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BRITISH consul Sarah-Jane Morris is leading a team of consulate experts in a gruelling 17-date road show to help British nationals get prepared for Brexit.
The outreach programme started on Wednesday in San Fulgencio and Pilar del Horadada and continues until December 18 with meetings from Mazarrón to Denia – all designed to advise and listen to expats.
One of the key messages for British nationals living in Spain will be to ensure they are correctly registered with the authorities to protect themselves after the UK leaves the European Union; which means signing on their municipal register – known as the ‘padron’ – and also becoming official residents, obtaining a green ‘residencia’ certificate from National Police stations.
Even in the unlikely scenario of ‘no-deal’, the consul believes Spain will reciprocate the Prime Minister Theresa May’s assurances to EU nationals they remain welcome to live in the UK – but warned expats must be on the radar to enjoy the rights of being an official resident.
Speaking before the start of the meetings, Mrs Morris said: “We are making a big push this autumn over the next few weeks and doing some outreach meetings to raise awareness within the British community about the importance of being registered.
“We will remind people who will fall inside the withdrawal agreement and whose rights will be protected – those who are legally resident at the time of departure; all on the assumption the deal will go through.”
She added: “Back to back, it looks and feels fairly intense. I think it is really important as we get nearer to the departure date when we leave, that people do start to get themselves sorted out.”
“If you are legally resident and living in Spain, your rights will be respected. Theresa May has said the same about EU nationals (living in the UK); saying ‘we want you to stay and your rights will be respected.’ We expect reciprocity even if there is no deal.
“And if you take that forward, everyone legally resident here should have their rights respected.”
Mrs Morris remains ‘very confident’ a deal will be struck between the UK and the remaining 27 EU member states – and believes even if there is no Brexit agreement, British citizens within the system should be reassured.
“I think the important thing is that Theresa May has said explicitly to EU nationals in the UK that she wants them to stay and their rights will be protected,” she said. “That’s based on the assumption Spain will do the same for British nationals living here.”
Legally, people living in Spain should register with a town hall and apply for residence status after three months, having an NIE number is not enough.
The British consulate in Alicante is aware of growing queues to register as a resident causing frustration; one of the issues it feeds back to the Spanish government.
Iron out wrinkles
But Mrs Morris said: “If you have any doubts, we are here to help. If the system is broken in any way or there are wrinkles in the system, let’s iron them out now and flag up to Spain any problems.”
Her message is that people should not sit back and ‘wait and see’ but start the registration process.
“That’s the logic behind us getting out there not to say ‘you have still got time to sort yourselves out’,” she said.
Mrs Morris will open the meetings with a general update about Brexit and the importance of being registered before allowing a panel to answer people’s questions.
Joining her at the meetings will be an expert on citizens’ rights, representatives of HMRC to help with tax matters, the department of health, charity representatives and Brexits in Spain, one of the groups campaigning for expats post-Brexit.
“That’s the plan really; we have been on the road quite a lot since the referendum but it is really important to raise awareness so people cannot say ‘I didn’t know I needed to be resident before we leave’,” she noted.
Further information is available on the Living in Spain site at website gov.uk or following the Brits in Spain social media sites.