With just four weeks and two days to go until the UK is set to leave the European Union, with or without a deal in place, the Spanish leader has announced a hefty law text with contingency plans is set to go live at the touch of a button.
In a Parliamentary speech in which he slammed the alt-right ahead of April’s general elections and the apparent rise of independent party Vox, Sánchez pointed out that it was far-right politics that had led to Brexit.
He said the referendum result was ‘hugely regrettable’ and was largely thanks to the campaign by alt-right independents UKIP.
“What has happened in the UK shows that the far right does not even need to get into power to change the political agenda of mainstream parties such as the British Conservatives, or to extrapolate their policies to other EU countries,” Sánchez lamented.
“All that’s needed is for them to inject their virus into other political formations, force their way into a democracy like a Trojan, to shatter, in months, the consensus that has taken decades to achieve.”
If the European Union agrees to extend the deadline for Brexit beyond March 29, Spain will not stand in its way, says Sánchez, but that he wants to know what Britain would intend to do with the extra time.
“Postponing the uncertainty indefinitely by postponing the deadlines is unreasonable,” he states.
Among the battery of measures in the new ‘no-deal Brexit’ law, a bilateral agreement between Spain and the UK means British nationals living in Spain will still be able to vote in their local council elections, due on May 26 – as will Spaniards living in the UK.
A ‘special raft of assistance’ will be in place for Spanish companies and associations involved in export and import who may be adversely affected by Brexit has been arranged.
In terms of logistics, the new Spanish legislation will involve reinforcing customs controls – in terms of health and hygiene, people and goods – which will require an extra 1,735 new public sector employees for the purpose and which will be advertised as soon as possible.
British nationals with ‘permanent’ residence – of over five years – will have an automatic right to remain in Spain in the event of a no-deal Brexit, and those who have not been in the country that long will be able to acquire settled status after five years.
Legal and financial advisors, or gestores, will be able to advise individuals in this respect.
Sánchez’s new healthcare law from last July stipulates that medical attention and treatment is free of charge and universal to anyone living in Spain, legally or not.
The deal Conservative prime minister Theresa May is attempting to get through Parliament includes a bilateral agreement on healthcare for British State pensioners living in Spain, whereby the UK will continue to pay a per-head sum to Spain to cover treatment; if Britain crashes out without a deal, this will not apply, but Sánchez has already stated months ago that nobody will be excluded from free healthcare if they are resident in the country – a pledge that also covers ‘illegal’ immigrants.
With the latest news from the UK showing Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn now backs a second referendum on Brexit, and a ‘Put it to the People’ campaign backed by numerous celebrities – including comedian Steve Coogan and ex-footballer Gary Lineker – set to culminate in a demonstration across central London on Saturday, March 23, the tide may be changing.
Most British nationals in Spain, watching from the sidelines – many unable to vote in the 2016 referendum due to having been outside the UK for 15 years or more – believe the final outcome will be either a no-deal Brexit or no Brexit at all.