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But British Consul implores Brits to register on the padrón and to "get your paperwork in order"

Thursday 3rd November 2016


British Consul Sarah-Jane Moore admitted that there wasn't actually very much to say about the consequences of Brexit in a special meeting convened in Xàbia which was well-attended by concerned Brits, both resident and non-resident, worried about the future in the wake of the June referendum in which just over 52% of voters backed leaving the European Union.

The meeting, which was also attended by major José Chulvi, councillor Doris Courcelles (Foreign Relations), Martyn Standing from the Department of Health based in Alicante and lawyers Jonathan Lambery and Jaime Sendrá from Dénia-based firm Sendra & Associates, attracted about 250 mainly British residents and non-residents with property in the town.

Before the British Consul rose to speak, mayor José Chulvi opened the meeting with a short speech - in English - in which he said that whilst the Ayuntamiento de Xàbia respected the British decision to leave the European Union, they were very sad and very worried about it since it could have very important consequences not only for the British residents of the town but for the entire population of Xàbia. "After more than 50 years of relations in our town, the British are no longer foreigners. They are citizens due the same considerations as the rest of the people who are born here. We will not abandon them in this difficult moment and we will do our best to help them in everything we can."

He added that they also didn't want to forget the Spanish citizens living and working in the United Kingdom for whom the Brexit vote has left in a precarious position. And it was for these two reasons that the Ayuntamiento de Xàbia and the government of the Comunidad Valenciana urged the Spanish and British governments to reach a bilateral agreement such as those that already exist for non-EU countries, counteracting the effects of Brexit. "Until this happens there are many unanswered questions and I really hope this talk will help resolve them as far as possible."

The British Consul Sarah-Jane Moore followed and in a sobering speech, she admitted that she had hoped that four months after the referendum she would have been able to stand up and explain what Brexit would mean for British nationals in Spain. But the reality is that no-one knows the implications of the vote to leave because complex negotiations with the member states of the EU have yet to begin and she admitted that there was no plan B put in place by the British government in case of a vote to leave the European Union and consequently no-one really knows what's going to happen.

However, the British Consulate has already started work to gather all the information it possible can on the reality of British nationals living in Spain and how their situations might or might not change as a result of the Brexit vote to be able to send a full dossier to the newly-created Department for Exiting the European Union (DExEU) whose job it will be to crunch the numbers and work out exactly what the implications will be for exiting the EU, including those for British nationals living in other parts of Europe as well as European nationals living in the United Kingdom.

But she admitted that it will be very difficult to work off numbers which are hypothetical and appealed to British nationals living in Spain to get properly registered with the authorities as her department needs to know exactly how many Brits are in Spain. She explained that there are currently around 254,000 Brits officially registered on the 'padrón' but that almost 100,000 "dropped off" the register in the wake of the double taxation agreement of 2012/13 and she knows that there are far more Brits living in the country. "If you do want to have your interests represented as European citizens or British nationals living in Spain, you need to be registered as living in Spain because it helps us run the numbers. It's very difficult for us to represent your interests if we're not working off accurate figures. We need to know exactly how many Brits are in Spain." She urged Brits to "get yourself above board" and get all their paperwork in order, employing the services of an advisor or 'gestor' if the thought of facing the bureaucracy proved to be too much. "The Spanish do it for a good reason and I don't know many Spaniards who do their own tax declarations."

Her second request was essentially to ignore the gossip in the streets and in the bars and head for a reliable source of information, such as a special page set up on www.gov.co.uk which outlines all the very latest news on the consequences for Brexit on British nationals living in other countries within the European Union and indeed travelling through them. She admitted that there isn't actually very much info on the page: "and that's for a very good reason for there isn't actually very much to say at the moment" but urged British nationals to check out any conversations that start with "I've heard that ..." with a quick look at the page first. She even urged nationals to contact them if they keep hearing rumours and they would check them out for them. "It's a very unsettling period and it's been rather drawn out ... it's very easy to fill that void of information with speculation about "what if".

In concluding her speech, she said that she was very confident that the Spanish had just as much interest in keeping the lives of British nationals unchanged as much as possible, especially since Brits made up an integral part of society in many places where they lived through volunteer groups and in communities into which a new life has been injected into "sleepy town that only really wake up when the Madrilenos hit them in August". She added that she believed that it was in Spanish interests as much as their own that the relationship between the UK and Spain continued to be as productive and as collaborative as possible in order to encourage more Brits to come and "refresh the communities on the Costas".

Martyn Standing from the Department of Health based in Alicante reiterated the importance of being properly registered with the Spanish authorities, not only for Brexit but also for personal situations. He explained that his department dealt with a lot of consular cases with people in very vulnerable positions and the most difficult to ones to solve, especially in terms of healthcare and welfare problems, are those with people who haven't done the paperwork which makes it very, very difficult for the department to find a solution.

In terms of healthcare and the rights and entitlements, he outlined three options for getting healthcare which are available to anyone from any country and would be unaffected by Brexit or EU regulations. The first is the Convenio Especial, a Spanish insurance scheme in which people under state pension age can pay 60 euros to gain full access to the state health system on the condition that the applicant has been registered on the 'padrón' for at least one year. The scheme doesn't cover prescription charges and it doesn't matter about pre-existing conditions since it's not like a private insurance scheme. Applications can be made at the local health centre. For early retirees, if they can prove that they have been resident in Spain before April 2012 (with the necessary certification) then they can apply for full access to the state health system whilst the Generalitat Valenciana is currently offering free healthcare to those who have been registered on the 'padrón' for more than three months, although how permanent the scheme will be is open to question since it currently under discussion between Valencian and Central Government.

He finished by encouraging people to visit the website www.healthcareinspain.eu which has loads of information about accessing healthcare in Spain, whether you are resident or just visiting, what the EHIC entitles you to, etc. as well as any updates of Brexit as and when the department receives them.

Jonathan Lambery, a lawyer from Sendra & Associates in Dénia, suggested that the complex negotiations surrounding the departure of a country from the European Union could provoke extensions of one, two or even three years which could mean that there could be no change of legal status for as long as five years. He detailed the three possible scenarios for the United Kingdom: the UK joins the European Economic Area (EEA) like Norway; the UK signs a bilateral agreement with the European Union much like Switzerland; or the UK signs a Free Commerce Agreement, like the United States. He outlined the potential pros and cons of each option in terms of taxation, benefits, pensions.

The meeting finished with a short question and answer session, some of which could be addressed by the panel whilst others couldn't be answered due to the current uncertainty currently surrounding Brexit. With regards to the desire of the authorities to make sure that British nationals were properly registered, the issue of the 'padrón' was confirmed by councillor Doris Courcelles who explained that registration had to be renewed every five years for residents and every three years for non-residents. A question about UK contributions for healthcare for retirees in Spain revealed that the UK government pays approximately 3,000 euros a year - about 220 euros a month - for state pensioners, approved every year by a European Union commission after Spain submits a declaration of costs; it works both ways with the UK making similar declarations for Spanish retirees living in the United Kingdom, albeit substantially less than Spain claims for British retirees living on the Costas.

La cónsul británica advierte a los residentes extranjeros de la importancia de estar inscritos en el padrón frente al Brexit
Sarah-Jane Morris ha tranquilizado a los británicos de Xàbia ya que su situación no cambiará a medio plazo


La cónsul británica, Sarah-Jane Morris, se ha reunido hoy con la comunidad de residentes británicos en Xàbia para analizar las consecuencias del Brexit. Este encuentro se produce a petición expresa del Ayuntamiento de Xàbia. En la misma han estado presentes el alcalde de Xàbia, José Chulvi, la concejala de Residentes Extranjeros, Doris Courcelles, los abogados Jonathan Lambery y Jaume Sendra y el especialista en materia de sanidad, Martyn Standing.

La cónsul ha querido advertir sobre la importancia de que todos los residentes extranjeros estén inscritos en el padrón. Desde el consulado se hará un estudio sobre el número de residentes británicos en España y cuál es su situación para que se tengan en cuenta sus intereses en las negociaciones con el gobierno británico. En este sentido Sarah-Jane Morris ha señalado que el caso de España es muy importante ya que es el país de la Unión Europea donde más extranjeros residen, sobre todo en zonas de costa como es el caso de Xàbia. La concejala de Relaciones con los Extranjeros, Doris Courcelles, también ha recordado que los residentes han de renovar el padrón cada cinco años mientras que los no residentes han de hacerlo cada dos.

Tanto la cónsul británica como el abogado Jonathan Lambert, han querido hacer un llamamiento para calmar a la población extranjera. Tal y como han afirmado, las negociaciones todavía no han comenzado por lo que la situación no cambiará hasta dentro de, al menos, dos años. Por su parte el alcalde de Xàbia, José Chulvi, ha asegurado que el Ayuntamiento no va a dejar de lado a los residentes británicos en este difícil momento y que hará todo lo posible por defender sus derechos. De esta manera en la sesión plenaria del pasado mes de octubre se aprobó una moción de alcaldía en la que pedían un acuerdo bilateral entre el gobierno británico y el español para paliar los efectos del Brexit.


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