Britons living in Spain will not have their lives “disrupted” after Brexit – even if there is no UK-EU deal, the Spanish foreign minister says.
The two sides are yet to reach an agreement about how the rights of expats will be protected after Brexit.
Theresa May has called for “urgency” from the EU side in finding a solution.
And speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, Alfonso Dastis sought to reassure more than 300,000 Britons living in Spain.
“I do hope that there will be a deal,” the minister said.
“If there is no deal we will make sure that the lives of ordinary people who are in Spain, the UK people, is not disrupted.
“As you know, the relationship between the UK and Spain is a very close one in terms of economic relations and also social exchanges.
“Over 17 million Brits come to Spain every year and many of them live here or retire here and we want to keep it that way as much as possible.”
According to the Office for National Statistics, Spain is host to the largest number of British citizens living in the EU (308,805), and just over a third (101,045) are aged 65 and over.
Citizens’ rights are one of the first subjects being negotiated in the first round of Brexit talks – which have moved so slowly there has been increased talk of no deal at all being reached between the two sides.
The role of the European Court of Justice in guaranteeing the rights of EU nationals in the UK has been a sticking point. The EU argues this must continue, but ministers say the EU court will no longer have jurisdiction in the UK after Brexit.
Ahead of last week’s Brussels summit, Mrs May said the two sides were “in touching distance” of finding an agreement.
On Monday she is expected to tell MPs she will “put people first” in the “complicated and deeply technical” negotiations.