This morning, acting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy made this statement (this is an edited version; you can read the full text in English here), including clarification regarding the situation of British citizens living in Spain.
“The British government has just announced the results of the referendum about whether the United Kingdom should stay in the European Union. The Spanish government is saddened to hear the result in favour of leaving the Union. Now the British government will have to decide how and when to officially notify the European Council of UK’s decision to leave the EU. Only then will the process laid out in Article 50 of the European Union Treaty begin, which regulates the voluntary departure of member state.
The first response to this decision which I want to convey is peace and calm. Although it’s the first time a member state has decided to abandon the union, the treaties allow for a negotiated and ordered exit process. This process will most probably last for at least two years from the official notification, and in the meantime I would like to stress especially that the legal situation of relations between the EU and the UK will not change in any way.
In other words, the EU treaties, all the entire EU legal system, the freedom of movement of workers, goods, services and capital, the rights of the European citizen and in general all aspects of relations between the UK and the other EU member states and its institutions remains fully active.
For this reason, I want to send a message of peavce and calm to Spanish citizens, especially those who, due to their residence in the UK or their activity there may feel particularly affected by this decision of the British people. Spanish citizens will keep their rights under the same terms in the relation to the UK. Their rights to work, earn a salary and receive a pension, to invest, to vote in local elections in the place where they live will not be affected, probably for at least the next two years.
The same applies to the rights of British citizens who live and work in [Spain] or other EU states. My message of peace and calm is also for businesses and economic operators. The freedom to supply services, contract workers, invest, export and import goods remain active.
And finally, in relation to Spanish citizens who work in Gibraltar, their rights haven’t changed in any way, and they can continue to work, earn, and travel normally in the territory.”
David Cameron, who announced his resignation as British PM shortly after the vote result was announced on Friday, has said he will not invoke Article 50 until the Conservative Party Conference in October. This means that the exit process will not start until at least October 2016.
Article 50 from the Treaty of Lisbon:
1. Any Member State may decide to withdraw from the Union in accordance with its own constitutional requirements.
2. A Member State which decides to withdraw shall notify the European Council of its intention. In the light of the guidelines provided by the European Council, the Union shall negotiate and conclude an agreement with that State, setting out the arrangements for its withdrawal, taking account of the framework for its future relationship with the Union. That agreement shall be negotiated in accordance with Article 218(3) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. It shall be concluded on behalf of the Union by the Council, acting by a qualified majority, after obtaining the consent of the European Parliament.
3. The Treaties shall cease to apply to the State in question from the date of entry into force of the withdrawal agreement or, failing that, two years after the notification referred to in paragraph 2, unless the European Council, in agreement with the Member State concerned, unanimously decides to extend this period.
4. For the purposes of paragraphs 2 and 3, the member of the European Council or of the Council representing the withdrawing Member State shall not participate in the discussions of the European Council or Council or in decisions concerning it. A qualified majority shall be defined in accordance with Article 238(3)(b) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.
5. If a State which has withdrawn from the Union asks to rejoin, its request shall be subject to the procedure referred to in Article 49.