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'Citizens are our top priority in Brexit negotiations': Open letter from British ambassador to Spain Simon Manley

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'Citizens are our top priority in Brexit negotiations': Open letter from British ambassador to Spain Simon Manley
Simon Manley, the UK's Ambassador to Spain. Photo: UK in Spain/Flickr
15:47 CEST+02:00
In this open letter to British residents in Spain, Ambassador Simon Manley writes about citizens’ rights in the negotiations on our departure from and future partnership with the EU.

Given the success of the Spanish State Visit to the UK the week before last, which, among other things, highlighted the importance of people to people links between our two countries, I thought it timely to return to the subject of citizens' rights in the negotiations on our departure from and future partnership with the EU.  

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In the year since the EU referendum, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting many of you across the country, from the Balearics to the Canaries, along the Costas and in Madrid, and our consular teams have met many more. 

I know from those conversations that there has been uncertainty for many of you. My teams and I have listened to your concerns about the future, including about your residency status in Spain, the level of your UK pensions, and your access to Spanish health and other social services, and have noted the questions you have about tax, inheritance, right to work and the implications of applying for Spanish nationality. 

At our meetings, on our social media and in interviews, I have also pledged to keep you up to date as negotiations on our exit from the European Union continue. So, let me update you on where matters stand now, in light of the latest negotiation round in Brussels last week.

The UK Government has been clear that citizens are our top priority in the exit negotiations. We want an agreement that provides citizens with greater certainty about their future. 

Last week, we held constructive and substantive discussions with the European Commission on the bulk of the issues underpinning our respective positions on citizens’ rights.  Together we have taken a big step forward. There is a much clearer understanding on the detail of the positions on both sides and significant convergence on the key issues that really matter to citizens. You can read this technical note which compares the UK and EU positions on these issues here. It is clear both sides want to move towards an agreement.

As you know, on 26 June, the Prime Minister outlined to Parliament an offer to protect the rights of EU citizens in the UK. We are entering the negotiations with the European Commission and the other 27 EU Member States constructively and we therefore hope that the EU27 will offer reciprocal treatment for British nationals resident in the other Member States.

Many of you will have seen press reports of our 26 June offer, whether in the UK or Spanish media. I hope you will also have read the detailed proposals which are set out in “Safeguarding the position of EU citizens in the UK and UK nationals in the EU” () and I would encourage you to sign-up for email alerts (you can do so on the Home Office page) to receive updates, to ensure that you are receiving information and guidance from official sources.

READ MORE: UK makes pension and healthcare pledge to expats post-Brexit

The first key element of the new proposal is residence status and working rights. Until the UK’s exit, EU citizens in the UK will continue to enjoy all the rights they currently have under EU law; they can continue to live and work in the UK just as they do now.  

The same rights also apply to you, British residents in Spain.  You can continue to live and work here in Spain as you always have done.  After the UK’s exit from the EU, we are proposing a reciprocal deal that would protect the right of UK nationalsalready in the EU to continue to live and work in the EU.  We hope that the European Commission and the 27 other Member States will agree to this.

The second key element is healthcare, pensions, education and access to benefits. It is our intention to treat EU citizens with settled status in the UK in the same way as if they were UK citizens for the purposes of access to education, benefits and pensions. 

For you, the Government has announced that the UK will continue to export and uprate the UK State Pension and provide associated healthcare cover within the EU, issues which I know from my conversations over the last year were important to many of you. 

At the moment, those of you who are UK pensioners and resident in Spain access healthcare through the S1 form.  This means the UK reimburses Spain the cost of providing medical treatment.  After the UK leaves the EU, we want to continue your healthcare entitlements on the same basis. Healthcare in Spain was indeed one of the case studies cited in the detailed proposals made by the British Government on 26 June.

Subject to negotiations, we want to continue participating in the European Health Insurance Card scheme meaning EHIC holders continue to benefit from free, or reduced-cost, needs-arising healthcare while on a temporary stay in the EU — and vice versa for EU EHIC holders visiting the UK. We hope the European Commission will agree to this. 

The British Government has repeatedly said that, until exit negotiations are concluded, the UK remains a full member of the European Union and all the rights and obligations of EU membership remain in force.  You can continue travelling throughout the EU on your UK passport, without any visa requirements.  You can continue to access Spanish healthcare and draw your UK pension.  If you have any difficulties accessing those rights, do please let our Consulates know 

I will continue to engage with you and listen to you, as will my consular teams across Spain.

In the meantime, please follow me on Twitter (@SimonManleyFCO) and access the Embassy’s social media (@UKinSpain on Twitter; British Embassy Madrid and Brits in Spain on Facebook) to keep up to date with developments.

The British Ambassador to Madrid with Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy in March. Photo: AFP

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