“We have told them that our royal decree will ensure everything remains the same in the case of a no-deal Brexit. But for that, reciprocity is necessary. And reciprocity cannot be guaranteed in half-measures – it is either there, or it isn’t,” Spain's EU affairs minister, Luis Marco Aguiriano, told El Pais in an interview following a meeting with Brexit secretary Steven Barclay in Madrid last week.
The statement emphasises one of the key points within a new law drawn up in March in order to guarantee the continued rights of Britons legally resident in Spain if no withdrawal agreement is in place.
The royal decree was passed as an emergency law by Pedro Sanchez’s government in early March and includedthe guarantee that those Britons legally resident in Spain come Brexit day would be offered new permanent residency papers.
At the time, it was announced by Foreign Minister Josep Borrell with the caveat of reciprocity. “It will assure the continued rights of those British living in Spain although it is unilateral measure passed by Spain, we expect that it will be met with reciprocity by the British government.”
The decree came as a huge relief for Brits in Spain promising to extend the rights of British citizens currently resident in Spain, covering issues such as healthcare, driving licences and pensions/social security.
But fears have resurfaced after news that Britain would only guarantee the payment of health costs for UK pensioners living in the EU for the six months following Britain’s exit from the bloc on October 31st without a deal.
Some 365,967 Britons are officially registered as residents in Spain compared to the 180,000 Spaniards who reside in the United Kingdom
At present no like-for-like guarantee has been made by the British authorities in response to the royal decree but the UK has introduced a process for EU citizens living there to stay in Britain post Brexit and enjoy continued rights.
All of the estimated 3.6 million EU citizens resident in the UK – except citizens of the Irish Republic – must apply for settled status so they can continue living in the country legally once free movement ends with Brexit.
Settled status is eligible to those who have been in the UK for five years and can prove it with the necessary paperwork, while pre-settled status is for anyone else until they have the proof of a five year continuous stay.
Although this settled and pre-settled status scheme guarantees rights for EU residents in UK under certain conditions, it is not considered like-for-like with Spain's measures.
Spain's royal decree states that if there is no reciprocal agreement within two months then the cabinet can suspend it entirely.