On Friday 24th of November, EuroCitizens held its ‘asamblea annual’ to celebrate our seventh year as an official Spanish association. We discussed key matters affecting Britons in Spain covered by the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement and our continuing membership of the coalition British in Europe – as well as re-electing the current committee under chair Nigel Aston.
Nigel gave us an update of recent activity of BiE: a meeting with the undersecretary of state for Europe, meetings with the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, appearances at the House of Lords European Committee and the Specialised Committee for Citizens’ Rights covering the Withdrawal Agreement (WA). Nigel reported that the Spanish government has in general done a good job for Britons in Spain with the rollout of the special ID card (TIE) for those covered by the WA.
There is good news on ‘Votes For Life’, our right to continue voting in UK elections after living fifteen years abroad. It is hoped that this will be in place before the next general election, which will happen sometime in 2024. We discussed ways of proving our previous residence, in the place in the UK where we will be able to vote. As well as documentary proof we can also be obtain proof by the attestation of another UK voter. We will publish the information when the details have been confirmed by the UK government and we are pressing for a major publicity campaign.
The UK Embassy in Spain no longer has a dedicated person for citizens’ rights, and we are now dealing with the head of the political department. The main issues are institutions, private and public, not accepting the validity of the green residence documents (which do remain valid). However, due to the explicit mention of the protection of the WA, EuroCitizens recommends that we all get the new TIE. Unnecessary passport stamping is still happening at some airports (including passports of TIE holders but the Spanish government has assured us that this does not affect our residence status. There have been some examples of Britons, covered by the WA, affected by Spanish Defence Ministry restrictions about buying properties near military bases. The bilateral agreement on driving licences is now in place and Britons must exchange them after six months residence in Spain.
We discussed the new visa-waiver schemes due to come out, possibly next year: ETA (UK), ETIAS (EU). Again, we will publish information when the conditions for both the UK and EU schemes are clear. And, again, we are pressing for major official publicity campaigns.
The litigation of Joshua Silver, about the loss of European citizenship for UK nationals, has been rejected by the Court of Justice of the EU and has reached the final level – The European Court of Human Rights, which unfortunately has no capacity to legally enforce its decisions.
Margaret Hauschild attended the recent EU summit for lawyers where it was made clear that the UK is very much a Third Country. This could complicate civil law issues like divorce and inheritance for Britons in Spain, even if covered by the Withdrawal Agreement.
Nick Green commented on the application of British in Europe for a grant from the UE programme Citizens, Equality, Rights and Values (CERV). This is not to cover BiE or Eurocitizens running costs but will enable the training of two members in advocacy for citizens’ rights – for Britons in Spain covered by the Withdrawal Agreement. They will then be able to train members of EuroCitizens and other associations in Spain, to help Britons realise what rights we hold and how we can defend them. This is very important as Britons in Europe currently receive none of the protection of Europeans in the UK who are covered by the Independent Monitoring Agency – a body which ensures the correct implementation of rights established by the Withdrawal Agreement. Unfortunately, we anticipate that issues impacting UK citizens in the EU will last many years into the future.
The EuroCitizens committee was re-elected with one small change. Nick Green is now a vice-chair in place of Mike Harris who will continue as a ‘vocal’ in charge of the blog and email.