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Brexit and Spain news roundup: visa problems, driving deadline and Gibraltar

Brexit and Spain news roundup: visa problems, driving deadline and Gibraltar
Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds perform during Benicassim festival in 2015. UK musicians now face costly and complex bureaucratic problems to perform in Spain after Brexit. Photo: José Jordan/AFP
This week we cover deadlines for UK driving licences, the end to residency application support and why UK musicians are facing problems to perform in Spain in particular after Brexit.

Don’t expect to watch UK indie bands live in Spain soon

The downsides of Brexit for UK music lovers in Spain recently became evident when two indie groups – Squid and Black Country – cancelled their performances in late October in Madrid, Barcelona and San Sebastían. 

According to the groups and organisers Primera Sound Tours, “bureaucratic problems derived from Brexit” are the reason for the cancellations, although attempts are being made to reschedule. 

For months, the music industry has been warning of visa problems that awaited UK bands performing in Europe. On the other hand, EU performers don’t require a visa to perform in the UK.

Most EU nations have signed bilateral agreements with the British government to alleviate the fallout of the UK leaving the bloc but unfortunately Spain, together with Croatia and Bulgaria, are the only three countries with no alternative arrangement in place.

Spain’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has stated that “it’s true that the United Kingdom does not require a visa, but Spanish legislation does. 

“As there is no absolute equivalence between the immigration laws of Spain and those of the United Kingdom, it is therefore not always possible to apply equivalent measures”.

The visas Squid and Black Country’s band members required each cost around €400, which when you include road crew, technicians and other sound personnel, made their concerts financially unfeasible. 

Add to this the slow and complex bureaucracy that accompanies this visa process (Spain has famously lost several big Hollywood deals as a result) and it all becomes fairly unappealing, especially for smaller bands that don’t have the manpower or resources.

About the Rock

Negotiations on the situation of Gibraltar after Brexit between the European Commission (EC) and the United Kingdom began on Monday October 11th in Brussels , almost a year after Madrid and London reached a provisional agreement on the Rock.

It’s one of three planned meetings to be held between October and December held alternately in Brussels and London.

Gibraltar was not included in the trade and cooperation pact that the UK and the EU reached at the end of 2020, so a separate agreement now needs to be reached.

Spain and the United Kingdom already reached a draft agreement on New Year’s Eve of last year, allowing for free movement between the British overseas territory and much of the EU.

A dove flies past the Rock of Gibraltar near the border crossing between Spain and Gibraltar.
Will the EU and the UK be able to see eye to eye over Gibraltar’s future? Photo: Jorge Guerrero/AFP

But this depends on the deal the European Commission and the British Government reach over Gibraltar in the coming months. 

After the publication of the EC proposal in July, the British government considered it to be in conflict with the framework agreement reached with Spain on New Year’s Eve.

Gibraltar also expressed its opposition because it understood that the draft mandate left the control of its borders at the port and the airport in the hands of Spain, and not of European Frontex agents, as stated in the draft agreement reached from December 31st .

The mandate proposed by the European Commission on the other hand stated that the control and surveillance of the external borders would be carried out at the port, the airport and the waters of Gibraltar “by Spain”, not mentioning Frontex initially.

In later documents it has confirmed  that Spain “has expressed its intention to request Frontex assistance” for the control of external borders during the first four years in which the pact on the Rock is applied.

Validity of UK driving licences in Spain ends at the end of October 2021

UK driving licences will only be valid in Spain for the next couple of weeks, until October 31st. In June 2021, the Spanish government announced it would extend the validity of UK driving licences in Spain post Brexit until October 31st, 2021 rather than the previous deadline of June 30th.

If you registered your intention to exchange your licence with the DGT before December 30th 2020, then you were able to change your licence to a Spanish one. However, if you did not, you will need to follow the DGT process for non-EU nationals, which includes taking a driving test.

You can read more about it here, but as things stand there is no official announcement from either UK or Spanish authorities on a bilateral agreement or an extension of the validity deadline after October 31st 2021. 

READ ALSO – Spanish driving licence: the essential language to pass your practical test

Residency application support to finish by the end of 2021

The UK government has announced that the additional support provided by the UK Nationals Support Fund to UK nationals filling out their residency applications for Spain or trying to get a Tarjeta de Identidad de Extranjero (TIE), will end on 31st December 2021.

They say that you should contact the UK Nationals Support Fund implementing partners before this date if you require additional support. If you are already being assisted by one of their implementing partners, they will continue to help you until you have made your application. You can find out more about this here

Postal service between Spain and UK over Christmas

Christmas may still be two and half months away, but you may need to start thinking about the parcels and Christmas gifts you’re sending and receiving this year, as Brexit has changed the process slightly.  

All types of parcels – whether commercial or private – are now affected by changes to rules that came into force when the UK left the EU.

This means that it costs more to send and receive gifts between Spain and the UK. It also takes longer, and certain items are banned.

Gifts sent from the UK to the EU also need an extra customs declaration form attached, including a detailed description of what’s inside, meaning that surprise Christmas presents have gone out the window.

The EU’s strict phytosanitary rules also mean that all imports of products that come from animals are now not allowed, or need a vet certificate. This means that technically, sending a box of milk chocolates by post to Spain is now not allowed.

If you are sending a gift from Spain to the UK, import VAT typically only applies to goods whose value is over £39, or the equivalent in Euros. Customs Duty is due only if the value of goods is over £135.

READ ALSO: How Brexit will affect the postal service between Spain and the UK over Christmas

Spain starts to see benefits of post-Brexit tax-free shopping

Since the UK left the EU, British holidaymakers have been able to enjoy tax-free shopping in Spain. This is good news for Spain too who have now begun to reap the rewards of British tourists spending more on their shopping trips.

From January to September 2021, British tourists who deducted VAT spent an average €1,337 (£1,139) on their purchases, higher than any other non-EU nationality and far above the 2019 annual average of €357.

British holidaymakers and visitors to Spain can now claim back VAT of up to 21 percent on goods they buy during their trips. This applies to fashion items, cosmetics, jewellery, technology and some food and drink items, but does not apply to services. This means you can’t get VAT back on your restaurant bills, car rental, theatre tickets, flights or train tickets. 

READ ALSO: Spain starts to reap rewards of one Brexit benefit


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