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Spain to include Gibraltar in unilateral Brexit contingency measures

Spain’s Cabinet will adopt a Royal Decree on Friday setting out “temporary and unilateral” contingency measures to mitigate the impact of Brexit, all of which will apply not just to British citizens and companies in Spain, but to those in Gibraltar too.

The measures in the draft legislation would apply even in the event of a ‘no deal’ Brexit but would require reciprocity by the UK.

“In broad terms the measures will also apply to British nationals and economic operators established in Gibraltar,” according to a briefing note on the draft proposal.

“In this sense the contingency measures seek to protect Spanish interests and, in particular, those of the Campo de Gibraltar.”

News of the proposed law came as Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez urged his UK counterpart Theresa May not to prolong the uncertainty of Brexit.

He was speaking a day after Mrs May accepted for the first time that the UK may not leave the European Union on March 29, offering MPs a chance to vote to delay Brexit if her deal is rejected again next month.

Mr Sanchez told the Spanish Congress that he would not oppose an extension.

But he added: “Prolonging uncertainty by delaying deadlines is not a reasonable or desirable alternative.”

Under the terms of the proposed law that Spain’s Cabinet is expected to rubber-stamp on Friday, the Spanish government will study the possibility of issuing short-term visas for UK visitors in the case of a hard Brexit.

UK residents of Spain and British tourists would retain continued access to the Spanish healthcare system under the current regulation until December 31, 2020, although Madrid would have the power to unilaterally withdraw that if the UK did not reciprocate.

The proposed law includes a section aimed at protecting the rights of cross-border workers, including for British nationals who work in Spain but live elsewhere.

“This measure is subject to reciprocity and seeks to protect the interests of frontier workers in the Campo de Gibraltar,” according to the briefing note.

The draft law, which complements EU-wide contingency measures, also includes sections on issues such as road haulage, border inspections on goods, financial services, mutual recognition of professional qualifications and residency rights.

British citizens resident in Spain would also be able to continue accessing Spain's social security system, while the Erasmus student exchange programme would be respected for the duration of 2019.

Additionally, students from the UK and Gibraltar will be able to access university courses in Spain up to the 2020/21 academic year.

In the event a withdrawal deal is agreed on, British citizens living in Spain would have until December 31, 2020, to register as residents of third-party states and apply for an official identity card for foreign nationals, something not required at present.

The Royal Decree will be published in full on Friday once the Cabinet adopts it.

It will then have to ratified by the Spanish parliament.

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