'Br­ex­pats' talk

Con­sul talks to res­i­dents in Benidorm, Jávea, Mo­raira and Al­faz del Pi

Costa Blanca News (North Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - News Staff Re­porter

BRI­TISH Con­sul Sarah-Jane Mor­ris, to­gether with Vice Con­sul Sara Mun­ster­hjelm, con­sular staff and ‘Br­ex­pats in Spain’ re­gional rep­re­sen­ta­tive Richard Hill, em­barked on the sec­ond round of ‘Brexit up­date’ for ex­pat Bri­tish res­i­dents north of Ali­cante.

The ex­er­cise was to in­form Bri­tish na­tion­als who are res­i­dent in Spain of the facts and progress of ne­go­ti­a­tions, all of which can be ac­cessed via the Gov.uk web­site.

Our photo shows the con­sul with Jávea mayor José Chulvi at the lo­cal event on Wed­nes­day.

BREXIT – a topic of heated de­bate, and more of­ten than not, much scare­mon­ger­ing and false mis­lead­ing in­for­ma­tion.

Bri­tish Con­sul Sarah-Jane Mor­ris, to­gether with Vice Con­sul Sara Mun­ster­hjelm, con­sular staff and ‘Br­ex­pats in Spain’ re­gional rep­re­sen­ta­tive Richard Hill, em­barked on the sec­ond round of ‘Brexit up­date’ for ex­pat Bri­tish res­i­dents north of Ali­cante.

The ex­er­cise was to in­form Bri­tish na­tion­als who are res­i­dent in Spain of the facts and progress of ne­go­ti­a­tions, all of which can be ac­cessed via the Gov.uk web­site.

Last week the team covered the south district, en­com­pass­ing Tor­re­vieja and Ro­jales.

On Tues­day of this week, the first stop for the team was Benidorm, with a some­what dis­ap­point­ing turnout.

Mayor Toni Perez also at­tended and made an ad­dress, al­beit in Span­ish, to the as­sem­bled au­di­ence of around 60, which the con­sul trans­lated for those not pro­fi­cient in Span­ish.

He made the point of high­light­ing that Benidorm is one of the biggest tourist des­ti­na­tions for the Bri­tish and he is aware that many also live in the town – yet the fig­ures for Bri­tish na­tion­als do not cor­re­spond to the of­fi­cial reg­is­ter.

Sarah-Jane then con­tin­ued, ex­plain­ing the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion re­gard­ing the Brexit ne­go­ti­a­tion process and say­ing that a ‘With­drawal Agree­ment’ has been agreed. Those liv­ing here - and legally liv­ing and reg­is­tered here at the point of the Bri­tain leav­ing the EU in March 2019 - will con­tinue to en­joy the ben­e­fits that they cur­rently re­ceive.

Health­care ac­cess, which ranks amongst the two pri­mary con­cerns for Bri­tish res­i­dents here, will con­tinue and be un­af­fected, as will pen­sion en­ti­tle­ments, and there is no change to the Triple Lock agree­ment.

One im­por­tant is­sue which has not yet been agreed is vot­ing rights in lo­cal elec­tions, which still needs to be dis­cussed and agreed bi­lat­er­ally be­tween the UK and Spain.

There is cur­rently a pri­vate mem­bers bill for vot­ers' rights to rein­tro­duce votes for life, which is be­ing dis­cussed in Par­lia­ment to­day (Fri­day 23).

The key mes­sage which the Bri­tish Con­sul wants to con­vey to all Bri­tish na­tion­als liv­ing in Spain is to make your­self le­gal here be­fore March 2019 – but don’t leave it till the last minute Reg­is­ter on the padrón in the town where you live, and for those that have al­ready reg­is­tered at some point in the past, go and re­con­firm.

"It has be­come ap­par­ent to me that the reg­u­la­tions vary from town to town – in some you need to re-reg­is­ter ev­ery two years, in oth­ers ev­ery five years, and in one, once you are on you stay on. For those that are res­i­dent here, take up of­fi­cial res­i­dency.

"Do it now and then you can be as­sured of your rights and ac­cess to en­ti­tle­ments for when Bri­tain of­fi­cially leaves the EU." Full house in Jávea The Bri­tish Con­sulate’s ‘Brexit road­show’ at­tracted a sell-out crowd to Jávea, with more than 250 peo­ple crammed into the Casa de Cul­tura’s au­di­to­rium to be up­dated on how their lives will change in March 2019.

Con­sul Sarah-Jane Mor­ris said she did not want to raise expectations and she did not have 'all the an­swers'; the lat­est in­for­ma­tion is com­ing from the ‘with­drawal agree­ment’ set­tle­ment reached last De­cem­ber be­tween the UK and EU ne­go­ti­at­ing teams on citizens’ rights.

The un­der­ly­ing mes­sage was for ex­pats to reg­is­ter as be­ing res­i­dent in Spain and to en­sure they are also on the town hall’s ‘padrón’, the of­fi­cial mu­nic­i­pal reg­is­ter. The con­sul said: “We all have the same goal, to make sure that if you are res­i­dent you are le­gal and above board.”

Sarah-Jane said a fu­ture vote in Spain’s lo­cal elec­tions would be part of bilateral talks be­tween the UK and Madrid, but she said the gov­ern­ment was com­mit­ted to grant­ing all ex­pats a vote for life in Bri­tish elec­tions.

Vot­ing and rep­re­sen­ta­tion was clearly a sub­ject that 'frus- trated' ex­pats – a se­ries of ques­tions un­der­lined the anger for many ' un­able' to vote in the Brexit ref­er­en­dum and not hav­ing a for­mal body within Par­lia­ment to ex­press their views.

The con­sul said: “I un­der­stand peo­ple feel strongly, and un­der­stand­ably so. I un­der­stand how frus­trat­ing it is that you were un­able to vote in a ref­er­en­dum that had an im­pact on your life.”

Richard Hill, of the 'Br­ex­pats in Spain’ cam­paign group, said: “There are MPs and MEPs that we li­aise with, but there is no recog­nised Par­lia­men­tary or­gan­i­sa­tion; it has been asked for and re­fused.”

He said the group was fully le­gal and ac­cred­ited in Spain with over 4,500 mem­bers and work­ing with other ex­pat groups across Europe.

“We are not campaigning against Brexit it­self; we feel with over 50% of the coun­try vot­ing for it, it is not our place to cam­paign against it, and since we need sup­port from peo­ple in the UK it would be coun­ter­pro­duc­tive for us to do so,” he said.

“In­stead, we cam­paign for the rights of ex­pats. We should have our rights and our lives pro­tected. We cam­paigned for the ‘with­drawal agree­ment’ to be ring-fenced – at the mo­ment it isn’t, it is an ac­cord. As Theresa May is fond of say­ing, noth­ing is agreed un­til ev­ery­thing is agreed.

“Sen­si­ble minds are be­gin­ning to pre­vail and it would be our hope that at the end of the day an agree­ment is reached – the prob­lem is, it is prob­a­bly go­ing to be a last-minute agree­ment, such is the na­ture of pol­i­tics and ne­go­ti­a­tions.”

Richard said the fight to win citizens’ rights was 'a num­bers game'. He added: “The more of you that join us, the greater the voice we have. The greater voice we have, the bet­ter pro­tec­tion you are go­ing to have.”

The con­sulate team will be out on the road again in au­tumn to pro­vide another up­date and ad­dress peo­ple’s con­cerns. The con­sul ad­mit­ted: “I ap­pre­ci­ate that for some peo­ple it is a very un­set­tling time.”

'Sen­si­ble minds are be­gin­ning to pre­vail' in the ne­go­ti­a­tions', .“be­lieves the Bri­tish Con­sul

Photo by Jack Troughton

Full house in Al­faz too

CB­News' Irena Bodnarec and Con­sul Sarah-Jane Mor­ris chat over a copy of Costa Blanca News

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