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BREXIT

Will Spain follow in Portugal’s footsteps and fast-track UK travellers?

Portugal’s decision to open e-gates to British nationals to help them avoid non-EU passport control queues at Portuguese airports is being lauded as a tourism draw, so will Spain follow suit?

Will Spain follow in Portugal's footsteps and fast-track UK travellers?
Unless something is done about it, you can expect non-EU passport control queues at Spanish airports such as Barcelona's El Prat to be very long this summer. (Photo by Josep LAGO / AFP)

One of the consequences of Brexit that British travellers have become most aware of since 2021 is how upon arrival in Spain or another EU/Schengen Area country from the UK, they now have to stand in the queue for third-country nationals.

This can hardly be considered the worst Brexit setback, but it has meant plenty of waiting around at passport control for British nationals (EU residents and tourists alike), in some cases resulting in flights being missed. 

Portugal has recently made headlines by becoming the first EU nation to fast-track British travellers despite their new third-country status, opening e-gates to them at airports in Faro, Lisbon, Porto and Madeira where they can scan their passports more swiftly. Visitors from Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and Japan are also reported to be able to enjoy this travel perk in Portugal.

By contrast, doubts about entry rules for UK tourists arriving in Spain post-Brexit have been revived by what’s been happening in Gibraltar in April.

Border officials have reportedly tightened checks on some Brits entering Spain via The Rock to require proof of accommodation and enough money to pay for their stay. 

These are pre-existing EU regulations which are potentially applicable to any third-country national arriving in Spain or other EU/EEA/Schengen countries, and whilst such requirements are usually down to an individual border officer’s judgement, there are no reports of it happening as frequently at Spanish airports as at the Gibraltar border.

READ ALSO: What are the reasons for being denied entry into Spain?

With this in mind, are Spanish authorities likely to soon adopt a similar system to Portugal’s to allow British nationals through more easily and with fewer checks?

There is no official comment on this on the part of the Spanish government. 

However, as Spain is currently seeing a huge resurgence of its tourism numbers to pre-pandemic levels, Spain’s Airlines Association (ALA) has called for more police officers to be deployed before the summer to prevent some of the travel chaos seen at airports’ passport and security controls over the Easter holidays. 

More than 3,000 passengers are believed to have missed their flights at Madrid’s Barajas airport over Holy Week as a result of the holdups at third-country nationals’ passport queues.

For ALA’s president Javier Gándara, the main issue to be resolved is that of British nationals, as “this will be the first summer with the requirement to check UK passports and the first period of normalised air traffic after the British Government eliminated all Covid restrictions”.

There is no talk yet of Britons being able to use e-gates at Spanish airports, which suggests that Spain will not be willing to contravene EU/Schengen rules, at the very least until the new entry-exit EES system that will replace passport stamping with scanning is implemented (among other changes), perhaps in late 2022.

READ MORE: Passport stamp or scan? What foreigners at Spain’s borders should expect

But an increase in the border workforce will no doubt help relieve waiting times.

The number of British tourists visiting Spain has been increasing over the previous months and despite Brexit and Covid restrictions, the United Kingdom remains the main tourism market for the Spanish economy in 2022.

If Spain allows entry to unvaccinated UK tourists in the coming months, by the summer even more will be willing to come, slowly edging closer to the 18 million British holidaymakers the country welcomed in 2019. 

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BREXIT

Reciprocal healthcare agreements between Spain and Gibraltar end

The Spanish government has confirmed that it will not extend its reciprocal healthcare agreements with Gibraltar, meaning that from July 1st 2022, it will come to an end.

Reciprocal healthcare agreements between Spain and Gibraltar end

When the UK left the EU on December 31st 2020, both sides agreed that the UK’s EHIC European healthcare cards could still be used until their expiry dates.

This card provided British travellers with free state-provided medical care in the EU in case of emergencies.

Beyond their five year period of validity, EHIC cards are no longer valid and travellers have to apply for the new Global Heath Insurance Card (GHIC) instead. 

Spain made a separate agreement with Gibraltar under its Royal Brexit Decree in which unilateral arrangements would be maintained in the territory and extended until June 30th 2022.

During the meeting of the Spanish Council of Ministers on Tuesday, the Spanish Government decided not to extend the agreement further, meaning that residents of Gibraltar will no longer be able to benefit from it.

In a statement the government of Gibraltar said: “It would have been HMGoG’s preference for these arrangements, which deeply affect citizens on either side of the border on matters as essential as healthcare, to have been maintained. Indeed, HMGoG was prepared to continue with them”.

“However, because reciprocity is a key element to these arrangements which cannot work without coordination and provisions for reimbursement of costs etc., HMGoG is left with no option but to discontinue them also in so far as treatment in Gibraltar is concerned,” it continued. 

What does this mean?

Gibraltar residents insured under Gibraltar’s Group Practice Medical Scheme will, after 30th June 2022, no longer be able to access free emergency healthcare in Spain during a temporary stay in the country. 

Those who are residents in Spain who travel over to Gibraltar will not have access to free healthcare on The Rock either. 

As a consequence, if a resident of Gibraltar falls ill or has an accident while over the border in Spain or the same for a Spanish resident in Gibraltar, they will have to pay for healthcare.

The government of Gibraltar is encouraging its citizens from July 1st 2022 to have appropriate travel insurance with medical cover each time they visit Spain.

This means that even those who are hopping over the border for few hours such as for a shopping trip or going out for dinner will have to make sure that they have adequate health insurance. 

“Where medical attention is required the costs incurred may be considerable, so you should ensure you have adequate insurance cover or alternatively the means to pay,” the Gibraltar government said in their statement.

  

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