As a consequence of the uncertainty about the United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union, the Government of Spain has approved the Royal Decree-law 5/2019, of March 1, which adopts contingency measures before the withdrawal of the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland from the European Union without reaching the agreement provided for in Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union.
The measures contemplated in the Royal Decree-law are aimed at protecting the interests of citizens and economic operators who exercised their right of free movement under the freedoms conferred by the Treaties in those areas of national competence, and which may be affected by the withdrawal of the UK. They are aimed at counteracting, as far as possible, the unwanted effects arising from a withdrawal by the United Kingdom without agreement in those areas of national jurisdiction that are deemed indispensable to favor an adequate transition to the new situation.
However, it must be stressed that these are temporary measures, aimed at facilitating the transition to the new situation arising from the consideration of the United Kingdom as a third state. In this way, its validity will cease when the period indicated in each case elapses, or before, if the instruments called to regulate relations with the United Kingdom, on a permanent basis, are adopted internally or internationally.
Additionally, when so established, the maintenance over time of the legal situations that the royal decree-law regulates is subject to the granting of reciprocal treatment by the United Kingdom authorities to Spanish citizens and economic operators.
The recent royal decree law is composed of five chapters, five additional provisions and six final provisions, whose development seeks to respond to various issues of common interest to Spain and the United Kingdom, including Citizenship, Social Security, Healthcare, Education, International police and judicial cooperation, Customs and Transportation.
Notably, in the field of residence and work, nationals of the United Kingdom residing in Spain before the date of withdrawal, as well as their families, will be required to request documentation corresponding to their new condition, in accordance with the procedures to be established by the instructions approved for this purpose by the Council of Ministers. The request to obtain this documentation must be submitted within twenty-one months from the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union without agreement. During this period the residence in Spain of UK nationals residing in Spain before the date of withdrawal and their relatives will maintain its legal status until their application is resolved. The registration certificates and ID cards of a family member of a citizen of the Union will remain valid, as long as they are not replaced by the new documents or are exhausted, and will prove the legal residence status in Spain.
Similarly, nationals of the United Kingdom residing in Spain before the date of withdrawal and their family members may obtain a long-term residence permit when they have legally and continuously resided in Spanish territory for at least five years. The residence time in Spain as citizens of the Union or as a relative of a citizen of the Union shall be included in the calculation of these five years.
On the other hand, as to Social Security, rules are established that will be applicable for a period of twenty-one months from the United Kingdom’s departure from the EU, unless some bilateral or multilateral agreement is reached in this area. Nationals of the United Kingdom who, after the date of withdrawal from the United Kingdom, reside and work legally in Spain, being subject to Spanish social security legislation, will enjoy equal rights and obligations as Spanish nationals. The persons who on the date of withdrawal reside and work legally in Spain, remaining subject to British social security legislation by application of the provisions of Regulation (EC) No 883/2004, may maintain this situation until the end of the period provided for therein, if the British authorities apply reciprocity in this matter.
The contingency measures will enter into force at the time the EU Treaties cease to apply to the United Kingdom, but would not do so if, prior to that date, the United Kingdom and the EU reach an agreement for withdrawal in accordance to Article 50.2 of the Treaty on European Union. Unless the decision of the British Government is extended or revoked, the UK’s exit from the EU is scheduled for October 31.