How Spain is reacting to Brexit deal defeat

The failure of the vote in Westminster last night dominated the front pages and news websites in Spain on Wednesday.

How Spain is reacting to Brexit deal defeat

El Pais warned that the “crushing defeat sharpened the Brexit crisis”.  

While ABC declared: “Prisoners of Brexit,” alongside a red-tinted imaged of a fraught looking Theresa May. 

It said the vote leaves “a divided country and the prime minister with almost no options or time to achieve an agreed exit”.

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“A humiliating defeat for May leaves Brexit in limbo” said El Mundo.while La Razon called it “The Brexit of Chaos”.

Spain's Prime Minister. Pedro Sanchez, was quick to lament the outcome in a tweet.  “The Government regrets the negative result in the British Parliament. The agreement is the best possible and an unordered exit would be negative for the EU and catastrophic for the United Kingdom. Spain works on contingency measures and prioritizes the rights of citizens and residents.”  



Spain’s Foreign Minister Josep Borrell Fontelles: “The British MPs have spoken very clearly. It is the biggest parliamentary defeat of a UK government since 1924. Now Theresa May will have to overcome no confidence vote and present an alternative.”


Earlier this week Borrell announced that Madrid and London had agreed to grant electoral rights in local elections after Brexit to British residents in Spain and Spanish residents in the U.K.

The reciprocal agreement will be signed next week in Madrid and will grant British residents in Spain and Spanish residents in the U.K. the right to vote and stand as candidates in municipal elections after Britain leaves the EU.


The Spanish government has launched a Brexit website to provide information to citizens in both Spain and Britian affected by the Britain's departure from the EU.

Meanwhile, Gibraltar’s Chief Minister, Fabian Picardo tweeted that plans had already been made in anticipation of Theresa May losing Tuesday’s vote.

READ ALSO: Brits in EU demand to be spared from Brexit 'train crash' after May's deal rejected




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.