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100 days to go: British Ambassador to Spain sends important message ahead of key Brexit date

The British Ambassador to Madrid, Hugh Elliott has published a video message to UK Nationals living in Spain as we reach the landmark of 100 days until the end of the transition period.

100 days to go: British Ambassador to Spain sends important message ahead of key Brexit date
Hugh Elliott, British Ambassador in Madrid. Photo: FCO

With 100 days until the end of the Transition Period on December 31st, Elliott recorded a message for Brits in Spain in which he sought to reassure those living and to remind those that haven't yet done so, to make sure they are properly registered as a resident. 

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Speaking about the continuing negotiations on the future relationship between the UK and the EU, the Ambassador said: “I want to reassure you that your rights as UK nationals living in Spain are already protected under the Withdrawal Agreement between the UK and the EU. And that both the UK and Spanish Governments are fully committed to implementing the citizens’ rights provisions in the Agreement.”

The Ambassador reminds UK Nationals of the need to register as a resident as soon as possible and addressed the problems experienced by many in getting an appointment. 

“You’ll have heard me say this many times but I’m going to say it again,” Elliott emphasized in the video the crucial step required to protect your rights.

“If you are living in Spain and haven’t already done so, you must register for Spanish residency as soon as you can, please,” he urged. “I know that many of you are struggling to get residency appointments,” he acknowledged.

Importantly, he said that those who were unable to complete the process before the end of the year would still be protected if they can prove that they were resident here by December 31st.

“If you are unable to complete the registration process before the 1 st of January you will still be protected by the Withdrawal Agreement as long as you can prove that you were legally resident in Spain before the end of 2020,” he said.  “So we recommend making sure that you have your documentation in place, like your padron certificate that demonstrates that.”

For those who are struggling, the UK government has provided funding for organisations to provide practical support to UK nationals who may have difficulty completing their residency application or registration in Spain.

More information:

  • Spain's government has a dedicated Brexit page for UK nationals HERE
  • Check out the UK Foreign Office latest advice on Living In Spain HERE 
  • Follow the British Embassy Facebook page for updates as well as Live Q&A sessions HERE
  • Check our Brexit section for all the latest news and updates: HERE

 

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BRITS IN EUROPE

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.

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