These are fast-moving, tempestuous days for negotiations between the United Kingdom and the European Union. This week, prime minister Theresa May accepted a draft Withdrawal Agreement. Now, negotiators from the both parties need to get the support of their own sides. That will be easier said than done, however, especially for May, with a draft that's not to everyone's liking - just today, four British ministers have resigned.
The United Kingdom is to leave the European Union, but isn't going to completely cut its ties with the continent. That was emphasised today by the British Chamber of Commerce in Spain and the UK's ambassador to the country, Simon Manley, in a speech on trade relations between the United Kingdom and Spain at Barcelona's Banc Sabadell tower. The ambassador said that the UK is the European country which invests the most in Spain, and the second country in terms of investment internationally, something which "has no reason to change".
The CEO of ACCIÓ (Catalan Agency for Business Competitiveness), Joan Romero, also took part in the meeting, giving an overview of Catalan business activity. He said that trade currently totals more than 70 billion euros (£62 billion; $79 billion) in exports, a figure which has grown steadily for seven years. He added that the last five years saw 33% more international trade than the previous five.
Catalans and Brits, "free-flowing" partners
"We've got a very free-flowing and broad relationship with the United Kingdom, with very continuous relationships," said Romero. "Just ten days ago we were taking Catalan start-ups to the London stock exchange, and one of the first ACCIÓ offices abroad was opened in London in 1989," he said.
In total, Catalan exports to the UK passed 4 billion euros last year, and Catalonia has 2,200 businesses which export there on a regular basis. When it comes to foreign investment, as many as 660 British companies run production facilities in Catalonia, employing almost 1% of the population.
In the words of the ambassador, there are more than 600,000 Brits settled in Spain and "we hope that, despite Brexit, these citizens continue to live, study, work and invest in Spain as they have done until now". Moreover, he added that "Catalan exports have done nothing but strengthen the United Kingdom" and "we don't want that to change".
British investment in Catalonia grows
Figures presented today show that, although overall foreign direct investment (FDI) in Catalonia has seen a slight slowdown in recent years, British FDI has recovered, especially in the construction sector, reaching levels above its long-term average.
In fact, during the first six months of 2018, the flow of British investment into Catalonia saw a notable increase, focused especially on the housing, construction and wholesale sectors. In numbers, the first six months of 2017 saw 63.5 billion euros of British investment in Catalonia; this year, the first six months saw 84.8 billion euros' worth.
Romero, for his part, put this increase in investment in context: "In the 80s and 90s, the investment was mainly focused on production. At the start of the 2000s, we started to have shared services, and currently there's a third wave of investment type, adding in a focus on technology centres and innovation".
The British chamber says that British companies established in or which export to Catalonia and Spain are "in general rather optimistic", since they don't foresee a change in trade relations with European countries.