Sir Roger Gale campaigning for expatriates. | Humphrey Carter

In response to a call from British reader David Nichols in yesterday’s Bulletin for pre-Brexit expatriates to be given dual nationality in Spain, a senior Conservative MP yesterday backed the campaign. Sir Roger Gale, the Conservative Party MP for North Thanet who was first elected to parliament in 1983, yesterday told the Bulletin that he considered the suggestion proposed by David Nichols was a good one.

In a letter to the newspaper, Nichols called for a campaign to be launched to encourage Spain to allow dual nationality post Brexit. “Please can you start a campaign to get Spain to enable those Brits who live and work here to obtain Spanish passports and thus remain European citizens. If we could apply for and obtain Spanish passports alongside our U.K. passports it would enable us to travel freely, support Spain and show our belief in the European Union. This benefit would only be for those living, working or owning property in Spain prior to the Brexit vote,” Nichols wrote.

Yesterday, the Bulletin put this idea to one of the longest serving MPs in the House of Commons and a politician whom many expatriates in Majorca will know well. Sir Roger has not only been a regular visitor to the island, but has for years been a campaigner for protecting and preserving the rights of British expatriates living overseas, not only in the European Union. Yesterday, he admitted that, under the current situation, there are still a number of possibilities on the table and up in the air. But he did agree that Nichols’s idea is a 'sensible one'.

“If the Spanish or even the French and other EU states in which British expatriates either live or work agree to such an agreement, I believe it would be a good one and a positive step forward. However, I fear it would have to be carried out and negotiated on a country by country basis. And the UK would have to offer the same to EU citizens living in the UK. So, both sides of the table would benefit. Yes it could be a very valid and positive way forward. As yet, no such idea has been proposed in London or Brussels but it is a good one. 

“Obviously, the decision to take up dual nationality would be an individual one. I know of plenty of people who have taken up Irish or adopted another EU nationality, where entitled, to try and get one step of Brexit. And I am sure that many expatriates would jump at the option of dual nationality, while there would be others who would want to maintain their British passport and individual nationality. And I repeat, it would have to be reciprocal, but I see no downside to the idea, although one has to take into account that the vast majority of EU citizens living in the UK are working and contributing to the system. In general, especially when it comes to countries like Spain, in particular Majorca, Italy, France and Portugal, most of the expatriates are retired and should they return to the the UK, they will add to the burden of the national services like health.

“But these are areas which are of great concern to me and which I continue to fight for. I think the biggest worry for retired expatriates is going to be post-Brexit health care. I can’t see pensions being a problem, although in countries where the freeze has been imposed, I would like to see that lifted because no one knows how the pound is going to perform long term.

“In fact, to be honest, right now very little is known about how the post-Brexit picture is going to look. And that is why I can fully understand the reason why expatriates, especially those who have sold up lock stock and barrel in the UK and moved to locations like Majorca and other places in Spain, are becoming increasingly nervous and concerned about the future. Those who have homes in the UK and elsewhere in the EU have options, they can quite easily move back to the UK full time, should they choose, or go the other way. But those who have sold up and shipped out and want to return to the UK are going to have problems.

“To start with, they are going to get a lot less property wise for their buck and then have to go through a rather long and tedious bureaucratic process getting re-registered etc. And on the whole, we will be talking about elderly expatriates who may find returning to the UK a daunting and very trying experience. I wish I could give you and your readers a more positive answer, but I can’t. No one can as things stands, but I am hugely sympathetic to the situation expatriates find themselves in.

“Brexit was never expected and the mountain of uncertainty is not helping and until there is a deal, there will be no comfort. What also worries me is that Barnier and Juncker appear to have lately taken a very hard stance, contrary to the rest of the EU member states. I, and many of my colleagues, have the feeling that, in the end, the deal will be an amicable one, a soft Brexit if you like, because it will simply make life easier for all those effected. But just lately, Barnier and Juncker appear to have changed tack and that has caused a certain amount of concern.

“Obviously, the tipping point is going to be when the UK leaves the European Union. If it decides to say ‘right we’re off and we’re not giving you any money’ then the implications for expatriates is going to very different to those should the UK and the EU part on amicable terms. And I return to the issue, the suggestion of pre-Brexit dual nationality. I don’t know where the Spanish stand on that but I certainly think it is an idea worth pursuing. It certainly could be the way forwards, for expatriates right across the European Union.”