An agreement was signed on Monday allowing the 63,000 Britons registered on the municipal electoral lists to vote, whatever the outcome of Brexit.
The pact has a great significance in the province of Alicante and especially in regions such as the Marina Alta and Baixa and the Vega Baja, where the large presence of UK residents will influence the outcome of the municipal elections on 26 May. According to the latest INE data for 2017, there are currently 63,000 Britons in the provincial that are eligible to vote.
The signing of the agreement between the two countries took place in Madrid by the Secretary of State for the EU, Marco Aguiriano, and the British Minister for Brexit, Robin Walker. The agreement was authorised last Friday by the Council of Ministers.
The agreement is important because, not only in Spain, but also in the United Kingdom, there are municipal elections in May. However, if they have not already done so, British residents in Spain only have until 30 January to register for the upcoming ballot.
The number of British residents in Spain is estimated at 300,000 but only 90,000 of them are registered to vote. According to diplomatic sources, Spain is the first EU country to sign an agreement of this type with the United Kingdom. The negotiations began at the end of October.
This decree is necessary regardless of whether the Brexit takes place with or without an agreement, because this aspect of citizens’ rights is not provided for in the exit agreement.
After the signing of the deal, the undersecretary of state for the Department of Exiting the European Union, Robin Walker, said that the agreement would “even cover a no-deal scenario,” meaning that Britons and Spaniards will still be able to vote in their respective countries should the UK crash out of the EU on March 29 of this year.
For the 26 May elections UK Nationals will not have to fulfil any other requirements and their Registration will remain valid.
In the future, however, article 3 of the agreement requires that British nationals must have a period of legal and uninterrupted residence of three years. Thus, in the municipal elections of 2023, all British nationals who are registered for the 2019 municipal elections may still participate.
The continuity of British locally elected officials is also guaranteed until the end of their term, even after the United Kingdom leaves the European Union. In Spanish municipalities there are currently about thirty councillors of British nationality.
The United Kingdom will not be the first country outside the EU whose nationals can vote in the Spanish municipal elections, as Spain already has similar agreements with Bolivia, Cape Verde, Chile, Colombia, South Korea, Ecuador, Iceland, Norway, New Zealand, Paraguay, Peru and Trinidad and Tobago.