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BREXIT

‘A less hard Brexit’: Brits in Spain react to UK election result

Spain's prime minister welcomed Theresa May's victory, while left-wing politicians congratulated Jeremy Corbyn on his astounding result. Meanwhile British residents in Spain hoped the result would signal a softer stance on Brexit.

'A less hard Brexit': Brits in Spain react to UK election result
Theresa May outside Number 10 on Friday morning. Photo: AFP

Spanish Prime Minister congratulated May on “her electoral victory” and said “we will continue to work for a fruitful relationship in the interest of the people”.

Spain has its own experience of a hung parliament and the difficulties that brings in forming a government.

Mariano Rajoy finally secured a minority government in September 2016 after ten long months of political deadlock and two general elections failed to give him majority rule.

The British election results competed with news of Spain’s own looming troubles, as Catalonia’s president announced plans to hold a referendum on independence for the region in October.

Those on the left in Spain, including Pedro Sanchez, the leader of Spain’s Socialists (PSOE)  and Pablo Iglesias were quick to congratulate Britain's Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn, who defied critics and vicious personal attacks in the press to gain seats.

 

And British nationals living in Spain were reading plenty into the election result.

Members of the anti-Brexit Bremain in Spain group suggested the result could curtail Theresa May's plans to bring about a so-called hard Brexit.

“She hasn't got the mandate that she expected and hopefully the opposition parties and few Tory Remainers will curtail her Brexit madness and she will have to really consider the rights of UK citizens in the EU and EU citizens in the UK and make them more of a priority. We hope,” wrote Carol Irving on the Bremain in Spain Facebook page.

Another wrote: “Feeling more optimistic. Very pleased that the UK has rejected austerity and the desecration of our public services, and hopefully staying in the open market.”

“With regard my situation here, I of course hope that this result means a less hard Brexit, allowing my Spanish friends to stay in the UK, allowing EU NHS workers to continue on in Britain and for myself to stay here in Spain,” said Fiona Locke.

Photo: AFP

Others suggested that result was not as positive as it first seemed, and expressed concern.

“No its not the best outcome. The best outcome would have been LibDem having much more seats. The next best outcome would have been Labour have the highest number of seats but not a majority,” said Lawrence Baron on the Bremain in Spain Facebook page.

“What we have now is a wounded Tory party in govt and a labour leader who has more influence on Brexit then he ought to have. This is now a two front war,” he said.

READ ALSO How Swedes reacted to UK election: 'Could be messy'

Another commented: “Well if Theresa May has her way, and she's just stated it's business as usual, and Brexit going ahead, we are losing everything, looks as though nothing has changed, but have to wait and see if other MP's will stand up and fight for our rights in the EU, and EU immigrants’ rights in UK, and fight against all the detrimental cuts etc in the Tory manifesto. Am not happy.”

Brits living in the eurozone, especially pensioners who receive their income from the UK in pounds have been hit hard since Brexit and the pound again nose-dived with the election result, dropping from €1.34 to €1.13 on Thursday night.

“My desire for May to step down presently overrides any personal losses caused by a weaker GBP against EUR,” wrote Jo Chipchase. “The best possible outcome would be to have the rights of British citizens in EU countries and EU citizens in the UK secured asap and to see any idea of a hard Brexit scrapped!”

Indeed, what remains clear is the desire by those 3.5 million EU citizens in Britain and 1.2 million UK nationals on the continent to have their citizens’ rights after Brexit secured.

“The EU has made a generous, unilateral offer to UK citizens in the EU and is prepared to guarantee the vast majority of our rights,” said Jane Golding, the chair of the British in Europe Coalition in a statement released by the group on Friday.

“Now the election is over, we need urgently to know the UK’s response to that offer so we can see an end to the uncertainty facing thousands of families.”

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BREXIT

UK driving licences in Spain: When no news is bad news

The UK Ambassador to Spain has given an update on the driving licence debacle, with nothing new to genuinely give hope to the thousands of in-limbo drivers whose increasing frustration has led one group to try and take matters into their own hands.

UK driving licences in Spain: When no news is bad news

It’s been almost five months since UK driving licence holders residing in Spain were told they could no longer drive on Spanish roads. 

Since that fateful May 1st, an unnamed number of the approximately 400,000 UK nationals who are residents in Spain, as well as hundreds if not thousands of Spaniards and foreign nationals who passed their driving test in the UK, have not been able to use their vehicles in Spain or even rent one. 

What adds insult to injury is that British tourists visiting Spain can rent a car without any issue. The fact that Spanish licence holders living in the UK can also continue to exchange their permits in the UK 21 months after Brexit came into force is equally hard to swallow.

READ MORE: ‘An avoidable nightmare’ – How UK licence holders in Spain are affected by driving debacle

The latest update from UK Ambassador to Spain Hugh Elliott on September 27th has done little to quell the anger and sense of helplessness felt by those caught in this bureaucratic rabbit hole.

“I wanted to talk to you personally about the driving licences negotiations, which I know are continuing to have a serious impact on many of you,” Elliott began by saying.

“As the government’s representative in Spain, I hear and understand your frustrations. I too am frustrated by the pace.

“We previously thought, we genuinely thought, that we’d have concluded negotiations by the summer. 

“Many of you have quite rightly mentioned that I expressed the hope to you that we’d have you back on the road by the end of July.

“Now the truth is it has taken much longer, as there have been unforeseen issues that we have been working very hard to resolve. 

“And I’m as disappointed as you are by the length of time that this is actually taking. 

“But, please, be assured that we are resolving those issues, one by one. There are only a couple of issues left, but they are complex.”

It has previously been suggested by the UK Embassy that Spain has asked for data provision to form part of the exchange agreement, and that British authorities were reluctant to share said information on British drivers’ records, including possible infractions. 

Whether this is still one of the causes of the holdups is unknown, given how opaque the Embassy is being in this regard. 

“We’re working on this every day, it remains a priority,” the UK Ambassador continued.

“There is a lot going on behind the scenes, even if it doesn’t feel like it to you. 

“I know too that you want a timescale and you want an update after every meeting.

“But I’m afraid I just can’t give you those things in this negotiation.” 

The ambassador’s words are unlikely to appease those who are still unable to drive. 

A few weeks ago, a Facebook group called “Invasion of the British embassy in Madrid for the DL exchange issue” was set up, which so far has more than 400 members. 

The group’s administrator, Pascal Siegmund, is looking to set up a meeting with the British Embassy and Spanish authorities to shed light on the impact that not being allowed to drive is having on the life of thousands of UK licence holders in Spain. 

Many of those affected are sharing their stories online, explaining how, due to administrative errors on the part of Spain’s DGT traffic authority, they were unable to process their licence exchange before the deadline. 

This contrasts with the little sympathy shown by UK licence holders who were able to exchange and other commentators, who accuse those in limbo of not having bothered to complete the process, arguing that it’s essentially their own fault.

READ ALSO: Not all Brits in Spain who didn’t exchange UK driving licences are at fault 

“Many of you also continue to ask why you can’t drive while the talks are continuing,” Elliott remarked.

“It is not in the gift of the UK government to reinstate the measures which previously allowed you to continue to drive whilst the negotiations were ongoing earlier in the year. 

“As we said previously, we did request the reinstatement of those measures several times, but this wasn’t granted.”

It’s worth noting that since the news broke on May 1st that UK licence holders residing in Spain for more than six months could no longer drive, no Spanish news outlet has covered the story again. 

Pressure from citizen groups such as the one recently set up and increased awareness about the issue in English-language news sites such as The Local Spain is perhaps the best chance in-limbo drivers have of their voices being heard and the driving licence debacle being finally fixed. 

“I’d say we’re genuinely still making progress,” UK Ambassador Elliott concluded, practically the same message as in previous updates.

“I get how frustrating it is to hear that, but we are making progress. We’re in discussions almost daily about outstanding issues. 

“And I remain very optimistic that we will reach an agreement and hope it will be soon. 

“But as I say, I can’t give you a definitive timetable. 

“And so, the advice that we have been giving all along, which is that you should consider taking the Spanish test if you do need to drive urgently, remains valid. Though we appreciate that’s hard.”

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