A spokeswoman for Spain’s acting government Isabel Celaá believes the British prime minister’s resignation – announced this morning (Friday) means ‘a hard Brexit could be impossible to stop’, but assures UK nationals and cross-border firms that her cabinet has a law in place to protect them.
Prior to the April 28 general elections in Spain, the then president – who is currently in an ‘acting’ capacity pending his investiture in June or July – Pedro Sánchez triggered new legislation aiming to protect British citizens living in the country or who owned property there, as well as tourists from the UK and firms trading between the two nations in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
At the time of the new law’s being passed, this looked almost a certainty, with the cut-off date for Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty being on March 29 and an extension agreed until April 12.
Sra Celaá says UK leader Theresa May’s decision to stand down is ‘bad news’ and that Spain ‘anticipates a period of problems’ ending in ‘a hard Brexit’.
“In these circumstances, a no-deal Brexit is a reality that’s almost impossible to put the brakes on,” she lamented in a press conference earlier today.
“That’s bad news for those of us who wished for an orderly exit from the European Union by the United Kingdom.”
But British Parliament had already ruled out a no-deal Brexit ahead of the previous two deadlines – and the fact they both passed without this happening has led Remain supporters to feel more optimistic that two chances at leaving the EU abruptly had gone by and that, therefore, the only default position left was for Brexit to be called off altogether.
And an indication of what lies ahead could come with the results of the European Parliamentary elections, which the UK has had no option but to field candidates for due to its revised exit deadline of October 31.
Celaá, however, is urging Brits in Spain, Spanish companies with branches or head offices in the UK, and those on Spanish soil trading with Britain to try not to worry because her government has everything possible in place to cushion the impact of a no-deal situation.
Pedro Sánchez announced plans earlier this year to give the estimated 400,000 British nationals living in Spain automatic permanent residence rights.
He also guaranteed aircraft would still fly between the two countries – crucial to Spain’s booming tourism industry, given that its largest international market for holidaymakers is the UK, with over half of all tourists being from the British Isles, and it was recently revealed that Spain is Britons’ number one choice of foreign destination worldwide.