Spain warns rights of expats uncertain if UK doesn’t protect Spanish migrants

Tthe Rock of Gibraltar as seen from the sea. Photo: Ben Birchall / PA

Tthe Rock of Gibraltar as seen from the sea. Photo: Ben Birchall / PA - Credit: PA Archive/PA Images

The Spanish government has threatened to remove the rights of British expatriates after Brexit if the UK cannot guarantee protecting Spanish migrants.

Spain has urgently passed legislation to protect the rights of the 365,967 Britons who currently reside in the country, however it is yet to see similar mechanisms put in place in the UK for Spaniards who have made the country their home.

Josep Borell, Spain's caretaker foreign minister, told the British government that if there is no equivalent move from the UK as it leaves the European Union, then the Spanish framework for British residents will decline.

"Reciprocity is necessary. And reciprocity cannot be guaranteed in half-measures - it is either there, or it isn't," said Luis Marco Aguiriano, Spain's secretary of state for the EU.

"We have told them that our royal decree will ensure that everything remains the same in the case of a no-deal Brexit," Aguiriano told Spanish daily newspaper El País.

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Spain is the most popular destination in the EU for Britons to migrate to, and approximately 180,000 Spaniards reside in the United Kingdom, so the future of over half a million people depends on if and how the UK separates from the EU.

Last week the UK's Brexit minister Steve Barclay met with Spain's caretaker foreign minister Borrell and expressed gratitude for the law passed by Spain protecting the rights of British expats. However Borrell told Barclay this would only be maintianed if it was made reciprocal.

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According to El País, British authorities responded by claiming their current scheme would extend the rights of EU citizens already living in the country under settled status.

"Although there may be some elements that will require further development, for our part we consider it to have been met," a government spokesperson is reported as saying.

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