British Ambassador meets Tenerife south mayors and British public
The UK Ambassador to Spain, Simon Manley, was in Arona yesterday to address a public meeting on Brexit matters affecting British residents. The ambassador said the timing was opportune, given the fact that the British prime minister Theresa May had finalised a deal, approved by the EU 27, on the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union. Manley also met with a group of Tenerife South mayors and councillors, and local business representatives, in advance of the public meeting, to talk to them about issues of relevance to them, considering the many thousands of Britons who live in their boroughs.
The Ambassador is in the Canary Islands for four days, visiting five islands, and yesterday morning also met the head of the Canarian government, and representatives of the Embassy’s social partners. Accompanying the mayor was the Consul for the South of Spain and the Canaries, Charmaine Arbouin, vice consul Helen Keating, and the consular staff who deal with British residents here on a daily basis.
During the public meeting the Ambassador sought to allay any worries people have about changes in status, pensions, and workers and business owners rights here in the Canary Islands. “Register, register, register” was Manley’s repeated call to residents, not just on the ‘padrón’ in local councils, but with the national police/foreigners office, adding that they were aware that the official numbers of Britons living in Spain didn’t reflect the reality. He told them that if they were registered as residents; “what the withdrawal treaty does, once it is ratified by the British Parliament and the European Parliament, is to put the guarantees set out in that treaty, your current rights as citizens here will then be embodied in international law. There can be no firmer basis for the protection of your rights…enabling you and your families to continue to live here in the manner in which you have lived here hitherto”.
One of the matters the Ambassador raised speaking to the mayors and authorities earlier, including the Arona mayor, José Julian Mena, Adeje mayor José Miguel Rodríguez Fraga and councillors Carmen Rosa González Cabrera, Ermitas Moreira García and Zebenzui Chinea Linares (Adeje) and David Perez (Arona), was the right to vote in local elections. While it is one of the few rights not currently guaranteed under the withdrawal treaty the Ambassador said talks with Spanish authorities were on-going and they hoped that UK citizens in Spain would be able to continue to participate in local politics here both as voters and candidates.
The Adeje-based Focus group, representing foreign residents in the borough, has had a busy year with some new projects scheduled for 2018.
The Focus Group is an informal advisory group established to reflect the concerns and needs of the non-Spanish speaking international community living in Adeje, and to liaise with the council on matters of mutual interest and concern. It has evolved over the last two years with a working group of members from different nationalities coming together once a month to see how we can advance the integration of foreign national groups into the day to day life of Adeje and meets once a month.
The group’s working language is English, but it is not just for English people – instead it is for residents who have English as their primary language, or in the case of some, as their second language after their mother tongue. There are members from the UK, from Ireland, from the Ukraine, and are working to invite members from other countries.
During the year Focus organised or co-operated on a number of projects of interest to foreign residents in Adeje, including the first in a series of guided tours of historic parts of the borough of Adeje. Given the large number of British people in the borough there were also a number of Brexit-related events and public meetings.
At the end of 2017 the group moved the base for the meetings to the Adeje Escuela de Seguridad y Convivencia (the Adeje school for security and social harmony, based in Los Olivos), which is the council’s centre for many international cultural and social groups. And with cooperation from the school there are a number of new projects scheduled for 2018.
In 2018 the group hope to help in the plans for an international day for foreign residents. They are also inviting other cultural and social organisations to meet with them to discuss shared challenges and interests and examine the possibility of establishing an information centre for different nationalities based in Adeje working through different languages.