COMMUNITY MEETING TO DISCUSS THE UK REFERENDUM
The meeting took place as advertised, in Calvia Town Hall, chaired initially in Spanish, by the Mayor of Calvia, Alfonso Rodríguez Badal, and latterly by deputy Mayor for Sports and International Community, Eva Serra Félix . Dolina Reynolds, Head of International Community Department, acted as translator and facilitator.
The British Consul General, Lloyd Milen, was accompanied by Lucy Gorman, Vice-Consul for the Balearics and Elaine Brannan, Vice-Consul in Palma.
Mr. Milen began by stating that the purpose of the Meeting was to listen to the concerns of the British community and that these concerns would be reported to the Embassy in Madrid and to HM Government in London. He emphasised that this was intended to be the first of a series of meetings that would be used to inform and reassure British residents, as the situation regarding Brexit develops. He reminded the meeting that Britain and Spain had a warm, mutual friendship and a thriving, business and commercial relationship, and that this would certainly continue in the future. He warned against believing reports from un-official sources (such as your friend in the bar) and said that residents should seek their information only from government sources.
Questions and comments from the floor were very much on the lines one would expect.
- Many in the British community feel they are in an informational limbo as they await the outcome of Brexit negotiations. How long will this last?
- How long will be the period between being in the EU and being out, last?
- What changes might happen to their current entitlement to use the Health Service in Spain?
- What about services to the disabled, such as the so-called, “Blue Badge”?
- What about pension rights, both for those who had paid Spanish contributions and those who had not?
- British pensioners living outside the EU had their pensions frozen at the level at which they left Britain. Would the same happen to those living in Spain when Britain leaves the EU?
- Some might wish to acquire Spanish nationality, would HM Government intercede to make this possible for those at present ineligible because of length of residence?
- What will happen to those Britons working in Spain, whether on full-time contracts or seasonal contracts? Will they continue to be entitled to employment contracts in the same way?
Responding to the questions, Mr. Milen said that many, if not all, could not be answered at present. He reminded the meeting that Britain had made a political, but not yet a legal, commitment to leave the EU. To activate the legal process, the British government will have to issue a formal notice that it intends to leave. This will trigger the negotiations and these, according to article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, could last for up to two years, although this period could be extended with the agreement of all sides involved. The possible, practical consequences arising from these negotiations are, at present, unknown.
However, Mr. Milen stressed that until that legal process is completed, Britain remains a full member of the European Union and the rights and entitlements of British citizens living and/or working in the EU will not change. He urged people to use the telephone number and the eMail address he provided (see below) where they had particular concerns. The Consulate has a special team of advisers which can deal with Health Service issues.
On behalf of Calvia Council, Sra. Serra said that those services to foreign residents which fell within the competence of Calvia Council would continue to be provided, regardless of anything that might arise from Brexit.
Concluding the meeting, Mr.Milen thanked people for their attendance and hoped to see them at future meetings. He also warmly thanked Calvia Council for their generosity in providing the facilities for the Meeting.