Brexit Update: Spanish Contingency Plan

Brexit Update: Spain’s Unilateral Contingency Plans in the Event of a NO DEAL

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Latest News: New Royal Decree-Law, by which contingency measures are adopted in the event of the withdrawal of the UK from the EU without a deal.

On 1 March 2019, a new Royal Decree-Law has been approved, by which contingency measures are adopted to adapt the Spanish legal system in the event of the withdrawal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland from the European Union, without the agreement established in Article 50.

The contingency plans cover the following: Employment, Social Security and pensions, healthcare, transport, access and rights of professionals and their employment, public contracts, higher education, qualifications, grants and doctorates, customs, police and legal co-operation, financial services, authorisations and licences, airport services, science, innovation, economy and business, and arms and weapons.

The plans focus on two main objectives:

  • Maintain citizens’ interests (Spanish and British) who have exercised their right to freedom of movement before the exit date from the EU.
  • To continue the flow of commercial and economic development.

Please remember that the measures are temporary, aimed at facilitating the transition to the new situation of the UK becoming a third nation, and its validity is yet unknown.

The key points of particular interest are:

  • Residency.
  • Employees and cross-border workers.
  • Professionals rights.
  • Social Security.
  • Healthcare.
  • Driving licences.


Those who have not been able to obtain their ‘residencia’ prior to the date will be considered legal until the final solution has been announced. Before 31 December 2020, UK nationals and their family members must apply for a Tarjeta de Identidad Extranjero (TIE), in English known as a Residence Card for Foreigners, in order to accredit their legal residency status in Spain.

After the UK’s exit from the EU, UK nationals will become third country nationals, which is why the application is essential and must be completed within 21 months after the exit date.

Cross-border workers

The process for issuing work permits to UK nationals will comply with the conditions for cross-border workers in Spain. Provided that there is a reciprocal treatment for Spanish nationals in the UK, guaranteeing also the continuity of working, especially in Gibraltar.

Professional rights

These rights will continue in Spain when having obtained the professional qualifications/training in the UK, without having to return for further re-examination/training, provided that the professional qualification was completed prior to the entry into force of this Royal Decree-Law or within the following five years.

Social Security

The rights of workers/pensioners which are covered by British and Spanish Social Security will be protected until a determined period. However, this will only apply until an international agreement is signed by the EU/UK or bilaterally between the UK/Spain.




Spain will provide the same conditions as so far, considering the UK guarantees the same within two months of this Royal Decree-Law. Therefore, workers, pensioners, tourists and students who are covered by the NHS will remain covered, unless alternative agreements are signed. Likewise, healthcare for UK nationals’ in Spain and temporary visitors will continue to be valid, but treatments will be paid for by the UK.

Driving licences

British driving licences will be recognised for nine months only, from the date the UK exits the EU. During this period, you will be required to exchange your UK licence to a Spanish one. Once nine months have passed, third country rules apply, and the simple exchange won’t be possible until a bilateral agreement is signed.

For more information, keep checking Expats Magazine for updates.

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