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Weekly Report

Business over Tapas (Nº 331)

Business over Tapas (Nº 331)

  • A digest of this week's Spanish financial, political and social news aimed primarily at Foreign Property Owners: Prepared by Lenox Napier. Consultant: José Antonio Sierra

jueves 19 de diciembre de 2019, 18:41h

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Editorial:

What is it going to be like for Spaniards living, studying and working in the UK following Brexit? They have safeguards from the government, including ‘settled status’, and while they might be used as an exchange coin by Westminster in negotiations with Brussels, and possibly the target of some racist treatment for the more excitable fringe of British society, they should be OK.

The corollary is clear – if they are going to be all right, then so will the Brits in Spain – despite going from green-police-letter ‘Community citizens’ (with limited voting rights) to TIE foreigners in the blink of an eye.

The Spaniards in the UK are treated poorly by Madrid (nothing new there) and thanks to paperwork issuers, only around 5.6% of them voted in the past Spanish elections. As we know to our cost, those who don’t vote do not capture the interest of politicians.

The Spanish Foreign Ministry deals with the paperwork for Spaniards abroad here.

How many Spaniards are living in the UK? As usual, no one can be sure (although the INE tries its best). We read at Wiki that ‘...the number of Spaniards enrolled in the Spanish consulate in the United Kingdom was 102,498 as of January 1, 2016. The INE estimates that there are about 240,000 Spaniards residing in the United Kingdom...’. Another link from the INE itself claims 139, 236 Spaniards as of January 1st 2019.

Apparently, while there are some in Wales and Scotland (and a bemused handful in Northern Ireland), the largest concentrations can be found in Kensington, Regent's Park and Chelsea, all in West London.

In a reaction to the Conservative victory in the UK elections, Pablo Casado from the PP said Pedro Sánchez could be sure that ‘...he has the full backing of the PP to ensure the government is as supportive as possible to the Spaniards living in the United Kingdom, and at the same time also to the British who have their permanent residence here...’.

Will Gibraltar change this sunny image? Casado again: ‘I want to make it very clear that any change in status that Gibraltar receives within the EU would only be granted with the express authorization of the Kingdom of Spain’.

Around fifteen thousand Spaniards work in Gibraltar (population 36,000).

Besides Gibraltar, another concern of Spain is Scotland. Would the Scots successfully secede from the UK in some future referendum? Well, fine and dandy, and they would be welcome to join (re-join) the EU, only... wouldn’t this encourage those pesky Catalonian independence-seekers? From a New York Times correspondent: ‘For Spain, an important outcome of the British election is the crushing nationalist victory in Scotland. Sturgeon is already calling for another independence referendum. No doubt the Catalan independence movement will welcome that’. A full article from El Independiente on Boris Johnson’s ‘two Catalonias’ winds up with ‘...Nicola Sturgeon said the convicted Catalonian politicians had been jailed "for trying to allow the Catalans to peacefully choose their own future."...’.

Thus, the future political relations between Spain and the UK will be forged in the small details of the inconsequentialities of nationals from the one living, working or studying in the other. Meanwhile, the doubt continues.

La Vanguardia considers the difference between an orderly and a hard Brexit for Spanish residents in the UK (we shall know which by the end of January). Either way supposes extra formalities.

Economic consequences for Spain following the Brexit are of more concern to the politicians than the social issues (wasn’t it ever thus?). From El Confidencial, we learn that the Spanish GNP will fall slightly as the UK is currently Spain’s largest export market.

El Correo talks to a Spanish driver on the London Underground, who is 57 and will return when she reaches retirement age to live in Spain. Aratxu is also a moderator on the Facebook page Españoles en Reino Unido - Surviving Brexit! (here). Unlike Britons moving to Spain for their twilight years, few Spaniards choose to retire in the UK (and even fewer, not to say ‘none’, will purposefully move there on retirement). ‘The future will be difficult’, she says, ‘there are many bilateral treaties left to negotiate between the UK and each European country and many of us fear that they will use us as hostages, that they will press Brussels using the Europeans that still reside here as bargaining chips’. Reading the Facebook page above, several members say they will ‘throw in the towel’ and will be returning to Spain. Apart from mixed-national couples and their rights (and their children’s status), they worry about pensions and the possibility of employment in Spain.

All in all, if the Spaniards (and of course, other EU citizens, they number in total 2,240,000) find that life in the UK becomes more difficult, then we would expect Madrid (and the other EU capitals), regardless of legislation from Brussels, to make life correspondingly harder for its British residents.

See Letters below.

Housing:

The majority opinion is that those ‘illegal homes’ in Andalucía (and elsewhere) need to be resolved. Here’s the ABC from Seville: ‘Why is the new regulation on irregular housing in Andalucía so necessary?’, asks the newspaper, adding: ‘The Andalusian Government ends years of legal and urban chaos’. Even the PSOE-A voted in favour of what we must not call an amnesty (but, is). From Madrid, the acting government says that it ‘...has started Constitutional Court proceedings against the Andalusian planning amnesty that offers relief to thousands of elderly property owners in the region...’. Spanish Property Insight looks at the issue here. The home-owners group SOHA from Eastern Málaga is ‘worried and angry’ over the news that Madrid could reverse the recent ruling in Seville.

Meanwhile, the town hall of Zurgena in Almería has thrown in the towel and has agreed to reimburse a handful of buyers of illegal homes, says the local daily, with a slow repayment to the (inevitably foreign buyers) to last a staggering twelve years – when the elderly retirees in question will likely be deceased!

From Wolf Street here, the issue of apartment blocks owned by vulture funds and the returns on their investments is explored. Rental reforms by the acting government are causing concern for the capitalists: ‘...The main reason for the shift away from residential property, according to the report, is the Spanish government’s recent reform of Spain’s renting laws, which includes a measure that extends the minimum duration of rental contracts from three years to five years for private landlords and to seven years if the landlord is a company. “The rental reform has affected everyone who invests in property,” said the president of ArmanexT (a company that advises property-based vulture funds, known as socimis). For institutional landlords like Blackstone and the different property funds it owns, the reform also makes it more difficult to evict the existing tenants of newly acquired properties as quickly as possible in order to jack up rental prices for the incoming tenants...’.

Tourism:

Concerns rise about over-tourism in the Albaicín neighbourhood in Granada. ‘Now no longer an opportunity, but instead it’s a threat’ says Ideal here.

Seniors:

El País looks at the world’s seniors, who can now enjoy longer lives, and the burdens and business opportunities that are appearing due to the increased numbers of elderly consumers, known as ‘The Silver Economy’. It says ‘Longer life can save the EU’s accounts. Consumption by the elderly will represent 32% of GDP and 38% of employment by the year 2025’.

Finance:

Who are the richest of them all, asks ElDiario.es here. ‘The problem we have when we talk about the rich is that we imagine them as a kind of misty group of yacht-owners, but we are unable to quantify a number next to them. To be clear, the INE says that there are some 80,000 people in Spain who earn more than €150,000 a year. Furthermore, another 600,000 people earn between 60,000 and 150,000 a year...’. Taxing the hell out of them, says the article, will not do much good for the economy. The answer lies elsewhere...

From Kaos en la Red here: ‘José María Aznar Botella, the son of the former president and his wife, the former mayor of Madrid, is the director in Spain of Cerberus, an American “vulture fund” that, during the crisis, sought to take over the homes of those who had been evicted by the banks, thus entering into the Spanish real estate market. In addition, when his mother Ana Botella was the mayor, his fund moved on from merely acquiring public housing, when a year ago it created Siroco, a real estate services firm designed to control property management. Now, the vulture fund of Aznar Jr. owns homes bought from BBVA, Banco Santander, Banco Sabadell and Bankia, managing real estate assets valued at a total of 40,000 million euros...’.

Which brings us to: ‘Sánchez and Iglesias have agreed to 'get a hand' on the sicavs (mutual funds designed to lower taxes for majority shareholders) and the wealthy are beginning to react to this threat. As the two leaders agree to increase control over these societies, more than thirty of them have either closed, or converted into regular societies or have reduced their capital.

Politics:

Why Pedro Sánchez needs an agreement with Catalan separatists. To form a stable government, he needs stability in Spain’s most restive region’. The Economist looks at what might come next (and explains why the panic may be overdone).

Pablo Casado says that "Facilitating the PSOE Government with Podemos would be suicide for the PP". The conservative leader and the acting president met for just 40 minutes on Monday as part of Sánchez’ rounds will all the parties in the Cortes (except Vox) for the first time after the 10-N elections. El País has the story here.

Catalonia:

A Russian interview with Carles Puigdemont airs on hacked Spanish TV. The Public-run +24 Channel showed RT feature with the exiled Catalan separatist leader’. Somehow, the interview went out, complete. The State TV bosses are scratching their heads. Item comes from The Guardian here.

Gibraltar:

As part of Pablo Casado’s reaction towards the Boris Johnson victory (‘...Congratulations to Johnson for the "overwhelming majority that British voters have given him," although he also shared a "certain regret to see that there was no turning back from the bad news for both Spain and the EU that is Brexit"...’). On Gibraltar, he reminds Sánchez that ‘...He makes it very clear that any change in status that Gibraltar has within the EU would follow the express authorization of the Kingdom of Spain...’. ABC has the story here.

The Gibraltar Government takes Spain's far-right Vox Party to court for inciting hatred’. The story comes from the Voice of America here.

As Antena3 reminds us, the Spanish workers on The Rock are concerned about their future.

Corruption:

From Kaos en la Red here. The number of pardons for corruption cases is counted, by president. Aznar pardoned 141 people, between politicians and certain other ‘preferentials’, Zapatero scored 65 and Rajoy was content with just 11. The article states bitterly that ‘...by employing pardons, the political class therefore comes to "repair where the law has failed." This need not happen very often (it adds), since the Judiciary generally treats politicians and businessmen involved in corruption schemes with "silk gloves"...’.

Brexit:

Someone sent us this (with permission): ‘English turkeys vote for Christmas with 'Brexit election'’. It says (and who can disagree?) that ‘...Boris Johnson’s big victory in Thursday’s “Brexit election” was achieved almost entirely with English votes. Only 20 of the 364 seats won by the Conservative Party were in the other three nations of the United Kingdom. The United Kingdom will continue to be called that for several years, but this election has sounded its death knell. It was the votes of English nationalists who gave Johnson his victory, and they don’t really care if the UK survives. Just as well, because it won’t...’.

Another opinion piece, this time from Sue Wilson from Bremain in Spain, comes via the Facebook page of Spectrum FM Costa Almeria here. ‘...The emotions of Brits in Spain are reminiscent of how we felt on the morning of June 24th 2016. A combination of anger, incredulity, sadness and hopelessness may last awhile. A question from many of us is: “Where does that leave us now?”...’.

The Spanish Government website La Moncloa has a full section (in English) on Brexit called ‘How to Get Ready’ here. What will happen both ‘With an Agreement’ and ‘Without an Agreement’.

The history of the ignominious ‘fifteen-year-rule’ is at Europe Street News here.

Ecology:

The COP25 didn’t end well (and neither will we, but that’s another story). Público says: ‘The culprits of the failure of the negotiations at the Climate Summit. Giants like the US, China, Russia, India, Brazil, Saudi Arabia and Japan together dynamited the understanding at COP25. They put obstacles to agree to reduce emissions and also did not allow the creation of a common carbon market. The EU on the other hand insisted on a greater effort against Global Warming’. Truthout says ‘The COP25 United Nations climate summit ended in failure Sunday, after negotiators failed to agree to a deal that would limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels — a key goal of the Paris Agreement. Scores of civil society groups condemned governments in the European Union, Australia, Canada and the U.S. for a deal that requires far less action than needed to avert catastrophic climate change...’.

An item from the RTVE says that ‘The protection of the Mediterranean has also had its share of prominence at the Climate Summit (COP25). The sea that bathes more than 2,600 kilometres of the Spanish coast is very vulnerable to climate change, and suffers from serious threats such as pollution and overfishing...’. Marine biologist Enric Sala, featured in the article, turns to the Mar Menor: "The Mar Menor is the horror movie of the future of the Mediterranean. Worst of all, the lagoon is only now considered as an emergency, when the alarm has been sounding for more than 50 years" he says.

La Verdad from Murcia reports on an initiative from Vox to open up dykes to allow sea-water to flow into the stricken Mar Menor. The newspaper says ‘...After denouncing the "uselessness" of climate summits such as the one recently held in Madrid, the party spokesperson Iván Espinosa de los Monteros said that Vox opted for a "sensible and realistic environmental conservation plan that does not criminalize humans." Later: the Vox proposal does not sit well with biologists ‘It would be a disaster’ they say... Ah well, back to the drawing board...

From Euronews: ‘How irresponsible agriculture has poisoned Spain's water resources’ (with video) here. It begins. ‘Almost half of Spain's groundwater reserves are polluted, according to the Ministry of Ecological Transition. Also known as aquifers, the polluted reserves are a pressing problem that affects the drinking water supply of towns and cities. Aquifers are essential for the water supply of local populations in Spain. They are natural reserves that feed rivers and collect rainwater that can be used in times of scarcity...’.

Various:

How would the Spanish parliament look if they used the British First Past the Post system? It would be very red is the answer! See here.

While the Christmas lights brightness-prize must go to Vigo for its enormous wattage, the city of Valladolid appears to be the most tastefully illuminated, says La Vanguardia here. Some nice pictures illuminate the article.

El Mundo has a firewall article on how gays were treated by the Nationalists. ‘This is how Franco handled the gays: torture and rotten food in a concentration camp in the Canaries. From 1954 to 1966 dozens of Canarian homosexuals were detained in the concentration camp of Fuerteventura, after measuring their 'sphincter dilatation' and condemning them as "perverted"...’. This shameful chapter is treated in some detail at Wiki here.

Several Costa del Sol towns are urging foreign residents to get onto the town registry, the padrón. El País explains here.

If Spanish football clubs can only have three players from outside the EU, what of the Welsh player for Real Madrid Gareth Bale? For those who care, here’s AS.

The wasted aeroplanes. There are no less than seventy one airliners abandoned in Spanish airports, says El País here. Their owners have simply abandoned them.

El Cierre Digital takes a look at Felipe Gonzalez’ possessions here. He seems to have made himself comfortable over the years.

Society is worried about its ludópatas, its gamblers. One-armed bandits, slot machines, tragaperras, online gambling and so on are, of course, fixed towards the operator. One fellow interviewed in Las Provincias spent 80,000€ on bets in the last three years...

Autarquía: the Spanish electric truck company. Some nice photos of the company’s products – lorries, buses and vans. The company operated between 1940 and 1948, sad to say – no examples have survived to the present time.

Federico García Lorca’s poem ‘The Rider’s Song’ explained in this interesting post at History Arch.

There’s a touch of Spanish history here, as we read of the grandson of Irish immigrants and hero General Luis Roberto de Lacy. One story has it that he was honoured to lead the firing squad at his own execution.

See Spain:

From The Olive Press here: ‘We rank the five best towns to visit along Spain’s Costa del Sol’. It says: ‘From the fantastic food and (almost) non-stop gorgeous weather, to the beautiful beaches and ample shopping opportunities, it’s obvious why Brits and Europeans have been flocking there for decades’.

A lush article from Dan Flying Solo here: ‘Things to do in Cuenca, Spain: a hidden gem full of treasures’.

Letters:

Brexit approval

In the last three years it has become ever-increasingly obvious that leaving was absolutely the right course of action for Britain. But it was obvious also, and since 15 years ago, to the unelected, inadequate officers of the EU - that the UK would leave and yet, to their shame, the EU did nothing to stop it. Their behaviour, during the post-referendum period, has been unhelpful if not antagonistic and dictatorial.

Shameful it has been as our departure should never have been allowed to happen but as long as they refused to allow any democratic reform, and obsessively continued their struggle towards federalism, they left us no choice but to regain our sovereignty and protect our democracy.

John

BoT editorial: Spaniards in the UK

I was thinking that the majority of Spaniards in the UK are not registered at the consulate for many reasons, one of the main ones until recently was that the right to public health was lost in Spain, so many had opted to remain registered in Spain. Marea Granate (a group that fights to stop the economic necessity of emigration here) has been working on this for many years. Then, if you look at the areas where there are more registered people, you’ll see that they are all geographically (‘West London’) close to the consulate. And, of course, many people do not know that they can register by email, etc.

Finally, I’d just point out that the low percentage of participation of those who live here in the UK in the elections in Spain is the direct result of the so-called stolen vote (voto rogado). The process they implemented to vote in Spain is totally kafkian and ineffective. Much has been written about the attempts to change the process, and Marea Granate has been trying to change the system for a while now.

La Macoco

After Thursday's disappointment, we have decided little by little to return to Spain. Obviously with two small children we need a strong contingency plan, and until we have everything solved we will stay here in the UK.

Debra

What does the draft Withdrawal Agreement mean for us?

This particular article is by Brits in France. However when the WA goes through this will apply to all Brits in the EU-27. A small crumb of comfort but it's all we have left now. Plus we are luckier than most in Spain as we can still vote in municipal elections. It says: "You've almost certainly read about the possibility of a second cliff edge if the government fails to negotiate a future relationship/trade deal by the 31 December 2020 and there's no extension to the transition agreement. This is often referred to in the media as a second no deal point. If this should happen, the UK would automatically default to trading on WTO terms. However - and this is important - the Withdrawal Agreement would remain in place as an international treaty and the rights that it includes for us would remain covered. They cannot be removed even in the absence of a trade agreement. Once the Withdrawal Agreement is in force, we will be covered by it for our lifetimes whatever happens with future negotiations."

Alastair

If there is a Deal and that looks very much on the cards, there will be no need for those bilateral treaties. I would mention that the Citizens’ Chapter of the Withdrawal Agreement, while far from satisfactory, does give both Spaniards in the UK and Britons in Spain the protection of an international treaty. I think it’s important to point that out for people, many of whom are very worried about their future in both countries.

Michael

Finally:

Christmas songs – villancicos – are piped through the loudspeakers of many small town plazas, in the shops, on the radio and even in some advertisements. They are often performed by children. From Paradores comes (in English), in a rather sugary version of the above, ‘The Top 10 Spanish Christmas Carols’ here. Here’s one on YouTubepeces en el rio. For something with much more soul, try the Gloria from Misa Flamenca here.

Business over Tapas will return on January 9th 2020.

Feliz Navidad y Próspero Año Nuevo.

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