The Spanish PM is concerned about the effects of Brexit on the country's tourism
Speaking in Madrid, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy echoed the pleas of Chief Brexit negotiator Guy Verhofstadt as he called for Europe to stay together as Britain gets set to leave the crumbling Brussels bloc.
He said: “Brexit is a serious threat. Without wanting to go into other considerations, I will only tell you that one in five tourists who come to Spain are British, and close to 17 million Britons visited Spain last year.
“I will also tell you that the United Kingdom is the first destination for Spanish companies' investment and our third commercial partner.”
Spanish people were the fifth most frequent visitors to the UK in 2015 with an estimated 2.2 million trips to Britain, more than Irish, Italian and Polish citizens.
Mr Rajoy was speaking in Madrid at an event organised by Sapnish newspaper ABC
Brexit is a serious threat. Without wanting to go into other considerations, I will only tell you that one in five tourists who come to Spain are British, and close to 17 million Britons visited Spain last year
More than 300,000 British expats officially live in Spain too, although with many unregistered British nationals living there the number could be as high as one million.
The Spanish leader said the general elections in France and Germany later this year would be “decisive” in determining the future of the EU – with Eurosceptic parties on the rise in both countries.
He said: “Spain hopes that its two biggest partners will maintain their pro-EU vocation and their determination to push forward a project which despite all its imperfections is the best political initiative the world has seen in centuries – the EU project.”
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Mr Rajoy added that the bloc must become “more cohesive, more effective in its decision-making and with better political ambition”.
The news comes as the Supreme Court ruled against the British Government, confirming Theresa May must bring in a new law to formally begin Brexit talks.
Spain was the most popular destination for British holidaymakers in 2015, according to the ONS
In response to the ruling, senior MEP Manfred Weber taunted Britain as he said: “UK Supreme court ruling is clear: Parliaments must be respected.
“European Parliament will have the final say on Brexit.”
The UK Government is set to introduce a Bill within the coming days as ministers try to stick to Mrs May’s plan to trigger Article 50 by the end of March.
The Supreme Court ruled by eight votes to three that an Act of Parliament must be secured to formally start Brexit negotiations.