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Spain to create “Brexit Task Force” to assist Spaniards in UK

Source: El Pais - Thu 18th May 2017
Spain to create “Brexit Task Force” to assist Spaniards in UK

The Spanish government is to create an inter-ministerial work group called “Task Force Brexit” with the aim of providing “support and advice for Spanish citizens in the United Kingdom” ahead of the country’s exit from the European Union. The task force, the creation of which is already “considerably advanced,” will be based at the Spanish embassy in London and will count on a team of 15 people, spread across the embassy, sectorial departments and the consulates in London and Edinburgh.

The plan, which has been laid out in a response from the government to a written question from Socialist senator Andrés Gil, and to which EL PAÍS has had access, is in response to the “growing concerns” that the Brexit process has caused among “Spaniards residing in the United Kingdom and the companies, institutions and Spanish entities that are carrying out activities in or with this country.”

As for the investment needed to get the service up and running, the government has stated that it will only be able to judge the cost once the provisions for the additional personnel needed have been approved.

The government has stated that the embassy and the two Spanish consulates on British soil are working with a large collective of Spaniards through the Surviving Brexit platform, which already numbers more than 3,000 Spaniards resident in the UK. A group of representatives from the platform met with the Spanish ambassador – at the time, Federico Trillo, who has since been replaced by Carlos Bastarreche – on December 6, as EL PAÍS reported – to convey the concerns of its members and request support and advice.

An artwork in the English port city of Dover attributed to street artist Banksy, depicting a workman chipping away at one of the 12 stars on the flag of the European Union.

“This is very good news,” said Luz Villarrubia, the co-founder of Surviving Brexit. “We hope that this goes further than simply good intentions and goes ahead. There is a great need for this because there is a lot of uncertainty and anxiety among Spaniards in the United Kingdom.”

The government letter, dated May 5, sums up the five demands from Spanish residents in the United Kingdom: the setting up of a support and information service; assistance for anyone who wants to apply for permanent residence; the creation of a Brexit section on the embassy and consulate webpages, including an FAQ section that will be kept permanently updated; the publication of an information newsletter (electronic or via traditional mail) informing people of all the changes that could affect the situation of Spanish residents; and the organization of talks and conferences with the Spanish collectives from different parts of the United Kingdom.

The Task Force Brexit will act as the single point of contact for Spaniards seeking help and advice, coordinating the work of the consulates and embassy departments whose work is related to the issue.

The current plan is for the service to be in place for three years: the two years that the Brexit negotiations will last, plus another year for the implementation of the results of the negotiation.

There are currently 131,000 Spaniards registered at the consulates in London and Edinburgh, but calculations suggest that the total number of residents is at least double that figure. Spanish migration to the UK has grown considerably since the global economic crisis took effect, with increases of between 15 and 20% from 2008 onward. Official sources have said that there is now a rise in the number of Spaniards who are returning to their home country, in part due to the improvement in the domestic economy, and in part due to fears over Brexit.

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