Spanish prime minister Pedro Sanchez said the rights of the 300,000 British people living in Spain would be secured even in the case of a no deal Brexit as long as the same was offered to Spanish people in the United Kingdom.
Speaking at the traditional end-of-year news conference, he told reporters: "I want to convey a message of calm for the Spaniards who live in the United Kingdom and also the British who reside in Spain.We will preserve your rights whatever the scenario."
The government is working on measures to ensure Spain-based Britons would keep their rights even if Britain crashed out of the EU without a deal on March 29. Measures are, however, conditional on the roughly 100,000 Spaniards getting the same treatment in Britain, he added.
“I want to convey a message of calm for the Spaniards who live in the United Kingdom and also the British who reside in Spain. We will preserve your rights whatever the scenario.”
By February, he said, a law will have been drawn up which covers citizens' rights as well as plans to continue with bilateral commercial relations between the two countries.
Spain is the most popular European retirement destination for Britons and official figures suggest it is home to about 300,000 British citizens, most of whom are settled on the coast. However, unofficial figures suggest the actual numbers of British residents in Spain are topping 750,000.
Among foreign nationals, they are the biggest users of Spain's state-funded, universal health care system.
The more-than-welcome news comes as senior British politicians from both sides of the chamber are planning an attempt to delay Brexit for some months as a strategy to end the chance of a no-deal exit should the British Prime Minister be unable to get her negotiated deal approved by the House of Commons.
Cross-party talks aimed at extending the March 29 date have been ongoing for months.