I was one of 18 invited representatives from the expat British community across Southern Spain to attend and take part in this round table event which the Embassy had organised to try and aid the dissemination of facts (such as they are at the moment) to negate the many false rumours and statements doing the rounds from ´Fred up the pub.´Many of the attendees represented active British Charities or groups of concerned expat individuals.
Unfortunately the minister (Rt Hon David Jones MP) was unable to make the meeting due to the announcement by Theresa May of the election and in his place we had a short video presentation by him in which he stressed the importance of citizens rights and how they would be front and centre of all negotiations.
One of the most influential figures in the meeting, appeared to me to be, Stuart Ison from DExEU. He took responsibility for managing our questions and their responses.
The issues arising from the floor were unsurprisingly the following (not in any particular order),
UK State Pensions protection or frozen,
Part years pension in one country and others in another?
Freedom of Movement
Mutual Recognition of Qualifications
Recognition of Wills
EU Citizen Process
Votes for life
Voting rights in EU country of residence.
Benefits and taxation issues.
All the above points were recorded and we were assured would be relayed back to the DExEU team in London to help them form the detail from which they would advise the negotiators. These would all probably feature on a linked list of items for discussion in the negotiations.
The only points where the meeting was given any definition of action was in relation to Votes for life, where Stuart said this was still being actively processed in Westminster but that these things take time. He seemed optimistic that it would be passed. The second as on passports and that the office felt confident that no changes would be necessary unless and until a passport expired after Brexit when it could be different to the existing passport.
What was constantly stressed throughout the meeting by both DExEU and the Ambassador (and in the opening address by David Jones) was the fact that both the British team and so far the Spanish politicians responsible had as their number one priority the preservation as far as is possible of the existing benefits and rights.
Towards the end of the meeting the DExEU team and the ambassador explained that obviously they cannot divulge too much of the detail prior to negotiations but that they had discussed possibly making a road map available and the release of interim updates. They again reinforced the fact that one of their prime roles within the Brexit office is in helping all UK citizens retain their existing rights. (I took pleasure after the meeting in emphasising to Stuart how much we have invested in his ability to deliver this for us!)
In summary (probably due to their remit) I felt a little more secure that the issue of existing rights was of primary concern to those involved in the process going forward.
Simon Manley is 9th from the right and Stuart Ison is 6th from the left (sorry about the quality)