OPINION: ‘We live in Spain and our rights are safe in the hands of Spanish authorities’

As post-Brexit trade talks stall, it's unsurprising that Brits throughout Europe are again feeling anxious about their futures. But for those in Spain, there is reason to be optimistic, writes Sue Wilson of Bremain in Spain.

OPINION: 'We live in Spain and our rights are safe in the hands of Spanish authorities'
Photo: AFP

Following the seventh round of Brexit negotiations in Brussels in August, there’s been little to report and no progress. The main issues preventing agreement remain the same – fisheries, a level playing field and state aid. The only change is in the amount of time remaining to resolve those issues, and the political rhetoric.

French foreign minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, recently said that the UK government was deliberately stalling the negotiations with its “intransigent and unrealistic attitude”. Downing Street responded by saying that the EU was “making it unnecessarily difficult” for post-Brexit trade talks to progress. A source close to lead negotiator, David Frost, said that he had “made clear to Barnier that as things stand, he would have to recommend to Boris that we go for no deal”.

With the endless chest-thumping and finger-pointing, it’s unsurprising that Brits throughout Europe are again feeling anxious about their futures. Uncertainty is always unsettling, but there is a familiarity to the situation we find ourselves in. In many respects, we’ve been here before.

In 2019, we were worried about the prospect of leaving the EU with no deal, no rights and no benefits. Thankfully, that worst-case scenario was narrowly avoided at the 11th hour, but the talk of no deal has returned.

This time around, we do have a deal – the Withdrawal Agreement (WA) – that protects many, if not all, of our treasured rights. Yet there’s still the threat of failing to agree a trade deal. According to Michel Barnier, a negotiated deal is becoming “unlikely”, thanks to the UK government’s unwillingness to compromise.

EU's Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier leaves with European Commission spokesman Daniel Ferrie in Brussels on Aug 21st. Photo: AFP

Unsurprisingly, the idea of losing EU citizenship rights stirs anger, sadness and fear in British citizens in Spain. We moved here in good faith, secure in the knowledge – or so we thought – that our rights would apply for life. We’re more familiar with those rights now than ever before, because many of them are being taken away. We took the benefits of EU membership for granted: not anymore.

However, one thing surely causes more anxiety than the loss of rights already removed, and that’s the fear of losing the rights already secured by the Withdrawal Agreement.

READ ALSO Brexit Withdrawal Agreement: What is it and does it cover me?

For some people, it’s a matter of trust. The British government has done little to instil any confidence throughout the Brexit and Covid crises. Promises have been broken, policies muddled, and messages confused. Not to mention, the government has performed enough U-turns to make us dizzy.

Furthermore, some Conservatives have been vocal about their disdain for the contents of the WA, despite having voted for it. At the time, they possibly feared that their beloved Brexit was slipping away and voted simply to ensure that Britain left the EU in January. Late in the day, some are starting to read the small print. It’s understandable, therefore, that many people believe the UK government won’t honour the provisions, or spirit, of the WA.

As we are talking about an international treaty, the ramifications would be serious for a country that is apparently keen to build new trading partnerships with other nations. What country would trust any government that reneged on its international treaty commitments?

From our perspective, the UK government isn’t responsible for ensuring that our WA rights are protected. That responsibility falls on Spain. We live here, we have rights here, and those rights are in the safe hands of Spanish authorities. Spain is a proud member of the EU and will defend the international treaty with ‘gusto’.

After further emergency talks this week, Barnier said he was “worried and disappointed” that no progress had been made, but not, I suspect, surprised. We know how he feels. Let’s hope that some progress can be made when formal talks recommence shortly. Leaving the EU without an agreement on a future trading relationship – preferably a close one – would be reckless in the extreme.

Whether or not the EU and the UK eventually come to an agreement on trade, I’m not expecting to gain any further citizens’ rights. But I’m not expecting to lose any more either.

Regardless of whether you trust the UK government, the Spanish government has repeatedly proved its commitment to British residents. It won’t fail us now, in our hour of need.

By Sue Wilson – Chair of Bremain in Spain


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Banking giant Barclays to close all accounts of Brits living in Spain

UK nationals living in Spain have begun to receive letters from their bank telling them that their accounts will be closed, in an apparent post-Brexit change. Have you been affected?

Banking giant Barclays to close all accounts of Brits living in Spain

Customers of Barclays Bank who are living in Spain and other EU countries have been receiving letters telling them that their UK accounts will be closed by the end of the year. 

A number of readers of The Local’s network of news websites have contacted us to report receiving either letters or messages in their online banking telling them that their accounts would be closed because of their residency in Spain or in other countries in the EU.

A Barclays spokesperson told The Local: “As a ring fenced bank, our Barclays UK products are designed for customers within the UK.

“We will no longer be offering services to personal current account or savings customers (excluding ISAs) within the European Economic Area. We are contacting impacted customers to give them advance notice of this decision and outline the next steps they need to take.”  

Customers are being given six months to make alternative arrangements. The changes affect all personal current accounts or savings accounts, but do not affect ISAs, loans or mortgages.

During the Brexit transition period Barclays closed Barclaycard accounts of customers in Spain, but did not indicate any changes to standard bank accounts.


Around the same time several other British high street banks began closing accounts of British customers who live in the EU, although with the exception of Barclaycard customers in Spain who were largely spared.

Many UK nationals who live in Spain maintain at least one UK bank account – in addition to a Spanish account – sometimes just for savings but others use their accounts regularly to receive income such as pensions or income from rental property or – for remote workers – to receive income for work done in the UK.

Not having a UK bank account can make financial transactions in the UK more complicated or incur extra banking fees.

READ MORE: What are the best UK banks for Brits in Spain?

Since Brexit, the UK banking sector no longer has access to the ‘passporting’ system which allows banks to operate in multiple EU countries without having to apply for a separate banking licence for each country.

And it seems that many UK high street banks are deciding that the extra paperwork is not worth the hassle and are withdrawing completely from certain EU markets. 

When British banks began withdrawing services from customers in the EU back in 2020, a UK government spokesman told British newspaper The Times that “the provision of banking services is a commercial decision for firms based on a number of factors” so Brits in Spain probably shouldn’t hold their breath for any help from that direction.

READ ALSO: Premium Bond holders in Spain may have to cash in if no UK bank account