The official date for the UK to leave the European Union has been extended. By the 12th of this month we’ll know whether we’re leaving with Theresa May’s deal , crashing out with no deal, or facing a much longer process.
At a summit meeting on 21st March, EU leaders declared that the UK would have to leave the EU with no deal on 12th April if Theresa May was unable to force her withdrawal agreement through parliament. If May’s agreement passes, the extension period will last until 22nd May to allow the necessary legislation.
Other options, such as a longer extension or revoking Article 50 completely, have not been ruled out by the EU; but will need to be requested by the British government before April 12th. At the time of writing that does not seem likely, although Brexit has shown that anything can happen in a very short time.
The short extensions followed weeks of unprecedented turmoil in the House of Commons – weeks which have seen Labour and Conservative MPs resign to form another party, Cabinet ministers rebelling without consequence; government whips voting against the motions they are meant to enforce, and the speaker of the house, John Bercow, invoking a 17th century parliamentary rule in order to deny May a third attempt at forcing her deal through parliament. Read more...
Nevertheless, at the time of writing (22nd March), there’s still the possibility of anything happening. British citizens resident in Spain are advised to keep up to date with all the latest advice on the British foreign office website, www.euexit.campaign. gov.uk Information from the Spanish government can also be found at www.lamoncloa.gob.es/lang/en/brexit
Here at the Gazette, we’ll also be keeping you up to date with the most important latest news affecting UK residents here on our Gazette Life Lanzarote Facebook page.
“The ball’s in the UK’s court”
Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez was visibly exhausted after the marathon summit meeting on 21st March. Afterwards, he said “We are at a critical moment in European construction. History will judge the events of the coming weeks.”
As Theresa May returned to the UK to try to muster enough support to get her withdrawal agreement through parliament at the third attempt, Sánchez stressed “We want a deal, but it no longer depends on us.”
While Sánchez has been continuously supportive of citizen’s rights, Spain has come into conflict with the UK on the issue of Gibraltar and the Spanish government are expected to fall in line with the harder line towards the UK headed by French President Emanuel Macron.
The Socialist leader, who is facing a general election himself on April 28th, said “Spanish citizens in the UK and British citizens in Spain should know that the the Spanish government is prepared for a disorderly exit.”
On 8th March, Lanzarote’s Chamber of Commerce hosted an open meeting titled “Spanish Business Confronts Brexit”.
The well-attended meeting was addressed by Julian Zafra, the Canarian Government’s director general of foreign affairs; Jochen Müller, deputy director of the EU Commission in Spain; Rafael Molina Petit, Canarian director of commerce and other experts in business, tourism and aviation.
Molina highlighted that tourism and aviation were key to the Canarian economy, and that the UK accounts for 40% of tomato and cucumber exports from the islands. He highlighted the possible fall of Sterling and the loss of EU business grants as some of the main problems that Brexit poses for the Canaries.
Müller carefully explained the negotiations between the UK and the EU, explaining the importance of protecting the rights of citizens and the Northern Irish border backstop. He concluded that Theresa’s May’s deal would be far preferable to a no-deal exit.
Angeles Sáez García, from Spain’s commerce ministry, pointed out that the UK is Spain’s third most important trading partner and its most important tourist market “The British are good customers and reliable payers,” she said “They will remain a priority market, although things will be more complicated.” she also indicated that the Spanish government is offering all businesses a “Brexit cheque” – in reality, a discount on specialist advisory and assessment services.
María Ortega, head of customs in the Canaries, offered a calming message: “The special status of the Canaries means we’re already well used to sorting out customs problems – we’re well ahead of the rest of Spain and our preparations for any Brexit outcome are almost complete.”
The calm planning and organisation of Canarian and Spanish authorities contrasts sharply with the shenanigans in London, but no one is pretending that Brexit is going to be easy.
British Health Minister Stephen Hammond has announced that, in the case of a no-deal exit, the UK government would guarantee healthcare costs for 180,000 British pensioners living in EU countries.
However, the guarantee only applies to conditions that are already diagnosed or being treated at the time of Brexit; it would involve sick pensioners returning to the UK for treatment and has only been promised for 12 months.
Hammond wrote “The UK government has committed to fund healthcare for UK nationals (and others for whom the UK is responsible) who have applied for, or are undergoing, treatments in the EU prior to and on exit day, for up to one year, to protect the most vulnerable.”
Spain’s Pedro Sánchez has already guaranteed healthcare provisions for all British residents in Spain, on the condition that similar provisions are promised to Spanish nationals in the UK. Hammond’s pledge, however, means that even if the UK does not reciprocate the offer, pensioners can be treated in the UK.