The British Consulate hosted a meeting in Caleta de Fuste, Fuerteventura last night (Tuesday 17th October 2017) especially for residents to discuss and answer questions concerning the forthcoming Brexit.
Debbie Edgington, Council for Tourism, opened the meeting and introduced the guest speaker, Tim Hemmings, Deputy Head of Mission at the British Embassy in Madrid.
Tim began by telling us a bit about his position and his experience concerning the EU. He told us he was previously based in London where he was head of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s European Union Department and, before that, head of the FCO’s Future of Europe Department. Prior to that, Tim was the UK Permanent Representation to the European Union where he was First Secretary: Regional Policy, Culture and Sport and, before that was seconded to the European Commission. He started his career as a member of the European Fast Stream and, as such, carried out a number of roles relating to EU policy in different Whitehall Departments. So I think it safe to say that his experience with the EU was ‘adequate’!!
He explained that he was in fact a civil servant and not a politician, saying that he suspected many of us had our own personal views of the government, and that he didn’t always agree with them either!
He told us that there were three main areas of negotiation between the EU and the UK – money, Ireland (regarding the borders) and citizens’ rights. Despite what is printed in the media, the negotiations, whilst slow, have been ploughing ahead, and it seems that the majority of citizens’ rights, in particular what will affect us residents of Fuerteventura, have actually already been agreed upon, and the main negotiations left to agree on are money and Ireland. One of the ‘problems’ (for want of a better word), is that, while a large number of things have been agreed, the EU will not ratify them on an individual basis, but are waiting until there is agreement on everything, before finalising anything.
Whilst the media, in their infinite wisdom and in order to boost their circulation, plod on professing all doom and gloom and scaremongering, the reality is far from that for the concerns of those UK citizens living overseas. For the latest up to date CORRECT information, people should go to the Government’s website. The biggest problem is that, whilst there is a lot of information there, much of it is written in legal jargon, so can be difficult to decipher and understand!
Tim explained that until the implementation of Article 50 takes place, everything will remain the same, and people who wish to move overseas prior to that date will still be treated as EU citizens. The date for this is currently set as March 2019, but there could be a transitional period beyond this date.
Citizen’s rights discussions, of course, included residency, health, work and pensions. All of these matters have been agreed with between the EU and UK, and there will not be any changes to our status after Brexit. Nobody will be ‘kicked out’, there will still be a reciprocal health agreement entitling us to free health care with the S1 card, UK citizens who moved prior to brexit will not be affected at all. Ease of travelling will not change and no visa will be necessary.
One thing they haven’t yet agreed on, is that UK citizens residing in EU countries should be allowed to travel freely between EU countries as per an EU person.
The attached document is the latest (September) copy of the Joint Technical Note on the comparison of EU-UK Positions on Citizens Rights. This highlights the discussions that have been agreed (green), those that have almost been agreed but need finalising (yellow) and those that are still in disagreement (red). It’s good to note that there are far more green items than red!
There were a couple of questions raised that were to do with Spanish law. Tim stated that he was not ofey with Spanish law, and made it clear that he was unable to answer those questions as they were nothing to do with the EU or UK. He explained that each of the countries within the EU were still able to create their own individual laws, and it was down to that country. One of the questions was, of course, to do with Debbie’s position with Ayuntamiento after Brexit. Currently, only members of the EU can stand for office, therefore, after Brexit Debbie will not longer be allowed to stand. Tim could only reiterate that was a matter of Spanish law, and nothing to do with EU or UK. He did say that UK citizens will not be entitled to vote in Spain on any matters, local nor national, after Brexit.
So the thing to do is to ignore all the media hype and gossip on social media channels and in pubs, and check out the Government’s website for the facts!
One thing that was said on Facebook recently, was that people were already returning to the UK from the Canary Islands, due to the uncertainty. Frankly, I find this very hard to believe and suspect that if anybody has indeed returned to the UK it was for different reasons and not solely because of Brexit. If anybody did indeed move back purely due to uncertainty, then they are fools. In fact, everybody I have spoken to here say they will stay, and there are more saying they want to move here in the next year.