IN an exclusive interview, Britain’s new ambassador to Spain has insisted he is ‘not worried’ about tourism after Brexit, despite the collapse of Thomas Cook and the fears of low British visitor figures this year.

Hugh Elliott recently took over from Simon Manley as the UK’s top mandarin in Madrid.

The ambassador, now in his 50s, has worked for the Foreign Office since 1989 and has been posted in Argentina and France, as well as spending five years in Madrid in the 1990s.

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Amid his busy schedule, Elliott took the time to chat to the Olive Press about everything from cricket to negotiating with the Spanish government.

“I’m not worried about tourism after Brexit,” he said.

“I think that British tourism in Spain is proving incredibly resilient to Brexit.”

Hugh Elliot And Wife Maybe
LOVED UP: Elliott and his wife, Toni, who he met in the Spanish city of Salamanca

As well as dispelling Brexit fears around tourism, Elliott also revealed his own Spanish holiday habits, in a wide-ranging interview.

“I have had some very fun and memorable trips down to the Costa del Sol and have played cricket at the Cartama Oval in Malaga,” he said.

He even claimed the northern city of Salamanca, where he met his wife Toni, has ‘the most beautiful plaza mayor in the world’.

Elliott’ whose children were born in Spain, has held several high-level posts in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) since 1989.

“It’s fantastic, I love being back in Spain, I have worked in different capacities here,” he added.

“Relationships with Spain are very good, the ties between our two countries are deep and broad.

Cartama Oval Malaga
HAPPY MEMORIES: Elliott told the Olive Press he had fond memories of playing cricket at Malaga’s Cartama Oval

“Our companies do a lot of business together and the UK is the number one destination for Spanish foreign investment.

“It’s looking like there could be well over 18 million British tourists this year and we’ve got record numbers of Spaniards coming to the UK.

“Although one area where we do have differing views is Gibraltar.”

As well as stressing the strong Anglo-Spanish ties, Elliott also admitted he recognised that some British expats in Spain were worried about the UK’s departure from the EU.

The British consulate has been answering expats’ burning Brexit questions with information events around the country.

Elliott said: “I Know people aren’t universally happy with it [Brexit], they are very clear when they talk to me, but we are in a good place now.

High Elliott Spain
HELPING HAND: Britain’s new ambassador to Spain said he hoped to be back in Malaga in November to talk to British expats worried about Brexit

“We understand it’s taking a long time, but there is a lot of urgency and hard work going into getting Brexit done.

“The deal is good news for Britain, it’s the result that we wanted, it means that we have got a transition period with the possibility of extension beyond that.

“I’ve been working on this for over three years in different jobs and I think it’s pretty calm.

“We don’t always know exactly what the next twist and turn in the process is going to be, so there is a bit of uncertainty.

“But overall things are moving forward in a reasonably clear, structured and organised way.

“I hope to be down in Malaga in November and looking forward to meeting Brits in the area, talking to people and answering questions myself.

“I’m sure if you back three or more years you will find things that could have been done differently or better.

“But I think that what we’ve got now is a deep understanding of what the concerns and needs are of Brits in Spain.

“We have Brits living all over the EU just as we have their citizens living in the UK and we have taken steps to protect their interests.”

The EU has now agreed to extend the deadline for Brexit until January 31 2020.

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