The Spanish government has introduced plans to minimise the effect of a no-deal Brexit on British residents in Spain.
In attempting to help the 300,000 Brits living in Spain, Madrid also called on London to do the same for the 150,000 Spaniards resident in the United Kingdom.
Theresa May‘s government, however, has already said she will protect the rights of EU citizens in the UK come what may, and has urged other countries in the bloc to do the same for Britons abroad.
The aim of the new Spanish measures, which will only be triggered if Britain drops out of the EU without a deal, is to ensure that ‘no British or Spanish citizen is left unprotected, neither them nor their family,’ Deputy Prime Minister Carmen Calvo told reporters.
Spain has the largest British expat community in the EU.
Calvo said the measures concern areas such as residence, employment and healthcare, deemed ‘necessary to protect workers and retirees covered by the British and Spanish social security systems’.
These measures would ensure they retain broadly the same rights as the have today as EU citizens
Although Britain is due to leave the EU on 29 March there is still no deal agreed on the terms of its departure and on its future relations with the European bloc.
‘We hope we won’t need to use this law,’ said Calvo, a member of Spain’s socialist (PSOE) government. The measures will only come into force ‘if the United Kingdom leaves the European Union by the window’.
One enduring point of dispute between Britain and Madrid, which is rising up the diplomatic agenda as Brexit nears, is Gibraltar.
Madrid has a long-standing claim on Gibraltar, a small rocky outcrop on Spain’s southern tip that was ceded to the British crown in 1713.
Calvo said special attention was being paid to ensure the easy flow of the 9,000 Spanish workers who cross over into Gibraltar daily.
Jobs in the relatively rich British enclave are vital for the inhabitants of the neighbouring Campo de Gibraltar area in Spain’s Cadiz province, but are also essential to the proper functioning of the Gibraltan economy.