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Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy delivers a year-end news conference at Moncloa palace in Madrid, Spain December 30, 2016. REUTERS/Andrea Comas

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MADRID (Reuters) - Spain will work to defend the rights of its citizens in the wake of Britain's exit from the European Union, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said on Thursday in a joint press conference with his Irish counterpart Enda Kenny.

"Spain and Ireland will work to protect our interests, defend the rights of our citizens and maintain the best possible relationship with the United Kingdom," Rajoy said.

Tens of thousands of Spaniards live in Britain and the country is one of the most popular destinations for young Spaniards seeking work abroad. Negotiations between Spain and Britain over Brexit will be done as part of the EU bloc of 27 countries.

The press conference was given as part of an official visit to Madrid by Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny.

(Reporting by Sonya Dowsett, Editing by Amanda Calvo)

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