How is Catalonia handling Brexit?
What does UK leaving EU mean for Catalan businesses and Brits living in Catalonia?
Brexit is finally happening. After a referendum, 3 prime ministers and 2 general elections the UK is finally leaving the EU. But what does that mean in Catalonia, for businesses, and for Brits living here?
Although January 31st is the official Brexit date, there’s a transition period until the end of this year, so you won’t notice many changes at first. But if you are one of the almost 20,000 British nationals living in Catalonia with questions about Brexit, where can you go?
Brits in Catalonia
Barcelona City Council has set up a Punt Brexit, or Brexit Information Point. Here they aim to provide people and businesses with face-to-face practical information, and help with any doubts or queries.
Judith Romera, Head of In-City Promotion at Barcelona City Council explained: "Most of the questions are regarding residency, so we inform them of the kind of documents or the procedures they have to have in order to guarantee all their rights, and stay here in Barcelona."
The British Consulate can also provide information and support to British citizens across Catalonia.
Looking at trade, the UK is Catalonia’s fifth largest partner, exporting 4 billion euros worth and importing 3 billion euros worth of goods every year. Vehicle components and chemical products move both ways in this intertwined trading relationship, with Catalonia also exporting large amounts of food products to the UK. In total, 5.5% of exports from Catalonia go to the UK, or 1.6% of Catalan GDP.
The Catalan government’s trade agency, ACCIÓ, is helping businesses plan for Brexit; putting on seminars, advising on possible Brexit scenarios, and encouraging companies to performing a diagnosis of how Brexit will affect their business.
ACCIÓ’s Director of Internationalization Cristina Serradell explained that they’re putting particular emphasis on supporting those businesses who have a presence in the UK market but currently don’t export outside of the EU.
On the impact of Brexit she said: "We think that in the short term it will have more negative effects than positive because companies will need to adapt."
Serradell explained one possible advantage of Brexit for companies in Catalonia: "In the medium term, in places in the EU where Catalan companies were competing with British companies, maybe now they'll have an advantage."
Catalan Government planning
The Catalan government is also making preparations. The ministry of foreign affairs has set up a working group with three aims: to keep citizens informed; to strengthen relationships with key actors including the UK government; and to explore new opportunities that Brexit may present.
But the government is also wary of the potential costs of Brexit. They’ve released a report looking at the impact on Catalonia if there is no agreement at the end of transition period. It found that a such a no-deal Brexit could cost Catalonia up to 2 billion euros over 5 years.
Mireia Borrell, Secretary of Foreign Affairs gave some examples: "There are costs related to the loss of research partners. Catalonia's main research partners come from universities in the UK. There would be a cost in terms of tourism, and of course there would be a cost in terms of exports, in the sense that, for example, our wine is very well regarded in the UK."
So while some may be raising a glass of Catalan cava – or even English sparkling wine – to celebrate the UK’s departure from the EU, until there’s an agreement on their future relationship, a lot of uncertainty remains.