The British ambassador to Spain, Hugh Elliott, expected “friction” with third countries as a result of Brexit on Tuesday, but ruled out the possibility that London would be “alone in front of the world” after its exit from the European Union the community block.
At an Executive Forum event, Elliott noted that these frictions could make “movement” to and from the UK difficult to some extent, an issue that is “getting a little harder”.
He stressed, however, that the country remains “very open to foreign workers” and stated that there is a new migration system that “will be harmonized for all third countries”. “There is more paperwork because the free movement is over. (…) Our policy tries to set the same criteria for different countries,” he added.
He has stated that in general “there will be no incentives for any country” as the idea is to harmonize criteria. He also made it clear that the fact that the UK is outside the EU on security and defense issues is very important.
“I do not think that we are alone in the world because we continue to have intensive relations with the EU and are members of many international organizations such as NATO and there has always been very intensive cooperation in the arms industry.” he said.
In this sense, he stated that “there will be no change at the political level”, but rather a “greater openness to other markets and cooperations”. “That makes sense. We’re not going to go off the map at all, these collaborations are still very important,” he added.
He also recalled that the UK was “a country of migrants”. “Migration is fundamental to us and has been for a long time. If you look back 1,000 years, you will find that not everything was entirely voluntary. (…) We welcomed migration and those who were immigrants are now with everything British, “the diversity associated with it,” he emphasized.
“Like all countries, we want to have a border control system that enables us to cope with the various burdens that are certainly there (…) and thus to seek a balance in a sensitive topic and of course to continue working on it to support those displaced from their country around the world, “he said before clarifying that” great international solidarity is needed and I believe that Spain and the UK share a similar vision in this regard “.
He stressed, however, that it is currently difficult to “reduce the COVID-19 effect of the Brexit effect”, although he admitted that there had been a significant decline in bilateral trade throughout 2020 that resulted from the country’s exit from the Block have made it difficult for small businesses.
Regarding the management of the pandemic internationally, the Ambassador has defended that “every government has tried to do its best to ensure the safety and health of its citizens” and has recognized that it is “gradually learning”.
“In view of this complexity, a perfect international cooperation would of course have been ideal, but given the time to be mastered it was necessary to act very quickly (…) and I think there was a lack of the capacities and the time for perfect coordination”, estimates. For him there was a lot of “communication between Spain and the UK to understand the measures imposed and see how they could be combined”.
On the other hand, Elliott laments the “frustration” and “insecurity” of the tourism sector, which has gone through several phases. “Governments have found it difficult to know how to respond to a pandemic that affects different countries in different ways and at different times,” he said.
“We are all trying to put things in order and understand what we have to do. (…) I think that now the decisions of other administrations are much more respected, even if they are different,” he said before he pointed out the “UK traffic light system has an understanding of the data and its reliability.”
Regarding the disease situation and leaving the UK, however, he stressed that Spain is a safe tourism destination, although there are “nuances”. “I say yes, but with nuances, because we are now seeing very important growth in cases in Spain and the UK and because of the Delta variant. It continues to be a serious disease that can be fatal, that can last a long time. Term health consequences … “pointed out.
“It is still a situation that we must handle with caution and caution and that is why Spain was on our amber list for tourism, which does not mean you cannot go but there are restrictions on returning,” he stated although he has made it clear that the British returning from Spain and having the full vaccination schedule can avoid the quarantine.
Regarding the use of a “COVID passport”, he preferred to “pay attention to his words” but stressed that “proof of double vaccination will play a very important role in facilitating entry”.
“If this is called a COVID passport, yes, not until next week we are introducing this option for UK residents who want to go to an amber country,” agreed the diplomat, who sees good news economically for 2022, agreed it unless new variants emerge that “bring us bad news”.
Regarding the situation in Gibraltar, the British politician said that on December 31st a “very good, constructive” agreement had been reached with the Spanish government in an attempt to establish “new relations with the EU in relation to Gibraltar”.
“It was time to find a solution for Gibraltar. (…) The negotiations are constructive, there is a framework for an agreement, and that must now be transformed into a treaty between the EU and the UK on Gibraltar “he explained.
To that end, he clarified, it is expected to be completed in the next few weeks and the parties “to enter formal negotiations to conclude this contract”. “We are ready, we have had a lot of preparatory talks, we want to turn this framework into a treaty, true to what we agreed there, and it will be a task for the next few months that must be completed for prosperity” by everyone in the area “.