Rajoy Sets Up Brexit Task Force to Protect Spaniards in U.K.

(Bloomberg) -- Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy is setting up a task force in London to help Spanish nationals living in the U.K. deal with the effects of Brexit.

Spain is creating at least 13 new posts at its embassy in London and its consulate in Edinburgh to focus on Brexit-related issues, the government in Madrid said in a written answer to Socialist Senator Ander Gil. Diplomats have already had meetings with Spanish pressure group “Surviving Brexit” to assess its nationals’ concerns, according to the document.

“The requests for support are growing,” the government said. “The current resources aren’t sufficient to deal with those tasks.”

The Spanish government is expanding its headcount in the U.K. after European Union leaders decided that the rights of their citizens in the U.K. and the bill for leaving the bloc should be the first two topics for discussion in the Brexit negotiations.

“We will follow the government’s implementation of these plans very closely,” Gil said by text message. “We had requested a quick response to the uncertainty Brexit has created for Spanish residents and companies with activities in the U.K.”

There are at least 132,000 Spanish residents in the U.K., according to the British Office for National Statistics, though the real number may be significantly higher as registering as an overseas resident can make it complicated to access health care or vote back in Spain.

Two of the new staff will be in charge of running the task force and coordinating with other areas of the Spanish representation, while seven will provide back up at consulates in London and Edinburgh. Another two will manage communication on social networks and a website dedicated to Brexit issues. Spain will also add embassy staff dealing with education, labor and transport issues, the government said.

“Spain wants to find a solution as soon as possible to clarify the future rights of European citizens living in the U.K. and of Britons living in the EU,” Foreign Affairs Minister Alfonso Dastis told a parliamentary committee in March. “We want to keep those rights as extensive and as generous as possible.”