22 Nov, 2019 @ 15:57
2 mins read

Confusion as British consulate staff give conflicting information at Brexit advice event on Spain’s Costa del Sol

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CATCH UP: UK Ambassador to Spain Hugh Elliot speaks to the Olive Press

TEMPERS were tested among expats on Wednesday after British consulate staff seemed to give contradictory information about what will happen to pensions post-Brexit. 

Anne Hernandez, president of Brexpats which fights for British residents’ rights in Spain, was forced to intervene after UK ambassador Hugh Elliot and British consul for Andalucia Charmaine Arbouin gave conflicting answers to a question about whether expats’ pensions will continue to be upgraded post-Brexit at an event in Manilva.

At present the UK increases state pensions of British residents living in the EU annually by 2.5%, wage growth levels or the consumer price index, through a system called upgrading or uprating. 

However, the British government has not guaranteed it will provide lifelong upgrades for the pensions of British citizens living in the EU post-Brexit.

As confusion mounted in Villa Matilde in Sabinillas on Wednesday evening, Anne Herandez who was sat on the front row called out: “Surely this has got nothing to do with the EU.”

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SAY CHEESE: UK Ambassador to Spain Hugh Elliot (fifth from left)

Elliot, who has only been in the job since August, was embarrassingly forced to get advisors to check information and find a correct answer to the question about pensions.

In the clarification he said: “Until the end of March 2023 pensions will continue to be upgraded whatever the scenario of our departure.” 

The Brexit Seminar is part of a string of events British embassy staff are holding across Spain in order to try and inform and prepare expats about Brexit.

However sparks flew at points throughout the evening as some expats expressed confusion and others spoke of their anger at being denied a vote on their futures. 

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READY SET GO: People arrive at the Manilva event

Helen Munroe who has lived in Manilva 15 years said votes for life should be implemented to ‘give expats a voice.’

Under UK law, people who have lived abroad for 15 years or more are currently denied a vote in elections.

A private members bill to change the rules and introduce votes for life was blocked after Tory MP Philip Davies filibustered it out of parliament  

Elliot said that he believed the Conservative party remains ‘committed to abolishing the 15 year rule,’ despite a parliamentary bill to do so not being included in October’s Queen’s Speech. 

Manilva resident Bill who has lived in Spain five years expressed anger at the lack of clarity around Brexit issues. 

“At no time has anyone explained to people any of that,” he said at one point, addressing Hugh Elliot.

However, speaking to the Olive Press later on he said that he didn’t blame the British ambassador for the lack of clarity.

“Nobody knows what’s going on,” he said.

“It’s not the ambassador’s fault. It’s the politicians back home. I put the blame on the referendum. There were lies told – and not on both sides.” 

Andrew Smith, 52, a self-confessed ‘lifetime remainer’ and Manilva resident added that the process was an ‘absolute mess.’

‘CLARITY:’ British consul Charmaine Arbouin said the British embassy was putting on many events to help Brits abroad.

British consul Charmaine Arbouin said that there was more certainty on residency rights since the referendum. However, she acknowledged a lot of confusion remains. 

“Where we do not have clarity is on the political side. We have political uncertainty,” she told the Olive Press.

She added: “We are putting on events like this and popups in rural areas in places like Iceland car parks. The ambassador has done Facebook lives. We have a ‘Living in Spain’ guide online. We are trying to get to people, wherever they are.” 

Additional reporting by Jacque Talbot

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