommended that overseas electors appoint a proxy to vote on their behalf. But who could that be for people who have been away from their constituency for a long time?

New secondary legislation will have to answer these questions, defining how to be included in the electoral roll and how to exercise the voting right in practice.

According to British in Europe, the government should present draft legislation in the first half of the year so that the parliament can adopt it before summer and registrations of overseas voters can start in the autumn.

British in Europe survey

British in Europe are currently running a survey to understand the difficulties UK citizens abroad may face in the registration and voting process, as well as their intention to participate in elections.

The survey asks for instance which documents people can access to prove their previous residence in the UK, what problems they had voting in the past, and if and how they plan to vote in the future.

“We need to get an up-to-date picture of British citizens living around the world and have information to make recommendations to the government, as it prepares secondary legislation,” Godfrey said. “If millions of people will exercise their voting rights, there will be consequences for council registration offices, post office and authorities that will manage the process, among other things” she argued.

The right to vote concerns only UK parliamentary elections and national referendums, not elections in the devolved administrations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, or at local level.

The survey is open to UK citizens living anywhere in the world and is available at this link.

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