The British Ambassador to Spain, Simon Manley, is on a whistle stop tour of The Canary Islands this week as part of a UK foreign office effort to allay fears and shore up support for the “Brexit” deal announced on Sunday, which has yet to gain the approval of the British parliament.  He will be in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria tomorrow to speak to business leaders about the current implications of the deal.

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Yesterday, in Tenerife he lauded the documents negotiated with the EU 27 as “a milestone” that guarantees “an orderly exit” that will protect both the rights of the British residing on the continent and those of EU citizens living on British soil.

“Neither the United Kingdom nor the European Union wants an exit without an agreement, but we are both working to ensure we have contingency plans” in the event that the British Parliament does not ratify the commitment on December 11″, Manley is reported to have said in a conversation with the gathered Canarian businessmen, a meeting at which Gibraltar was apparently not once mentioned.

The ambassador, who met with the president of the Canary Islands, Fernando Clavijo, began his four-day visit to report on the possible effects of “brexit”, during which he will visit five of the Canary Islands, which as a whole receive around five million British tourists a year. More than 25,000 Brits are known to live in the Canary Islands and there are many agricultural product exports to the UK, such as cucumbers and tomatoes, so continued good relations with the United Kingdom are seen as a priority.

“We leave the European Union, not Europe,” said Manley “we will always be a European country” with deep ties to our neighbours “that we want to preserve”. He added that the concern that exists regarding “brexit” makes last weekend’s agreement “decisive”, as there is also no alternative other than an exit without agreement, which would be harmful to all.

The exit agreement covers the transitional period, which runs from March 29, 2019, when the United Kingdom leaves the EU officially, until December 31, 2020, and a “political declaration” was also agreed, which “is not a legal document”, but instead a statement of intentions on future relations after that transition, he explained.

Three million EU community members live on British soil, including 200,000 Spaniards, and one million citizens from the United Kingdom reside in the EU, 300,000 of them in Spain with more than 25,000 properly registered as living in the Canary Islands archipelago, hence the importance of an orderly exit that guarantees the rights of all, he emphasised.

During the transitional period, the “acquis communautaire”, that is to say all of the currently existing EU laws, will be maintained in the United Kingdom and the Customs Union, and during that period the details of the future relationship will be negotiated based on whatever political agreement is reached.  This future relationship points to the creation of a free trade zone for goods and the keeping of close relations for services that, among other things, guarantee tourist flows, without the need for visas, and maintain air transport without additional costs for airlines, all of which mean “It’s good news for the Canary Islands.”

Nor will there be changes in the situation of Spanish students or researchers in the United Kingdom, since the UK is always interested in attracting “the best talent”.

In other sectors there will not be the same level of access, as in the financial sector, but “there is a will to protect investments, capital flows and stability,” the ambassador stressed. “The details will be defined in the negotiations, and will take time” they will be agreed with the United Kingdom outside the Union, but the will is to reach “an ambitious agreement that benefits the companies of both parties”, said Manley to Canarian businessmen.

“We want [the Canaries] to continue exporting their vegetables and that the British can travel to the Canary Islands without restrictions,” he said.

In answer to questions from the Tenerifian businessmen, the ambassador made it clear that he understands the disappointment and sadness expressed by many Europeans, but neither his Government nor the opposition in the United Kingdom is considering a new consultation to reconsider “brexit”. That is why there is to be no alternative to last weekend’s agreement as all parties want to avoid an exit without an agreement.

The president of the Canary Islands, Fernando Clavijo, said that the Ultraperipheral Regions (RUP) of the European Union “should seek their own relationship with the United Kingdom” once Brexit “has been completed.” Clavijo applauded the progress with the exit agreement ratified last weekend by the Commission and the EU27 partners, but expressed his government’s “preoccupation with how relations between the Canary Islands and Great Britain will be” once the transitory period established by the document ends on December 31, 2020.

Clavijo reflected that “the special characteristics of the Ultraperipheral Regions, explicitly recognised by the EU community legislation, amply justify the articulation of a specific area of ​​relationship” with the United Kingdom.

In his speech, Simón J. Manley recalled “the deep historical roots of relations between the United Kingdom and the Canary Islands” and singled out “the negotiating effort over recent months to ensure that the mutual interests shared by the British and Spanish achieved a step as important as the text approved last weekend.” Ambassador Manley expressed optimism telling the gathered businessmen and politicians of the Regional Government “I am convinced that the rights of Spaniards living in Britain and of the British living in Spain will be respected” and that economic relations, including tourism, transportation and the movement of people “will find a channel that will not harm either one nor the other.”

Simon Manley explained that “Canary Islands has had a special relationship with the United Kingdom for a long time. Over the centuries,” he added, “many Britons, including merchants, artists and writers, have made the Canary Islands their home. ”

“Last year” the ambassador added “the trade in goods between the United Kingdom and the archipelago exceeded 200 million euros. In 2017, more than five million British tourists spent their holidays here. We want to preserve and improve that for the future”

Some Key Figures:

3.7 million tourists from the United Kingdom: This year to date, the Canary Islands have received a total of 3.7 million visitors from the United Kingdom. With recent annual arrivals reaching nearly six million with an expenditure in excess of 5 billion euros a year

– 25,271 British residents on the Canary Islands: On the Islands, a total of 25,271 people born in the United Kingdom are registered, and until their departure from the EU they have the right to vote in the municipal elections.

– 4.955 Canarians in the United Kingdom: According to the last census in the United Kingdom, a total of 4,955 canary islanders currently reside in the UK, for which the British Government guarantees the same rights as before.

This is likely to be one of Simon Manley’s last official visits to The Canary Islands as ambassador as it was announced earlier this month that he will be stepping down next summer.  He is to be replaced by Mr Hugh Elliot, who has worked at the British government’s Department for Exiting the European Union, will take over from Simon Manley next year.

Elliot has previously worked for the Foreign Office in its Europe and Communications departments. He has also worked in Paris, Buenos Aires and for the Anglo American mining company.  We believe this will be his first ambassadorial role.

Manley has served as Britain’s ambassador to Spain since October 2013. He joined the Foreign Office in 1990 and acted as an envoy for Britain at the United Nations from 1993 to 1998 and worked on Yugoslavia’s breakup.  He was also posted to the Council of the EU from 1998 to 2002 and the European Commission in 2003 after which he headed up the British Counter Terrorism task force.  He is a fan of James Bond.

Mr Hugh Elliott has been appointed Her Majesty's Ambassador to Spain and Non-Resident Ambassador to Andorra. 
Mr Hugh Elliott has been appointed Her Majesty’s Ambassador to Spain and Non-Resident Ambassador to Andorra.

Mr Hugh Elliott has been appointed Her Majesty’s Ambassador to Spain and Non-Resident Ambassador to Andorra in succession to Mr Simon Manley CMG. Mr Elliott will take up his appointment during summer 2019.


2018 to present Department for Exiting the European Union, Director of Communication and Stakeholders
2017 to 2018 FCO, Director, International Agreements
2017 FCO, Director, Europe
2013 to 2017 FCO, Director of Communication
2006 to 2013 Global Head of Government Relations, previously International Relations Manager, Anglo American plc
2002 to 2006 Paris, Counsellor, Global Issues/Strategic Threats
1999 to 2002 Buenos Aires, Head of Economic, Political and Public Affairs
1998 to 1999 FCO, Deputy Head, Drugs and International Crime Directorate
1996 to 1998 FCO, Deputy Head then Head, Amsterdam Treaty Unit, EU Directorate
1991 to 1996 Madrid, Third then Second Secretary, EU/Economic
1989 to 1991 FCO, Assistant Desk Officer, East Africa Department

The Canary Guide