Hugh Elliott also acts as a diplomat on social networks, because with British humor he breaks stereotypes and builds ties between the United Kingdom and Spain, a country with which he fell in love “many years ago”. Some of their stories have gone viral. In Salamanca he was a language teacher and met his wife, a Spanish woman with whom he has two children. In 1989 he began his diplomatic career. He held positions in Paris and Buenos Aires and was stationed in the 1990s at the British Embassy in Spain, where, since 2019, he has held the position of ambassador, which he came to after being director of communication at the Ministry for Brexit.
–Before starting his diplomatic career, he was a tour guide in Andalusia.
-That’s how it is. I worked for an American company with students from 16 to 18 years old. For many it was their first trip to Europe, I was in Seville at Easter and they freaked out…
-The doors of Spain are already open to receive British tourists.
-We all want the same thing: that they come back soon.
–But the traffic light in the United Kingdom is still amber. Imagine that I am a British citizen and I ask you what to do. what would you tell me
– Be patient, the time will come. In a normal year, three million Britons arrive in Andalusia. They are very important numbers. And a glance at the British press shows that they are eager to travel. And, despite being in amber, there are British who arrive. It is not what we advise, but we are confirming that those who have second homes here are beginning to travel.
–Will they arrive en masse this summer
We are seeing a lot of progress in both countries. More than 70% of the adult population has already received a dose of the vaccine in the UK. What we do not want is to open to close. We learned last year that this is the worst, that expectations are created both for companies and for people who then have to cancel and that is more costly and difficult and also more dangerous. We are going cautiously and positively.
–Is the British government going to accept what some communities such as the island communities or Valencia have proposed to open up territories
-The two archipelagos have requested it for a long time and we are looking at it, considering their geographical situation and the fact that they have direct flights with the United Kingdom and a decision will be made in the coming weeks. For the peninsula it is more complicated due to the great movement that exists. It is true that Valencia has very good figures today, but we have already learned that this may change tomorrow.
–Perhaps everything is also complicated by the lack of clear information.
-This is being very difficult for everyone. I believe that governments are trying to provide clear and effective information to help citizens make decisions that are personal and often complicated as well. And surely confusion has been generated. It is unavoidable. There is no movement without some risk… We are all data experts now.
–And in the midst of all these changes, Brexit, which also generates concern among the Spanish and Europeans who are now in the United Kingdom, who fear for their future.
-It is true and that concern is normal. But you should know that citizens residing in the United Kingdom have all their rights protected by the first agreement that we signed and that came into force on January 31, 2020. More than 300,000 Spanish residents in London have already been granted the status that guarantees the protection of their rights and the same is happening in Spain. We have had to give a lot of information about this, it is our job, but it really is a very easy procedure that can be done in five minutes with a mobile phone.
–Brexit has been a long process and perhaps misunderstood
–It is a change after several decades as members of the European Union, operating under a European regulatory framework. That now changes. Both individuals and companies have to adjust the way they do things: some will have to apply for a visa to go to work or follow another procedure to export. But there has been more fear than anything else and we work to make the ties as close and fluid as possible.
–Can Brexit also be an opportunity
The Andalusian government is trying to attract British investment.
-British investments rose last year in Spain. Although the flows vary from year to year, we are the largest European investor in Spain. And those opportunities keep coming even though we are no longer in the EU. Geographically, we have not moved and in the United Kingdom there are many opportunities to invest here, for example in renewable or solar energy companies that are looking at Spain with great interest. I take advantage of my visit to Seville to meet with someone. This energy reconversion that we have to do to face climate change is a very pressing task and brings many opportunities.
–Sustainability is high on the agenda.
-For the diplomatic corps worldwide it is the number one item on the agenda. We have a very clear instruction from the prime minister. Spain hosted the COP25 and we were going to chair the conference this year but it was postponed.
-In what other sectors are the opportunities
-There are investments in sectors such as pharmaceuticals, technology, agribusiness… Spain is an open country and the British will continue to come, we are allies, although in other times it has not been like that.
–Now that you have returned to Andalusia, many years later, how do you see it
-Well, I really want to get to know more about Andalusia, it’s very big.