Britons flying home to Spain caught in post-Brexit red tape

British travelers returning to their homes in Spain wait to speak to airline staff after they were refused entry onto planes, at London's Heathrow airport on Saturday Jan. 2, 2021. Dozens of British residents in Spain were refused travel because airlines refused to take in as proof of residency documents used until the United Kingdom's departure from the European Union at midnight on Dec. 31, 2020. (AP Photo/Max Duncan)
British travelers returning to their homes in Spain wait to speak to airline staff after they were refused entry onto planes, at London's Heathrow airport on Saturday Jan. 2, 2021. Dozens of British residents in Spain were refused travel because airlines refused to take in as proof of residency documents used until the United Kingdom's departure from the European Union at midnight on Dec. 31, 2020. (AP Photo/Max Duncan) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

MADRID – Blame COVID-19 travel restrictions or Brexit but whatever the cause, some British citizens trying to return to their homes in several European countries this weekend have been barred from boarding flights.

Airlines refused documents that before Brexit had been valid proof of the Britons' status as residents in Spain, Italy and Germany, although Spanish authorities claimed that the issue had been resolved by mid-Sunday.

Their ordeal came amid heightened travel restrictions due to a coronavirus variant that has been blamed for faster contagion in the U.K. and highlights the bureaucratic complexities resulting from Britain's departure from the 27-nation European Union.

Both Spanish and British authorities said Sunday that the green-colored certificate of EU citizenship with a foreign national identification number issued by Spain is still valid for British citizens residing in Spain under the bilateral provisions that followed the U.K.’s withdrawal from the bloc on Dec. 31.

But the travelers say British Airways and Iberia, which are part of the IAG group, have been refusing to let them board for the past two days.

Iberia said in a statement late Sunday that a communication from Spain's border police on Jan. 1 had created “some confusion” and that it was later clarified. British Airways didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

Around 300,000 British citizens are registered as permanent residents in Spain, although before Brexit, many more had been living full or part-time in the country without officially registering.

Patricia Moody, a 69-year-old retiree who has called the southern Spanish town of Zurgena home for nearly four years, was among a group of at least nine people unable to board a Madrid-bound BA/Iberia flight from London’s Heathrow Airport on Saturday.