British Embassy Updates

British Embassy Updates

Bremain in Spain are proud to work closely with the British Ambassador & Embassy staff to keep you informed about life in Spain.

Throughout the Brexit process, the Embassy have been providing regular updates on our rights in Spain, and the necessary measures to take to ensure those rights are protected. We are grateful for all their efforts on our behalf & for sharing any developments promptly & efficiently.

We will pass on any new information as it becomes available, so please check in regularly for all the latest news.

Right: Chair Sue Wilson with British Ambassador Hugh Elliott

Sue Wilson Embassy
From an article by Bremain Chair, Sue Wilson, in The Local Newspaper, the Ambassador, Hugh Elliott told us:

“I know that, because of the suspension of residency appointments during the current state of emergency, many UK nationals are concerned about their ability to obtain the correct documentation before 31 December. I want to reassure people on two points. If you already have the green residency certificate, your core rights are protected and it remains a valid document, even after the end of the transition period. If you don’t yet have your green residency certificate there is, likewise, no need for alarm. We continue to advise people to get an appointment as soon as you can. However, as long as you are living in Spain and can prove that you satisfy the legal conditions of residence (i.e. sufficient income and access to healthcare) by 31 December 2020, your rights are assured even if you are not able to get the physical document before the end of the year.” 

Read the full article “What will Brits in Spain need in order to feel settled?” here

 

The Embassy welcome direct contact from members of the public, with general or more specific, personal enquiries. Please use this LINK to make direct contact as it will generate an online form & provide a reference number.

You can also contact the consulate in your area – a list of consulates can be found here

You will receive a direct response in due course.

The Embassy provide regular updates, including live Q & A sessions, on their Facebook page here

The Embassy website has a wealth of information on a variety of topics, including details of how things will change after the end of Brexit transition period here

You can also follow them on Twitter: @BritsliveSpain

Update from Embassy 11 June

Following the ruling by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) regarding EU citizenship and voting/standing in local elections, the Embassy would like to confirm the rules with regards to Spain.

The ECJ ruled that with Brexit, we lost our EU citizenship rights and the right to vote and stand in local elections under EU law. However, this does not affect UK nationals’ right to vote and stand in local elections in Spain. This is because a bilateral agreement exists between Spain and the UK which allows UK nationals who have lived in in Spain for more than 3 years to vote and stand in local elections.

More information on voting rights in Spain (and the treaty, signed in January 2019) is available in the Embassy’s Living in Spain guide.

Update from Embassy 23 February

The latest update from the Embassy includes information on a variety of subjects, including an extension for the use of UK driving licences in Spain.

For all the latest information, click on the relevant PDF below for all the latest details and useful links.

  • Driving Licence PDF
  • Access to regional employment services PDF
  • Residence registration PDF
  • Voting rights and registration on the electoral roll PDF

Update from Embassy 22 December

As the year comes to a close, the Embassy have provided an update on the issues that are still concerning UK nationals living in Spain.

RESIDENCY

Following a negative outcome on a residency application, some UK nationals have received an instruction to leave Spain within 15 days. While discussions between the relevant authorities are ongoing, the Embassy have put together some information for those finding themselves in this position. Open the Residency PDF for further details.

DRIVING LICENCES

Ambassador Hugh Elliott has recorded a video message for UK Licence holders living in Spain, which has been posted on the Brits in Spain Facebook channel. Negotiations are “progressing” but have yet to reach a conclusion. An extension to the current grace period has been asked for, and is expected to be granted, before the end of the year. Open the Driving Licence PDF for further details.

PASSPORT STAMPING

UK travellers are still experiencing inconsistencies at the border, with some Withdrawal Agreement beneficiaries being stamped despite presenting evidence of their residence status, and some visitors being stamped only on entry and not on exit.

For the second group – the travellers who are concerned that they received an entry but not an exit stamp –  the Embassy have recently updated their travel advice page with information in line with the Schengen Borders Code. This information currently sits under the subheading ‘visas’ on the page. We advise UK travellers to carry evidence of when and where they last entered and exited the Schengen Area when travelling in the future as you can ask a border guard to add this information into your passport. Acceptable forms of evidence can include boarding passes and tickets.

TAXATION OF OCCUPATIONAL OR PRIVATE UK PENSIONS

In response to issues raised in this regard by Bremain in Spain, the Embassy have put together some information. Open the Pensions PDF for further information.

Update from Embassy 13 November

The Embassy are often contacted for assistance in areas they are unable to assist with. To clarify where they can help, and to point people in the right direction where they can’t, a guide has been produced to explain the services they provide. Click here to open the guide

For visas for those wishing to move to Spain, please contact the Spanish consulate in the UK

To contact the Embassy in Madrid by phone or online, or for more information click here

Update from Embassy 27 October

DRIVING LICENCE EXTENSION

The Spanish government has today announced that valid UK licences will continue to be recognised for driving in Spain until 31 December 2021.

Negotiations are ongoing, and the Embassy will continue to provide information as and when any developments happen.

Independent of those ongoing negotiations, UK Nationals who successfully registered their intent to exchange their licence before 30 December 2020, will be able to exchange it for a Spanish one without having to take a practical test up until the end of this year. The Embassy understands that some people who tried to register their intent have subsequently found out that they were unsuccessful in doing so. If this is your situation and you are unclear as to why, you should contact the DGT directly to discuss further. https://www.dgt.es/es/contacto.shtml

If you moved to Spain after 1 January 2021, your UK licence is valid for six months from the date of your TIE or until 31 December, whichever is later.

Update from Embassy 12 October

UK national stakeholder event with FCDO Minister for Europe and the Americas

On Thursday 30 September, Wendy Morton, FCDO Minister for Europe and the Americas, met with 14 representatives from ten organisations that work closely with the UK community in Spain, as part of her visit to Madrid.

The meeting was an opportunity for the Minister to hear of the main concerns and issues affecting UK nationals in Spain, following the end of the transition period on 31 December 2020, ahead of her meetings with the Spanish government later that day. The issues raised included: registration/residency applications, visa processing, the stamping of passports, immigrations status, moving back to the UK and many more.

The Minister assured representatives she would be raising issues, such as the registration of UK nationals in Spain and driving licence exchange, in her meetings with the Spanish government, and that ensuring smooth visa processes was also a priority. Citizens’ rights remains a priority for the UK government and the British Embassy in Madrid continues to engage with the relevant UK and Spanish authorities on the various issues that were raised.

Bremain in Spain was ably represented by Vice Chair, Lisa Ryan Burton and Council Member and Newsletter Editor, Helen Johnston.

For further details regarding the topics discussed, view the PDF

Update from Embassy 27 September

Earlier this year, the Embassy carried out a series of Healthcare focus groups throughout the EU. Some of the most popular questions and concerns were about NHS access and S1 registration, with participants wanting more detailed information.

As a result, the Embassy have produced the following series of infographics. Click on the relevant PDF for more information:

  • The S1 form (an explainer on what the S1 is, who can apply etc) PDF
  • How to access the NHS if you are a UK national living in the EU PDF
  • How to access the NHS if you are a registered S1 form holderPDF
  • How to register your S1 form in SpainPDF

Registering your S1 with the INSS

The INSS has recently updated its online portal.  The process has been revised, and there’s a specific link for S1 form holders who wish to register online.  There is a dedicated page on gov.uk which outlines the process for registering your S1 online, and which has been updated to reflect changes made.

Please note that, at present, the page is only in Spanish and it has an additional series of instructions to ensure you confirm your identity.

 

Update from Embassy 25 June

Starting today, the Embassy Health Team are offering one-to-one calls with UK nationals on the last Friday of every month, continuing throughout the summer.

How does it work?

You can book a 10-minute slot to speak to one of the health team about your individual circumstances, relating to healthcare access. Click on the link here to book your appointment.

What can people call about?

The objective is to help those who are still struggling to register or are having issues with accessing healthcare. Unfortunately, the Embassy will not be offering advice or assistance with anything related to provision of care, or the Covid-19 vaccine – both of which fall outside the remit of the team.

Future sessions will be advertised on the Brits in Spain Facebook page a few days before the event.

Update from Embassy 23 June

CHANGES TO DEADLINE RE DRIVING LICENCE EXCHANGE

On Tuesday 22 June, the Spanish Consejo de Ministros agreed an extension to several measures in their end-of-transition period Royal Decree.  One was on the recognition of UK driving licences in Spain.  The announcement in English can be found here.

The deadline for the exchange of driving licences, for those who were resident in Spain prior to the end of the transition period, has been extended. For full details of the changes, read our PDF here

 You can also find further details re driving licences, for those who did not register details/intent before the 31/12/20 deadline, in the PDF.

Update from Embassy 27 May

On Thursday 27th May, Bremain in Spain Chair, Sue Wilson and Vice Chair, Lisa Ryan Burton attended an update meeting with British Embassy staff to discuss:

  • Driving Licence Exchange
  • Travel – including the much discussed ‘carta de invitación´
  • Residency
  • Votes for life – government press release

To read all about those discussions and get the latest information, click on the PDF here.

Update from Embassy 21 May

In response to members’ concerns about entry requirements to Spain – especially in relation to visitors to our homes – the Embassy have provided the following update and helpful links.

Following recent discussions with the Spanish authorities, the relevant Embassy webpages have been updated, and further clarification will be available in due course.

The following websites are recommended by the Embassy as the best sources of information:

There is further information direct from the Embassy in the PDF

Update from Embassy 21 April

On Tuesday 20 April, our Chair, Bremain in Spain Chair, Sue Wilson took part in a meeting with representatives of the FCDO (Citizens’ Rights department) and British Embassy staff from Madrid and Paris. The meeting was also attended by representatives of citizens’ rights groups from 7 EU countries.

The meeting involved discussions around the misrepresentation in the media of recent coverage of events regarding UK nationals, most especially in Spain. Other topics included communications, information and support being provided for Brits abroad, followed by a question and answer session.

To read more about the meeting, open the PDF

Update from Embassy 16 April

There has been some confusion over the rules for visiting other Schengen countries when legally resident in Spain. We asked the Embassy to clarify how long you are entitled to visit, and whether the rules are different for those with temporary residency to those with permanent residency.

Open the PDF for confirmation of:

  • Length of stay for visits
  • Requirements for extended stays for work
  • Length of time you can be out of Spain without affecting your residency
  • Differences between temporary & permanent residency rights (where they exist)
Update from Embassy 4 March

In response to recent concerns our members raised over access to Spain’s vaccination programme, we approached the Embassy directly and received this response:

“The Spanish Government’s Vaccination Strategy sets out that all people living in Spain will be eligible for the vaccine, regardless of nationality or residency status.  The Vaccination Strategy is updated regularly to include new priority groups as the number of doses available gradually increases.  You might be interested to see this question and answer from the Spanish government’s FAQ website, which highlights that all people in the priority groups, irrespective of their nationality or type of sickness insurance cover, are being vaccinated.

Those UK nationals who are already registered in the public health system should be contacted by their regional health authority to arrange an appointment.  The Spanish authorities are asking insurance companies to coordinate with regional health services in order to provide vaccines to their customers.  The Spanish authorities are also considering how to contact people who are not registered on the public system nor with a private insurer.  Ultimately, our advice to UK nationals living in Spain remains that they contact their local health centre and/or insurer for more information.”

The Embassy will provide further updates as and when further information is available, and the issue will be followed closely by the Embassy communications team.

Update from Embassy 26 February

The Department for Health & Social Care has today provided healthcare updates, and potential solutions to difficulties being faced by UK nationals when registering S1 forms.

Open the PDF HERE for more information on the following, plus some useful links:

  • Continuation of S1 scheme
  • Sending medication via courier from the UK to Spain
  • S1 registration issues
Update from Embassy 16 February

There has been plenty of information available recently regarding applications for Spanish residency. To date, that information has related to those that arrived in Spain before the end of the Brexit transition period.

What are the requirements for those moving to Spain from 1 January 21?

UK nationals moving to Spain post Brexit (and who are not joining close family members under WA family reunification rules) will need to meet the same requirements as other third country nationals.

In most cases, this will require starting the process via the Spanish consulate in the UK, before traveling to Spain.  The requirements will differ depending on the visa/residence permit the person is applying for (e.g. a residence and work permit, a non-lucrative visa, etc).

UK nationals requiring further information about visas/residence permits should consult with the competent authorities for Spain:

For the Spanish Consulate in the UK visa FAQ page, click here

For the Ministry of Inclusion, Social Security and Migration page, click here

Update from Embassy 10 February

The Embassy has produced an essential guide explaining your citizens’ rights as covered by the Withdrawal Agreement. The guide contains information of the following topics, as well as many useful links:

  • Living & working
  • Healthcare
  • Driving
  • Education
  • Voting
  • Travel
  • Pensions

You can view/download the guide HERE or click on the image below. Hard copies are available from the Embassy directly.

Update from Embassy 27 January

 On Wednesday 27 January, our Bremain Chair, Sue Wilson & Vice Chair, Lisa Burton attended a meeting with British Ambassador, Hugh Elliott & his Embassy team.

The Ambassador & his team spoke to a number of issues – many of which are being compounded by both Brexit & Covid. Prior to the meeting, our members raised a number of important concerns with us.

The topics covered were:

  • Vaccination programme in Spain
  • Stamping passports
  • S1 registration delays
  • Driving licences
  • Lack of appointments for TIE
  • Authorities holding your documentation (while waiting for residencia)
  • Increased bank charges
  • Buying property in designated military areas
Hugh Elliott
For answers to all of the above issues, & to access many useful links to additional sources of information, read our PDF here

 Thank you for bringing these important issues to Bremain’s attention, and to the Embassy for their knowledge, support and efforts on behalf of all Brits in Spain.

Update from Embassy 23 January

Spanish Bank accounts & the TIE

The Spanish government has produced a public document which explicitly confirms the continuing validity of the green residence certificate as proof of a person’s rights under the Withdrawal Agreement and therefore their residence rights/status in Spain.

Embassy Letter
In a recent article, it was suggested that banks in Spain would require all British customers to be in possession of a TIE. Whilst a bank may well be within their rights to ask that customers keep their details and personal identification documents up to date (e.g. their passport), they should not insist that a holder of a green EU residence certificate exchanges it to a TIE in order to prove their residence rights and continue banking with them.  If you are asked by your bank to do so, please direct them to the above document.
Update from Embassy 4 January

In response to the recent travel issues experienced by British nationals returning to Spain, the Spanish authorities, in conjunction with the British Embassy, have issued a statement clarifying the position.

An example of the accepted residency documents can be found here

For details on entry requirements into Spain please see the Consulate General of Spain update here

Embassy Letter
Update from Embassy 2 January

The Spanish Ministry of Migration have updated their website to include two really helpful pieces of info:

  • An updated version of the FAQ document, which includes many of the questions we supplied to the Embassy and which they have been feeding into them on our behalf. These include what to do if you’ve exchanged your green residence certificate for a TIE but want to change it to a permanent card before the original TIE expires – see p.37
ministerio
ministerio
  • A bilingual, informative note on the documentation that UK nationals can use to evidence their residence status and that they are a beneficiary of the WA. Notwithstanding the Spanish government’s clear recommendation for UK nationals to get the TIE, this confirms the validity of the green certificate, even if it is older than 5 years and doesn’t say ‘permanente’.

The Embassy and officials at the Spanish Migration ministry hope that UK nationals will be able to print off or point to this second document should they have any problems in exercising their rights or accessing services in Spain.

The English version of the ministry website and the Embassy’s own Living in Spain guide should be updated with this information shortly.

Update from Embassy 15 December

Bremain joined other stakeholders for an online Embassy conference call, to discuss current issues affecting Brits in Spain.

We raised a number of issues that our members brought to our attention beforehand, & you can read full details of those in our PDF here

Topics covered included: travel, residency/TIE, EHIC, driving licences & more.

webinar
Update from Embassy 25 November

Bremain held its first webinar in conjunction with Lorna Geddie from the Embassy. The 63 Bremain members attending raised questions on a wide range of topics, including travel, visa requirements, pensions, banking, residency, healthcare/EHIC, swallows rights, driving licences & dual citizenship.

Many thanks to Lorna for her valuable input & to all those that took part.
In response to all the issues raised, Lorna has kindly put together a PDF especially for Bremain in Spain members. (Last update: January 2021)

“I am very grateful to Sue and the Bremain in Spain team for setting up the webinar and it was great to see so many members on the call. It is so useful for the Embassy to hear and understand the questions and concerns of UK nationals in Spain, as it helps us with our citizens’ rights work going forward. I would urge anyone who hasn’t already done so to check out the information available via the Living in Spain guide on gov.uk and to sign up for email alerts to ensure they keep up to date with all the latest developments.” 
Lorna Geddie, British Embassy
Lorna Geddie - photo

“My thanks to Sue, Matt and Lisa for organising the webinar, and very especially to Lorna who was clear, knowledgeable and very generous with her time” – Richard Lander

”Thanks very much for organising an excellent meeting & to all involved” – Mel Slater



“A wide range of topics were covered. Very interesting, informative & inclusive” – Sue Scarrott

”Thank you to everyone at Team Bremain for making this happen” – Jacqueline Davison


 

Update from Embassy 17 November

The Embassy have provided us with updates relating to:

  • British bank accounts for Spanish residents
  • DGT latest protocol re driving licences

To read the latest information re banking, click on the PDF HERE

To read the latest information re driving licence applications, click on the PDF HERE

 You will also find a post on the subject on the Embassy “Brits in Spain” Facebook page here

 

Bank
DGT
Update from Embassy 11 November

The government have introduced a new portal to improve the process of applying for a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).

If you are eligible for a new card, for use after the end of the Brexit transition period, you can apply using the link below.

 

EHIC
In addition to a wealth of information about the EHIC, including eligibility post-Brexit, the Embassy have also compiled a list of FAQs on the subject – just click on the PDF HERE

To apply for your new UK EHIC via the new portal, click HERE

 

Update from Embassy 6 November 2020

The Embassy’s dedicated healthcare team have provided an update on exportable benefits. The policy review – which applies to those wishing to make a new application for an S1 form from 1/1/21 only – affects those who are in receipt of:

  • Personal Independence Payment
  • Disability Living Allowance
  • Attendance Allowance
  • Carer’s Allowance
2020_DHSC
NB. this policy change does not affect the following groups:

  • those who qualify for an S1 form on the basis of another benefit, such as a UK State Pension
  • those receiving benefits from an existing S1

To read the Embassy update on exportable benefits in full, click on the PDF HERE

The healthcare team have also responded to your queries regarding EHIC cards. You can read their update PDF HERE (Updated 9/11/2020)

If you have any further questions, you can contact the dedicated health team by email at: healthcare.spain@fcdo.gov.uk

 

Update from Embassy 16th October 2020 – Your questions answered

Bremain in Spain members submitted a number of interesting questions to the Embassy, regarding residencia, driving licences, Withdrawal Agreement rights & much more. Open the PDF for your questions & the Embassy’s answers HERE or select FAQs image right. Further questions on healthcare have been submitted to the specialist team & will be answered in due course.

The Embassy also provided some useful Spanish authority links for further information:

FAQs
Update from Embassy 9th October 2020

 Driving Licences

The Embassy has been in touch with the Dirección General de Tráfico (DGT) regarding the difficulty in getting driving licence appointments. The Embassy are working with the DGT to improve the process for British citizens resident in Spain. For all the latest details, open the PDF, where you will also find updates regarding registration issues.

DGT
Specialised Committee on Citizens’ Rights (SCCR)

The SCCR met on 8 October for the 3rd time – the agenda included social security coordination, registration and support for the most vulnerable. You can read the joint statement from the UK and EU, issued following the meeting here

For details open or download the PDF HERE or select image above.

 

Update from Embassy 23rd September 2020 HMA video for UK Nationals

With 100 days until the end of the Transition Period, HMA Hugh Elliott has recorded a message for UK Nationals – providing reassurance about citizens’ rights under the Withdrawal Agreement and reinforcing the importance of being legally resident.

Updates from Embassy on 22nd September 2020 re potential bank account closures

Thousands of British citizens living in the EU have been contacted by UK banks warning of potential account closures due to Brexit.

Following concerns raised by members, Bremain contacted the Embassy for an urgent update.

Please open or download the PDF HERE or select image right for the Embassy’s swift response.

Banks
To receive the latest updates direct from the Embassy, we recommend you sign up for the Embassy email alerts. You can select your preferred frequency of alert here

 

Updates from Embassy on 18th September 2020

Read updates from the British Embassy regarding:

    • The Internal Market Bill
    • TIE
    • Driving Licences
    • Dates for LIVE Facebook events
Embassy Spain Advice
For details open or download the PDF HERE or select image above.

 

On Friday 11 September, Bremain in Spain Chair, Sue Wilson took part in an Embassy Stakeholder meeting. Topics discussed included:

  • Internal Market Bill
  • TIE applications
  • Communications
  • Stakeholders input
  • UKNSF government funded support programmes
  • Healthcare

For more information, download the PDF HERE or select image right.

Living in Spain after Brexit
A few outstanding queries have yet to be answered, but on receipt of any further updates from the Embassy, we will pass on any additional information.

 

Bremainers Ask ….. Alexandra Hall Hall

Bremainers Ask ….. Alexandra Hall Hall

Alexandra Hall Hall is a former British diplomat with over 30 years’ service, including postings to Bangkok, Washington, New Delhi, Bogota and Tbilisi, where she was the British Ambassador from 2013 – 2016.

Her most recent assignment was as Brexit Counsellor and spokesperson at the British Embassy in Washington from 2018. She resigned from that position, and from the Foreign Office altogether, in December 2019, after concluding she could no longer represent the British Government’s position on Brexit with integrity.

She is now a frequent commentator and writer on British politics and foreign policy post-Brexit.

Valerie Chaplin: Is the Conservative party now beyond redemption and what would need to happen to restore it to a less extremist position?

I do not think any political party is beyond redemption. There is always the chance to remake oneself, learn from mistakes, revise policies and adapt to new times. The usual way for this to happen is for a party to lose an election and be forced to spend many years in opposition, reflecting on why. However, as long as the Conservative party believes it has the formula for winning elections, there will be no incentive for it to change. So, it is really up to voters to send a message if they want it to change.

The Conservative party also needs to be willing to be honest to itself about the consequences of its policies. What has astonished me most about the party in recent years is less its willingness to deceive the public (though that is bad enough), but its willingness to lie even to itself.

Steve Wilson: Having worked in a variety of countries, do any of the systems of government you’ve witnessed offer lessons to the UK on how to govern well or badly?

Of course. One advantage of working overseas is that you get some distance and perspective on your own country, and how it is seen by others. You also get to observe the systems of other governments, and gain insights into what works well, or not.

For most of my career, I genuinely found the UK system compared very favourably in comparison with the governments in the countries where I was posted. In my experience, I would also say there is absolutely no failproof system for ensuring integrity and competence in government. Each country has its own traditions and structures, and what may work well in one country, might not in another. So I can’t directly suggest that any model from other countries is the right one for the UK.

Democracy at least offers a chance to throw out a government which has lost its way. But democracy is not just about elections every few years, but a whole system of delicate checks and balances which interact with each other to prevent overreach by any one branch of government. It also relies on public trust between the government and voters. Voters will forgive governments some mistakes, if they believe them to be honest ones, and based on decisions taken in good faith.

While the UK’s system has some strange anomalies (such as the unelected House of Lords) and systems which not everyone supports (e.g. FPTP) I never thought our system was fundamentally undemocratic. However, that confidence was shaken by Brexit. It was not the result of the referendum per se, but the way in which the government claimed a mandate to implement the very hardest form of Brexit, overriding the concerns of significant sectors of our economy, society and different regions of our country. It was also the government’s ability to wilfully mislead the British public about the implications, with no accountability.

What Brexit exposed is that our system is too reliant on our government acting with self-restraint, and policing itself to uphold standards of public office, including the core obligation to be honest. When this is absent, trust begins to break down, and that erodes confidence in all parts of the system. We are witnessing this breakdown in the UK.

 

Lawrence Baron: Have there been any changes or differences between other governments and diplomats dealing with British diplomats and British government ministers? In other words, are British diplomats as well respected as they were pre-Brexit?

British diplomats are as capable as they ever were. But British diplomacy is not. British diplomats have to work twice as hard to maintain the same position and influence as we had before. For example, we are no longer included in EU meetings, not just in Brussels, but in fora, embassies, conferences and other EU organised gatherings around the world. We are dependent on invitations, and what they choose to brief us on afterwards. We have less insight into what drives EU policy, and therefore how best to influence it. We can also no longer rely automatically on EU colleagues having our back if we get into a bilateral spat with any other country (as risks now being the case with the US over UK threats to renege on the Northern Ireland Protocol).

British diplomats also have to spend much more time defending and explaining what is going on in the UK, rather than keeping the focus on the country to which they are posted, as used to be the case. Their ability to lobby other countries on various human rights, refugee and other international legal matters is undermined by the growing perception that the UK is willing to waive its own obligations when it suits. This perception also undermines trust in the UK, and countries may become more reluctant either to engage with us, or sign formal deals with us, if they fear we may misrepresent the details, or go back on our word.

The fraying of our bonds with the EU, and the damage done to our international reputation by the way in which the government pursued Brexit, has left us more isolated on the world stage, and more vulnerable to countries no longer respecting our positions, or playing hardball with us. It’s a shame, because on many issues, such as the conflict in Ukraine, or climate change policy, the UK has genuinely had a lot to offer. But the blind spot around Brexit undermines all our other diplomatic efforts.

In short, our diplomatic hand is weakened, and other countries know it.

Keith Glazzard: You have clearly stated the role of conscience for yourself and possibly for others who decided that they could no longer serve. Can it be the case that Brexit has empowered a government without conscience?

Yes. Just as autocracies don’t spring into being overnight, but gradually erode checks and balances on their way to amassing absolute power, nor does dishonest government necessarily happen overnight. But each time a government gets away with an abuse of power, or outright lie, it is encouraged to do it again. In the case of the current British government, lying about the UK’s relationship with the EU, the costs and benefits of leaving or staying in the EU, and the implications of the various forms of Brexit open to us, has so far turned out to be an electorally successful strategy.

Serial lying has also been a successful career strategy for the Prime Minister personally, starting from when he used to tell lies about the EU when he was a journalist in Brussels. The members of the Conservative party are in turn forced to lie, to cover up his lies. So, the government and its supporters have steadily gone down a path of lying, then lying about the lying, until reaching the current state, where we do indeed have a government without conscience. As long as they keep winning elections, they will see no reason to change.

Lisa Burton: The UK government has pushed through some controversial bills in rapid succession, i.e., the Policing, ,Elections, and Borders and Nationality Bills. Do you agree these bills have deeply worrying elements and are an example of executive overreach?

Yes, I believe they are deeply worrying bills. Just as I mentioned above, autocracies don’t spring into being overnight, but chip away at the rights and freedoms of citizens, often under the guise of “protecting security” or “fighting crime”. Each measure might sound plausible or justifiable by itself, but, taken together, they add up to a fundamental erosion of liberties. By the time the electorate realises how much has been lost, and how much power the government has accumulated, it may be too late.

All the measures are worrying, but the most concerning one to me is the plan to circumscribe the powers of judicial review, because with our Head of State essentially being only a ceremonial position, so much of the press in cahoots with the government, and the government by definition able to count on a majority in parliament, the courts remain the best independent institution we have to protect against an overreaching executive. Take away judicial review, or go even further and curtail the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights, and what is to prevent a future government proroguing parliament, reneging on treaties, and rewriting laws to suit its own purpose at will?

However, though I personally believe the government is on a path to eroding democracy in this country, what is truly troubling is that – under our current system – it has the technical powers to do this. It is not formally executive overreach. The government’s actions just demonstrate that our current constitutional arrangements are not strong enough. There are many examples of other ostensibly democratic governments going down the same path – e.g., in Hungary, or Brazil, or the Philippines. They have the outward appearance of democracies – hold elections, allow certain limited forms of political rights, etc. – but in practice tighten their control over so many aspects of society, that they become “illiberal democracies”. This is the path the UK is on. I personally believe it is time to review our entire constitutional arrangements.

Anonymous: Was there a specific event or government policy that preceded your resignation from the FCDO or was it the result of a cumulative effect?

Boris Johnson’s decision to prorogue Parliament in September 2019 was the defining moment for me. I will confess to feeling deeply uneasy when he was appointed Prime Minister (and had in fact taken a career break while he was Foreign Secretary, because I was so worried about working for such an unprincipled person, with a track record of dishonesty in both his personal and public life), but I was prepared to give it a go.

The prorogation of Parliament confirmed my worst fears – that there would be no limit to what he would be prepared to do, to drive through Brexit, even if it meant overriding the right of Parliament to scrutinize his government’s approach. From then on, it was really just a matter of time. Things just got worse from there on. I found I was simply unable to look American contacts in the eye, and deliver the messages I was instructed to deliver, as Brexit envoy in the US, with a straight face, when I knew them to be so misleading.

As I wrote in my resignation letter, it became untenable professionally, and unbearable personally, for me to continue in the role. I could have asked to be reassigned, or be allowed a career break, but that seemed the coward’s way out, given that this was a matter of conscience, about the ethics of our government, on a policy with such massive implications for our nation.

In next month’s newsletter, we will be hearing again from three former contributors to our Bremainers Ask feature, who will give us their views on recent events and the UK’s road to rejoining the EU: European Movement Chair Lord Andrew Adonis, the EM’s CEO Anna Bird, and campaigner and journalist Jon Danzig.

Working from home under attack by out-of-touch and out-of-date government

Working from home under attack by out-of-touch and out-of-date government

With their attack on WFH, Johnson and Rees-Mogg have proved just how far the Conservatives have strayed from being the ‘party of business’.

Sue Wilson MBE

by Sue Wilson MBE

When the pandemic forced employees all over the world to work from home (WFH) – many for the first time ever – remote working was regarded as an efficient and useful tool. Companies were quick to embrace the philosophy, provide the necessary tools and benefit from the cost-effectiveness working from home can bring.

Fast forward to post-lockdown Britain and WFH is no longer regarded by the government as a suitable method of working. In response, companies and individuals benefitting from remote working practices are less WFH and more, WTF?

Efficiency minister living in the past

Having encouraged the British public to ‘stay home, save lives’, it seems the government has made another about-turn. The first obvious criticism of WFH came from the Brexit opportunities and government efficiency minister, Jacob Rees-Mogg, back in April. He insisted civil servants should immediately return to their offices, claiming it was important for the public to see that the government was working properly. I can’t argue with the reasoning – we’d all like to see evidence of the government ‘working properly’ – but I suspect we’re all far more concerned with the efficiency and decision-making abilities of our politicians than our civil servants.

An ‘insulting’ note left by Rees-Mogg for civil servants not at the desks drew widespread condemnation, not least from Dave Penman, general secretary of the FDA trade union, responsible for civil servants and public service professionals. Penman said, “With every pronouncement and display like this, he demonstrates that he has no clue how the modern workplace operates and cares little about the effective delivery of vital public services”.

When a photograph of Rees-Mogg recently appeared in The Telegraph, sat behind a neat desk, free of modern technology, his lack of understanding of the modern workplace was again brought into question. Who, in this modern age, doesn’t have a computer on their desk? Personally, I found the lack of a quill more of a surprise.

WFH doesn’t work, says workshy PM

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has a rather different take on why we should all be back in the office. WFH simply doesn’t work, apparently. Speaking as one whose job it is literally to work from home, his entire justification is based on personal experience – that of being a lazy, easily distracted, workshy laggard. Rather than demonstrate how inefficient home-workers are, Johnson has reaffirmed his own inadequacies to the nation.

Once again, a fridge was to feature largely in this PM story. Apparently, cheese is a terrible distraction from the business of running the country (into the ground). Coffee too. Then there’s the slow walk to and from the fridge, wasting more valuable work time. This surprised me frankly, as I rather assumed the PM would have a fridge under his desk. But perhaps that one is just for wine.

Whether the PM spoke with cabinet members before making his anti WFH pronouncement is unclear. It’s hard to imagine that those ministers rarely seen in Westminster – Gove springs to mind – would be comfortable having to be in the office on a regular basis. Nor will the likes of former attorney general Geoffrey Cox be too delighted, I imagine, preferring to conduct his business from the Caribbean.

WFH: the pros

Regardless of the ramblings of a behind-the-times minister supposedly responsible for ‘government efficiency’, or a lazy workshy PM, there are considerable benefits for employers and employees alike.

For the individual, perhaps the most obvious benefit is the ruling out of expensive, time-consuming and stressful commuting. While saving countless hours, and in many cases thousands of pounds, a year, the removal of unnecessary travel also benefits the environment. Something that, supposedly, is high on our government’s agenda (not so’s you would notice).

Another considerable benefit is the impact on work-life balance. Working from home provides more independence and flexibility. This can be demonstrated by the freedom to work in your pyjamas or to time-shift your day to start/end when it suits. That flexibility also means the avoidance of being tied to a particular location, suitable for travel to and from the office. To not exploit the opportunity, should you so choose, to work from a remote location, or even another country, would seem a terrible waste of modern technological advantages.

You could also develop new skills while working at home, such as self-discipline and communication. Thanks to the pandemic, many home-workers have become experts in virtual meetings by necessity. The avoidance of more formal in person meetings is also widely regarded as a benefit, alongside the freedom from interruption by work colleagues.

Employers benefit from having staff work remotely too, with considerable cost-savings and efficiencies. Those efficiencies help keep profits up and prices down, which also benefits their customers.

WFH: the cons

Of course, the freedom from working with others can also be seen as a negative – not everyone works best, or efficiently, in isolation. The lack of opportunity to collaborate with or to learn from others may make some employees feel as though they are missing out.

A common complaint from remote workers is the risk of forgetting to ‘clock off’, resulting in working longer hours. Work life can blur into home life, especially if you don’t have the luxury of physically separating your work area from your living area. That may also cause the appearance of being unprofessional, when the delivery driver rings the doorbell or the dog barks in the middle of an important Zoom meeting.

The recent announcement that 90,000 civil service jobs are to be axed may be a significant factor in the return to the office for public service professionals. For private businesses, and their employees, decisions on future WFH arrangements will be made based on common sense, business needs and cost-benefit analyses. The pronouncements of the PM and the efficiency minister will be largely disregarded as out-of-date, out-of-touch postering.

All that Johnson and Rees-Mogg have achieved with their comments on WFH is to prove just how far the Conservatives have strayed from being the ‘party of business’. They have failed business over Brexit, they have failed business over covid, they have failed business over the economy. WFH is just more proof that they don’t listen, they don’t learn and they don’t act. This government does not represent the needs of business. In fact, it’s difficult to see whose needs they do represent. Apart from their own.