Institutional statement on Brexit by the acting President of the Government

President's News - 2016.6.24

Moncloa Palace, Madrid

Complete text of the institutional statement:

"Ladies and gentlemen, good morning and thank you very much for your presence on this occasion.

I am going to read a statement from the Government of Spain.

Good morning, the British Government has just announced the results of the public referendum regarding whether or not the United Kingdom should remain in the European Union.

The Government of Spain is saddened to hear the result in favour of a departure by the United Kingdom from the European Union. The British Government must now decide how, and when if pertinent, to officially notify the European Council of the decision by the United Kingdom to leave the European Union. Only from that moment will the procedure provided for in Article 50 of the Treaty of the European Union governing the voluntary departure of a Member State be triggered.

The first reaction I would like to convey regarding this decision is one of peace and calm. Although this is the first time that a Member State has decided to leave the European Union, the European Treaties provide for a negotiated and ordered departure procedure.

In all likelihood, this procedure will last at least two years from the official notification and, in the meantime - and I want to particularly stress this - the legal status of relations between the European Union and the United Kingdom will not change in any way whatsoever. In other words, the Treaties of the European Union, the entire EU legal system, the freedom of circulation for workers, goods, services and capital, the rights of European citizens and, in general, all aspects of relations between the United Kingdom and the other members of the European Union and its institutions currently remain in full effect.

For that reason, I would like to send this message of peace and calm to all Spanish citizens and especially those who may feel particularly affected by this British decision because they reside in the United Kingdom or have ties with the country.

All rights stemming from their condition as Spanish, and therefore European, citizens remain, and will continue to remain, in full effect with no restrictions whatsoever until such time as the negotiated departure by the United Kingdom from the European Union is completed in accordance with the European Treaties. In other words, the rights of Spanish citizens with regard to the United Kingdom remain unchanged. Their rights of free movement to work, pay national insurance and receive pensions. To invest, to vote or be elected, where appropriate, in the local elections held wherever they reside, will not be affected whatsoever; at least, foreseeably, for the next two years.

The same can be said for the rights of British citizens residing and working in Spain or indeed anywhere else in the European Union.

My message of peace and calm is also aimed at companies and economic operators. The freedoms of incorporation, service provision, employee hiring, investment, export or import of goods remain in full effect.

And, finally, regarding the Spanish citizens working in Gibraltar, their rights remain exactly the same as before and they can continue to work, pay national insurance and move to and fro between Spain and this territory with absolute normality.

The Government of Spain has held inter-ministerial coordination meetings in recent weeks to prepare for this outcome. Instructions have been issued to our diplomatic and consular representatives in the United Kingdom for them to inform and assist the Spanish citizens residing in the United Kingdom regarding any questions they may have in relation to the consequences of this decision; although, I insist, their rights and legal situation have not changed whatsoever. Meetings have also been held with the main Spanish companies operating in the United Kingdom. The Government of Spain is also in permanent contact with its European partners and institutions, and is prepared for any eventuality.

I would also like to send a message of peace and calm to the markets. Fortunately, Spain now has an economy built on sound foundations. The current situation of economic growth and job creation, the balance of foreign trade accounts, the fact that Spain already has a large part of its financing requirements covered and a well-organised financial system will allow us to withstand any financial turbulence that may occur from a solid standpoint.

An external contingency such as this, were it to have occurred only a few years ago, could have led Spain into bankruptcy or a bail-out. That is not the case today.

At this time, it is particularly important to convey a message of institutional and economic stability. Now is not the time to feed or inflate uncertainties. On Tuesday and Wednesday next week, the European Council will meet as planned. Before attending that meeting, I will contact the leaders of the main political forces in Spain to hear their opinion and their criteria, and to provide them with the information I have at the time of those conversations.

This meeting, the European Council meeting, will be the time to hear the plans proposed by the British Prime Minister and, based on that, debate and decide the next steps to be taken.

When the negotiation process is eventually set in motion, the Government of Spain will need to defend two fundamental interests: those of Spanish citizens as a whole and those of the European Union.

As you know, the people of Spain have an extremely important date with the ballot boxes next Sunday. Whatever the result, I believe I will represent the sentiment of the vast majority of Spaniards by defending Spain's commitment to the European integration process, the importance of stability and integrity in the Eurozone, the continued process of reform for our economic and monetary union, and greater economic and political integration.

Moreover, this result should make every Member State of the European Union reflect on how best to increase our efforts more than ever to regain the founding spirit of the European integration project and recover the interest, affection and attraction felt towards it by our citizens.

Now that we are finally emerging from the crisis, we should bring European Union actions more into line with the needs of its citizens; in particular, placing full focus on growth and employment as a way to guarantee and improve the Welfare State, which is one of the basic fundamentals of the European economic and social model, and undoubtedly the aspect that has provided the most security and well-being to European citizens at any time in history.

I firmly believe that Spain should remain at the cutting edge of European integration and that this is the general sentiment felt by all Spaniards.

With its progress and setbacks, the European Union continues to be the most historically important project since the end of the Second World War. In little more than half a century, the people of Europe have built the largest space of peace, freedom and prosperity that has ever existed in the history of humanity and, in spite of some serious setbacks such as that which we face today, no-one should doubt that we will continue working on building our tomorrow.

Thank you all very much for attending. Thank you".