British ambassador Simon Manley, who was in Palma on Tuesday.

17-07-2018Humphrey Carter

The British Ambassador to Spain, Simon Manley, had some important advice for British residents at the Bulletin lunch on Tuesday and also stressed how important a strong and cooperative Europe is with regards to security and controlling immigration.

One fact that the British ambassador to Spain, Simon Manley, was keen to underline was that "the United Kingdom is going to be leaving the European Union, but it is not going to be leaving Europe".

In his question and answer session after the business lunch, Manley returned to a familiar theme when asked by a questioner about what British citizens living here in Majorca can do to ensure that they can stay here - after Brexit becomes a reality.

His answer mirrored that of his Consul General Lloyd Milen at a previous public meeting at Calvia town hall in June.

However, both men were quite clear that British citizens wishing to stay, live, or work in Majorca should as soon as possible apply for formal residential status via their local council. Indeed when pressed on this subject, it was also seen as a "good idea" to seek entry to their local voting ‘padron’ even though when Brexit becomes a reality British citizens will not be able to vote in local elections here in Majorca as they have in the past.

The ambassador admitted that he was surprised by the response when the UK breached the subject of reciprocal voting rights remaining the same. "The EU said no on the grounds that there was no law to govern such amendments and that any future reciprocal voting rights would have to be negotiated bilaterally.

"One has to remember that there are many more EU citizens resident in the UK, three million, than there are UK citizens living in Spain and elsewhere in the EU, for example. But, with the local elections here in Spain in May, we’re running out of time.

"There are 12,000 Spaniards studying at UK universities and we would like to see that figure rise and there are thousands more working in the health service, the service sectors, banking, hostelry and other businesses sectors. Not only do Europeans coming to the UK have a positive input in industry they also enrich society and we welcome and enjoy that. We want that to continue with as little fuss and complication as possible."

In reality, it would be interesting to know whether the oft-quoted 300,000 British citizens are those who are formally resident or the total number of Britons living in Spain - resident or not.

The Majorca expatriate grapevine has it that hundreds, maybe even thousands of British men and women who have lived here for many years are not formally resident and so could be at a disadvantage when the full impact of Brexit unfolds and the consequences of life outside of the EU are realised.

One of the key threads through the ambassador’s speech was close and strong relations with fellow European Union states. Manley underlined the need for the currently extremely close collaboration between the United Kingdom and Spain with regards to fighting terrorism to continue, whatever Brexit may mean.

"There are a number of countries who talk the talk, but Spain delivers and we have a very strong and effective working relationship when it comes to combating and fighting terrorism and that is vital for the future well-being of both our countries and Europe as a whole.

"The same applies to controlling illegal immigrations. Yes, many are fleeing for their lives while others are in search of a better life overseas here in Europe, but we have to make sure we maintain a strong control of our borders and all work together in bringinh an end to conflicts in the Middle East, reestablishing some law and order and also tackling the problem at the root cause in countries of origin. We have to do that together. So there are going to still be many common issues."