Just when we Brits in Spain believed we could relax and feel secure ……..

Just when we Brits in Spain believed we could relax and feel secure ……..

Sue Wilson from Bremain in Spain takes a look at the latest developments in Westminster and how it has sent shock waves through the British community in Spain.
There have been many days since the Brexit referendum when I’ve felt like I was doing a dance, with unfamiliar steps.

One day, it was the Brexit Hokey Cokey – in, out, shake it all about. The next, it was the Withdrawal Agreement two-step – one step forward, two steps back, spin around till you’re dizzy and confused.

Anyone worried about their rights after Brexit will be familiar with those feelings of confusion, fear, anxiety and exasperation.

It seems that, as soon as we start to believe that our rights are secured, the actions of the British government throw everything out of the window.

During a week when we hoped for some progress in the Brexit negotiations, the UK government dropped a bombshell in the shape of the Internal Market Bill. Long story short, the government is unhappy with the contents of the Withdrawal Agreement (WA) and is aiming to break its international treaty commitments. Not to worry though – it will do so in a “specific and limited way”.

Withdrawal Agreement

Despite insisting that the WA was an excellent deal, requiring little or no scrutiny from parliament, the government has now read the small print. It seems that many Conservative MPs only voted for the deal on the understanding that they could unravel it later. This is exactly what the government is trying to do now. Having signed the deal and winning an election on the back of it, the prime minister is reneging on his international treaty commitments.

Unsurprisingly, the EU’s reaction was swift and robust. Following an “extraordinary” meeting of the EU-UK Joint Committee, EU Commission Vice President, Maros Sefcovic, said: “The timely and full implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement, including the protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland – which Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his government agreed to, and which the UK Houses of Parliament ratified, less than a year ago – is a legal obligation. The European Union expects the letter and spirit of this agreement to be fully respected.” He went on to say that undermining the international treaty would risk the ongoing negotiations.

The EU also demanded that the UK government withdraw aspects of the bill that override the WA, giving them until the end of September to rectify the situation. Failure will risk termination of the negotiations and the prospect of leaving the EU without a trade deal.

You can read the full article over at The Local

We live in Spain and our rights are safe in the hands of Spanish authorities

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.

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.

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.

You can read the article in full over at The Local

Spain’s recent rise in infections is of concern to us all including the retired

Spain’s recent rise in infections is of concern to us all including the retired

When I dreamt of a Spanish retirement over many a cold, grey, British winter, the last few months of living with Covid did not feature in my vision, writes Sue Wilson.
Governments and medical professionals might have game-planned potential pandemic scenarios, but the general public were living in ignorant bliss. The shock, when it came in March, was scary and dramatic, and on an unprecedented scale.

When the worst appeared over, and safety measures were relaxed, our relief was tinged with caution, and lots of unanswered questions. Was it safe to go out? Would there be a second wave? Would life ever return to normal?

Covid aside, retirement in Spain has been everything I could have hoped for, and more. Although the rise in new Spanish cases has been alarming, we’ve been relatively virus free in my usually quiet corner of the Costa Azahar.

Being retired during lockdown has provided some relief. I’ve avoided concerns like earning a living, or worrying about job security, and the restrictions have affected me less than the younger, more social animals.

Covid people

Recent changes to safety measures, such as the closure of nightclubs, or the “early” closure of restaurants and bars at 1 am have not affected my life one iota.

Like everyone else, I have missed my family and friends, but not eating out is not a hardship, and the shopping restrictions have ensured my bank balance, at least, is healthier.

Regardless of age or personal circumstances, the recent rise in infection rates in Spain concerns us all.

The article in full can be found over at The Local.

‘Who are the Brits who have flocked to Spain because of Brexit?’

‘Who are the Brits who have flocked to Spain because of Brexit?’

Ever since the UK voted to leave the EU Brits have been on the move, with many heading to Spain. Many are accepting a cut in wages and career prospects, but they’re willing to make the sacrifice, writes Sue Wilson from Bremain in Spain.
A recent study by the Oxford University in Berlin and the WZB Social Science Centre has revealed a significant rise in the numbers of Brits migrating to Europe.

Since the Brexit referendum, the numbers of Brits choosing to live in EU countries has increased by 30 percent. Spain has seen the largest increase in numbers, with an estimated 380,000 British nationals now living here. EU countries have witnessed a 500 percent increase in applications for citizenship, as British migrants strive to retain their freedom of movement rights.

Daniel Tetlow, an author of the study, said: “We’re observing a new social migration phenomenon and a redefinition of what it means to be British-European.”

Ever since the UK voted to leave the EU, British citizens in the UK have been on the move. Many wanted to fulfil a long-held dream to migrate, while it was easier and cheaper to do so. For others, it was a fresh idea, and a means of retaining valuable rights for their families.

Although many of the incoming British residents arrived soon after the referendum, the process is still underway. The Covid crisis ended many plans and put paid to many home sales. Now that things are returning to ‘the new normality’, plans are being expedited. With just a few short months left before the end of the transition period, the clock is ticking.

Nobody is suggesting a move to Spain once Brexit is finally ‘done’ is impossible. However, it would be more complicated and expensive. The exact requirements are still being defined and may be more akin to those for other Third Country Nationals.

The main reason to move to Spain this year is the rights secured during the UK/EU negotiations. The legally binding Withdrawal Agreement (WA) enshrines residency, work and social rights, including protecting healthcare and pension rights.

People dreaming of retirement in Spain can benefit from the WA protections. Even those who aren’t of pensionable age by the end of 2020 will still qualify for healthcare and pension benefits, assuming they’ve made the appropriate level of UK contributions.

You can read the full article over at The Local. 

‘I trust the Spanish government to protect rights of Britons in Spain’

‘I trust the Spanish government to protect rights of Britons in Spain’

The Spanish government’s attitude towards British residents in the country is in stark contrast to that of the UK government towards EU residents, writes a grateful Sue Wilson from Bremain in Spain.
The recent sentiments expressed by Spanish Secretary of State, Hana Jalloul (Ministerio de Inclusión, Seguridad Social y Migraciones), were welcomed by British citizens across Spain. In fact, they brought a tear to many an eye and a lump to the throat.

In a recorded video message, British Ambassador to Spain, Hugh Elliott – along with Hana Jalloul -clarified forthcoming changes to the residency document for UK nationals and offered messages of support to the British community in Spain.

The quality and frequency of the information provided by the British Embassy over recent weeks has reassured many resident Brits. The clear steps to the new process, and the necessary requirements, have been frequently communicated to relevant stakeholders. However, it was reassuring to hear directly from the Secretary of State. The simple, straightforward approach by Spanish politicians has been welcome, but Jalloul’s personal message really hit home. 

As a Brit living in Spain, I’m constantly aware of similarities and differences between here and the UK. Whether it’s the prevailing attitude towards Brexit or coronavirus, a crisis can bring out the best or worst in people – and their governments.

The attitudes of the Spanish authorities and public towards the European Union contrasts with the UK and its constant rhetoric surrounding migrant residents. While Spain has shown compassion for its British residents, and people wishing to join them, the UK’s treatment of Spanish and other European citizens has, at times, been hostile and shameful.

Apart from the British government’s lack of empathy for EU citizens who already live there, the process of securing residency rights is complex and costly. There’s also a considerable risk that EU citizens who were legally resident before Brexit may have their applications rejected or their status downgraded.

You can read this article in full at The Local. 

Now it’s time for under-the-radar Brits in Spain to become official residents

Now it’s time for under-the-radar Brits in Spain to become official residents

Tens, if not hundreds of thousands of Brits in Spain will soon be applying for the new Tarjeta de Identidad de Extranjero (TIE). For the time being at least, I will not be one of them, writes Sue Wilson from the Bremain in Spain group.
Don’t get me wrong – I think the new identity card is a great idea, and there are benefits over my existing, and rather ragged, green residencia certificate.

Since I moved to Spain in 2007, I’ve never left home without my passport. Although I have photo ID in the form of my Spanish driving licence, I’m a belt and braces kind of gal, and old habits die hard. Having a new photo ID card will finally make me leave my passport at home – in theory at least!

The TIE won’t provide any additional rights to those we enjoy as legal residents.  It does prove our entitlement to those rights protected by the Withdrawal Agreement (WA), but the old, green residencia certificate does the same. However, the new card will specifically state (i.e. printed on it) the protection of WA rights.

Legally resident Brits are under no obligation to swap their existing green certificate or card for the TIE, as our existing documentation will remain legally valid, even after the transition period. 

The British Embassy in Madrid has liaised with Spanish authorities and British citizen groups across Spain over this matter. Considerable debate has surrounded the TIE and the implications for non-resident Brits. Although it has recently been impossible to meet the Ambassador or embassy staff in person, because of Covid, our virtual meetings have continued. The Embassy are also keen to engage directly with British citizens, legal or otherwise, via their Facebook group, including live Q&A events.

TIE Example

Using funds provided by the British government, several organisations are providing support to British citizens in the most populated regions of Spain. These groups will focus on helping the most vulnerable people navigate the residency application process.

The number of British citizens legally resident in Spain has hovered over the 300,000 mark for some time, although the figure is now rising because of Brexit. The total number, including those living under the radar, is estimated at up to one million. Even if that is an over-estimate, the Spanish authorities will certainly be handling applications from hundreds of thousands of British citizens.

The two-step process for those who are not currently legally resident involves the immigration office and the national police and can take many weeks. To qualify for the important benefits conferred by the WA, such as healthcare and pensions protection, the non-residents will be mindful of the transition period ending on 31 December 2020. 

To read the full article please head over to The Local. 

Here are some useful links also: 

What are the steps to apply for a TIE residency card in Spain?

Why British second-home owners in Spain should register for residency

Q&A: What you need to know about the new Brexit-friendly Spanish residency card