Spain continues to be the United Kingdom’s favourite destination, although Brexit has created uncertainty among expatriate residents and in the area of security, the British ambassador to Spain acknowledged yesterday. Simon Manley said almost 18 million yearly UK tourists arrived in Spain in recent years, a total that looked set to rise.
“Spain has a special place in the hearts of the British, and it is a safe destination at a time when security is of great importance,” Manley said. He said that last year established a record for British tourism in Spain, with a 14-percent increase year-on-year in May, despite a drop in the value of the UK’s currency, the Pound.
However, Manley conceded that his embassy had spent a lot of time over the past year – since the referendum vote to leave the European Union – talking to, “but mostly listening to,” concerned British citizens living in Spain as well as to worried business executives.
“The key thing for us has been to try and capture those concerns and to ensure that, as we are building up our position in London, we do so understanding the issues that could arise,” Manley said.
Negotiations between the UK government and the European Union have to define the status of British citizens living in the bloc and Spanish nationals in Britain, he said.
“We appreciate there are Brits who are worried, who are concerned about what the future might bring now that we are leaving the EU,” he said. Manley said that what he wanted to do now was to try and give as much certainty to those people as possible. He added that the offer the UK had made to the EU in terms of European nationals living in the UK “was quite explicit about our desires to see reciprocal deals made by the European Union and its member states.” The concept was to give those who have been living in the UK over the last few years the same rights they have been enjoying, so they continue to live there and contribute to the UK’s society and economy. “We hope that our friends and colleagues in the EU will make the same offer to British citizens living in the EU,” he said. Manley said that security cooperation between Spain and the UK was “fantastic.”
He said that prior to holding the post of ambassador, he had spent five years heading the international anti-terror unit in the UK. “There are very few countries with which the UK has a better level of relations and cooperation than with Spain,” he said. Leaving the EU could see the UK abandoning some key European security institutions, such as Europol, but the British government was going to strive to continue maintaining the closest possible links with continental forces of law and order, he said. “We voted to leave the European Union but it remains absolutely in our interest that the EU is a success, commercially and economically, and that it remains a prosperous, secure and successful union,” Manley said.
“We want to see the European Union succeed,” he said.