BREXIT PANIC: Spain prepares for ‘WORST SCENARIO’ to mitigate impact – 'risk is high'

Firms will have access to a ’Brexit check’ service to help with contingency planning as well as direct aid from the Spanish government. Speaking ahead of yesterday’s historic Commons vote which saw Theresa May’s deal roundly defeated by MPs, Spain’s Minister of Industry, Trade and Tourism, Reyes Maroto, said Madrid is now preparing for the “worst scenario”. She said the government was genuinely concerned Britain will leave the EU without a deal, Spanish newspaper 20 minutos reports.

She said: “The uncertainty leads us to think of the worst scenario.

“The government’s responsibility is to do things and minimise the impact in our economy.

“We receive every year 18 million tourists from the UK, so the risk for Spain of not doing anything is high.”

The announcement came as new figures revealed a record number of people visited Spain in 2018, despite a slower than usual summer.

Preliminary official data showed the number of visitors to Spain rose 0.9 percent in 2018 from a year earlier to 82.6 million tourists.

Throughout the Brexit talks, Spain has warned of a huge hit to its economy unless a divorce deal is secured which allows for the continued movement of tourists.

But until exit terms are struck, the future of the 300,000 Britons living in Spain is also in doubt.

The Spanish government has been at pains to reassure them that their rights in Spain will be protected after Brexit.

But a sharp depreciation of the pound since the 2016 referendum and worries about whether they can continue to enjoy healthcare and regular pension increases are taking their toll.

Small business owners have reported Britons spending less in recent months, while they are putting off bigger investments too.

Kevin Welch said his real estate company usually gets lots of enquiries in the run-up to Christmas from British people who want to move to Spain’s sunny southern coast. But not this year.

Mr Welch, originally from Liverpool and now living in Benalmadena, said: “There wasn’t that same amount of traffic coming through, saying Joe Bloggs is interested in x, y and z.”

Data from the agency that tracks sales of Spanish property shows Britons still buy far more than any other foreign nationality, but they have gone from 22 percent of all foreign buyers in the first quarter of 2016 to 16 percent in the third quarter of 2018.

“People are holding out,” Mr Welch said. “Some people are still looking to buy, but you know that two or three years ago they could have got a lot more for their buck.”

Meanwhile in Westminster, Theresa May prepares to defend against a confidence motion in the Government which she is widely expected to win.

The confidence motion, called by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn after MPs rejected May’s Brexit deal by 432-202, will be held at 7pm GMT.

Additional reporting by Maria Ortega.