British ambassador writes to UK citizens resident in Spain – as EU confirms citizens rights if the Withdrawal Agreement is accepted

UK citizens resident in the EU now have two documents setting out their rights– illustrated by an open letter from the British ambassador to Spain, Simon Manley – and a European Commission guide to citizens rights.  We assume that other UK embassies will be publishing their national versions – but Spain illustrates the principles.  The EC guide also covers rights of EU citizens lawfully resident in the UK. 

Both documents work on the assumption that the Withdrawal Agreement is fully accepted and leads to a transition period starting with Brexit on 29 March 2019 and running until 31 December 2020.

Summary of Simon Manley’s letter, dated 4 December 2018

If the Withdrawal Agreement is accepted, UK nationals and their families covered by the Agreement will continue to have broadly the same access to healthcare, pensions and other benefits as they currently do.

You are strongly recommended to ensure that you are correctly registered as a resident In Spain with Extranjería- as is your current obligation. See www.gov.uk/living-in-spain

Edited Highlights from the ambassador’s letter

I wanted to update you on the recent developments on our exit from the European Union.  UK and EU negotiations have led to 2 linked documents that, together, form the Brexit “deal”:

  • the Withdrawal Agreement (temporary implementation arrangements between 29 March 2019 and 31 December 2020); and

  • the Political Declaration (list of items that have to be negotiated and agreed regarding long-term arrangements after 1 January 2021).

EU and UK leaders have already formally agreed on the documents and the deal.

The next steps are: UK Parliament to vote to accept the deal - expected on 11 December 11; and the European Parliament has also to vote to accept the agreement.

Citizens’ rights is a key part of the implementation Agreement – as long as it is fully accepted by all parties.  This represents a big step forward in providing certainty for UK nationals living in Spain.  Theresa May has said about citizens rights: “you need a deal that guarantees your rights…for the million UK nationals living elsewhere in the EU…this deal delivers for you all.”

If approved:

  • the Withdrawal Agreement will secure the rights of the 300,000 British people who have chosen to make Spain their home.  You have a legal right to stay here after the UK leaves the EU on 29 March 2019;

  • all UK nationals lawfully residing in Spain on 31 December 2020 will be covered by the terms negotiated under the Political Declaration;

  • current rules require UK nationals living in Spain to register with the Spanish authorities (at the Oficina de Extranjeros or at a designated local police station) in order to be legally resident here.  I strongly recommend that you ensure you are correctly registered as a resident - as is your current obligation.  For detailed advice on registering, please see gov.uk/living-in-spain.

We will, of course, update our advice if the Spanish authorities announce any changes to the registration requirements linked to Brexit.

During the Implementation period, you will be able to visit, live and work in the EU broadly as you do now. If you want to move to a different Member State, you will be able to do so during the Implementation Period.

UK nationals and their families covered by the Agreement will continue to have broadly the same access to healthcare, pensions and other benefits as they currently do.

You will be able to leave Spain for up to five years without losing your right to return if you have acquired the relevant residency status.

If you have any questions about who is covered by the Withdrawal Agreement, please see the UK nationals living in the EU pages on gov.uk.

NOTE:  The guidance does not make any reference to the rights and arrangements for UK citizens resident in Spain in the event of non-acceptance of the deal - or Brexit under “no-deal” conditions on 29 March 2019.  This could happen if either the UK Parliament or EU Parliament vote against accepting the deal.

Meanwhile, last week, the European Commission published a comprehensive guide to Brexit and Citizens Rights.  They have invested considerable effort into identifying cases for UK citizens resident in the EU and for EU citizens resident in the UK.  Their guide assumes full acceptance of the Withdrawal Agreement and a ‘transition’ period - or ‘implementation’ period as the UK Government insists on referring to it – between 30 March 2019 and 31 December 2020.

https://ec.europa.eu/commission/sites/beta-political/files/2018-11-26_qa_citizens_rights_en_0.pdf

Key issued addressed in their document include:

  • Conditions of residence that have to be met in order to be covered by the Withdrawal Agreement

  • Family members

  • Residence rights

  • Entry and exit rules

  • Criminality & abuse

  • Professional qualifications: under current EU law; and under the Withdrawal Agreement

  • Social security

NOTE:  The guide does not make any reference to the rights and arrangements for UK citizens resident in the EU in the event of non-acceptance of the deal - or Brexit under “no-deal” conditions on 29 March 2019.  The UK government has previously announced that it will unilaterally continue to offer rights to EU citizens lawfully resident in the UK on 29 March 2019 as at present.

 
John ShuttleworthComment