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Brexit forces British student to spend Christmas and New Year in Madrid

Brexit forces British student to spend Christmas and New Year in Madrid
Exclusive: Lucy Taylor’s 21st birthday fell on 25 December, but she was unable to spend it with her family

A British student is spending the festive season in Spain rather than with family – because Spanish red tape combined with Brexit means she cannot leave the country while her visa is processed.

Lucy Taylor, 21, from East Sussex, is a Warwick University student on her year abroad. Until 2021 she would have been able to spend the academic year in Spain without formality.

But since the Brexit transition phase ended a year ago, British students require visas to study in any of the 27 European Union nations.

Ms Taylor applied for her visa for Spain in June – one of a mountain of applications from British students, workers and property owners. She was permitted to enter the country and begin her studies in Madrid in September.

Were she to leave Spain before the visa is processed, she would not be allowed back in – due to the long-standing rule than non-EU citizens may stay no more than 90 days in any 180.

“I’m not able to leave Spain until I get my visa, so I haven’t been able to get back to the UK for the Christmas holidays.

“Because of commitments and responsibilities at home, my family weren’t able to come out to see me either.”

She spent her 21st birthday – which fell on Christmas Day – in the Spanish capital. With no prospect of returning to the UK for New Year’s Eve, a British friend is visiting her instead.

Ms Taylor was too young to vote in the 2016 EU referendum – which Leave won by more than one million votes.

Speaking from her flat in Madrid, she said: “There’s no guarantee of when I may get my visa, and with term restarting on 5 January I’ve got full-on lectures, so I’m not sure when I’ll be able to see them – it may be Easter.”

She said the Spanish bureaucracy appears to be less efficient than other countries. “I know some British people studying in other countries who do not appear to be having the same problems as I have.

“I know people in France who have managed to get a French visa, so in part it may be due to the Spanish being slow – and the Madrid administration is the slowest at processing these things.

“But at the root of it: if we hadn’t left the EU, I wouldn’t have to worry about any of this.”

The UK has withdrawn from the Erasmus programme – which began life as the European Community Action Scheme for the Mobility of University Students.

The government says: “We are developing the new Turing Scheme to support thousands of students to study and work abroad.”