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BREXIT

How many residency applications from Britons has Spain rejected?

Find out just how many Britons have had their Spanish residency applications rejected and the reasons why.

People walk past a British pub in Benidorm on January 31, 2020. - On the sun-drenched eastern coast of Spain, British retirees, workers and small business owners are braced for an uncertain future after Britain leaves the European Union today. (Photo by JOSE JORDAN / AFP)
Residency rejections are mostly affecting Britons who are applying for residency in Spain for the first time under the Withdrawal Agreement. Photo: José Jordan/AFP

Earlier this month we reported that some UK nationals who applied for residency under the Withdrawal Agreement and had their Spanish residency applications rejected and were being sent notices telling them they must leave the country within 15 days or risk being classified as illegal.

READ ALSO – BREXIT: Brits rejected for residency in Spain given 15 days to leave country

But just how many people applied for residency and exactly how many applications were rejected?

In Spain, the estimated total number of UK residents in Spain (plus their third-country family members) is 381,400.

As of the beginning of September 2021, the Spanish authorities received 168,700 applications for residency and of these, 141,700 have been concluded, according to a recent report by the EU’s Specialised Committee on Citizens’ Rights.

Of these, 81,200 were approved for permanent residence (for people who had been living in Spain for more than five years) and 57,300 were approved for temporary residence (for people living in Spain for less than five years). 

A total of 2,400 were rejected and 800 were either withdrawn or were counted as void.

Why are residency applications being rejected?

In Spain, it seems that residency rejections are mostly affecting Britons who are applying for residency in Spain for the first time under the Withdrawal Agreement.

In essence, this means those who didn’t register before Brexit came into force, (and therefore are not holders of the old green residency document or, since July 2020, a TIE card), even though they were purportedly living in Spain before the end of 2020. 

Anne Hérnandez, the head of citizen help group Brexpats told The Local: “Applications are mostly being rejected on the grounds of insufficient evidence of legally residing in Spain in 2020, such as a Padrón (town hall registration), medical insurance or other proof people were actually living here before 2021”.

READ ALSO – Empadronamiento in Spain: What is it and how do I apply?

Mark McMillan from Sun Lawyers in Alicante, who has been helping numerous Britons with their residency applications, said: “Problems arise when people do not provide enough evidence of legally residing in Spain before the end of 2020,” adding that the Padrón certificate is the most widely accepted form of evidence.

While Diego Echavarria from Fairway Lawyers in Marbella told The Local that the most common rejection reason he sees is “because people did not have medical health insurance in Spain issued before 2021”.

READ ALSO – BREXIT: Why UK and Spain now strongly recommend exchanging green residency documents for TIE

He also said that several British people were trying to apply for residency whilst they were still in the UK and were not actually legally living in Spain at the time, and are therefore not covered under the Withdrawal Agreement.

Spain hasn’t given unregistered Brits who were in the country before Brexit a deadline by which to apply for their Spanish residency for the first time, however, the UK and Spanish authorities have been urging Britons to do so as soon as possible if they intend to stay here. 

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BREXIT

What is the latest on Gibraltar’s Brexit status?

With 2023 approaching and negotiations between Gibraltar, the UK, EU and Spain dragging on for yet another year, what is the latest on Gibraltar and Brexit? Will they reach a deal before New Year and how could it affect life in Gibraltar and Spain?

What is the latest on Gibraltar's Brexit status?

As British politics tries to move on from Brexit, the tiny British territory at the southern tip of Spain, Gibraltar, has been stuck in political limbo since the referendum all the way back in 2016.

Gibraltar, which voted in favour of Remain during the referendum by a whopping 96 percent, was not included in the Brexit deal and has instead relied on a framework agreement made between the UK and Spain on New Year’s Eve in 2020.

After that framework was laid out, it was hoped that the various parties – that is, the Gibraltarian government, Spain, the EU, and the UK – would build on it and quickly find a wider treaty agreement establishing Gibraltar’s place on the European mainland in the post-Brexit world.

It was thought that Gibraltar could enter into a common travel area with the Schengen zone, limiting border controls and essentially creating a custom-made customs arrangement with the EU.

But since then, the negotiation process has stopped and started, with no deal being made and uncertainty dragging on through 2021.

Despite all parties still being relatively optimistic in the spring of 2022, no resolution has been found and 2023 is approaching.

Relying on the framework agreement alone, uncertainty about what exactly the rules are and how they should be implemented have caused confusion and long delays on the border.

The roadblocks

Progress in the multi-faceted negotiations to bash out a treaty and determine Gibraltar’s place in the post-Brexit world have repeatedly stumbled over the same roadblocks.

The main one is the issue of the border. Known in Spain and Gibraltar as La Línea – meaning ‘the line’ in reference to the Spanish town directly across the border, La Línea de la Concepción – the subject of the border and who exactly will patrol it (and on which side) has been a constant sticking point in negotiations.

Madrid and Brussels have approached the British government with a proposal for removing the border fence between Spain and Gibraltar in order to ease freedom of movement, Spain’s Foreign Minister José Manuel Albares said in late November 2022. There has been no immediate response from London.

The Gibraltarians refuse to accept Spanish boots on the ground and would prefer the European-wide Frontex border force. The British government feel this would be an impingement on British sovereignty. There’s also been the persistent issues of VAT and corporation tax considerations, as well as the British Navy base and how to police the waters around it.

Though there had been reports that the ongoing British driving license in Spain fiasco had been one of the reasons negotiations had stalled, the British ambassador to Spain Hugh Elliot categorically denied any connection between the issue of Gibraltar’s Brexit deal and British driving licence recognition earlier in November.

READ ALSO: CONFIRMED: Deal on UK licences in Spain agreed but still no exchange date

On different pages?

Not only do the long-standing sticking points remain, but it also seems that the various negotiating parties are on slightly different pages with regards to how exactly each seems to think the negotiations are going.

Judging by reports in the Spanish press in recent weeks, it appears that many in Spain may believe the negotiations are wrapping up and a conclusion could be found by New Year. This perception comes largely from comments made by Pascual Navarro, Spain’s State Secretary to the EU. Speaking to reporters in Brussels, Navarro claimed that negotiations have advanced so well that they were now only working ‘on the commas’ of the text – that is to say, tidying it up.

According to Gibraltar’s Chief Minister Fabian Picardo, though negotiations are ongoing, “we’re not there yet”. (Photo: JORGE GUERRERO/AFP)

“No issue that is blocked,” he said. “All of the text is on the table.” A full treaty, he suggested, could be signed “before the end of the year.”

Yet it seems the Gibraltarians don’t quite see the progress as positively as their neighbours. Last week the Gibraltar government, known as No.6, acknowledged Navarro’s optimism.

According to Gibraltar’s Chief Minister Fabian Picardo however, though negotiations are ongoing, “we’re not there yet”.

No.6 remains positive and hopes for a deal, but in recent weeks has also published technical contingency plans for businesses to prepare for what they are calling a ‘Non-Negotiated Outcome’ – effectively a ‘no-deal’ in normal Brexit jargon.

The UK, however, seem to be somewhere in the middle. Like Navarro, the British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly recently suggested at a House of Commons select committee that only “a relatively small number” of issues remain to be resolved.

However, he also acknowledged the possibility of a non-negotiated outcome. “I think it’s legitimate to look at that [planning for a non-negotiated outcome] as part of our thinking,” Mr Cleverly said. “But obviously we are trying to avoid an NNO.”

Election year

If no deal is found by New Year, that would mean that negotiations drag into 2023 – election years for both Picardo and Pedro Sánchez, Spain’s Prime Minister.

Gibraltar is expected to have elections sometime in the second-half of the year, and Sánchez has to call an election by the end of 2023.

In many ways, Spanish domestic politics has the potential to play a far greater role in Gibraltar’s fate than British politics. In fact, the shadow of Spanish politics looms over these negotiations and the future relationship between Spain and Gibraltar, the UK and Spain, and the UK and EU.

If Sánchez’s PSOE were to lose the election, which according to the latest polling data is the most probable outcome, then it would be likely that Spain’s centre-right party PP would seek to renegotiate, if not outright reject, any deal made.

READ ALSO: Who will win Spain’s 2023 election – Sánchez or Feijóo?

If PP are unable to secure a ruling majority, however, they may well be forced to rely on the far-right party Vox, who have often used nationalist anti-Gibraltar rhetoric as a political weapon. If Vox were to enter into government, which is unlikely but a possibility, it’s safe to say any agreement – if one is even reached before then – would be torn up and the Spanish government would take a much harder line in negotiations.

As the consequences of Brexit churn on in Britain, in Gibraltar uncertainty looms.

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