UK and Spain inch forward on Gibraltar deal

Officials continue to inch towards an agreement on the status of Gibraltar, the rocky enclave at the southernmost tip of Spain, following the latest round of talks in London between officials from the UK, Gibraltar, Spain and the European Commission on Thursday and Friday (26,27 January).

Spain and the United Kingdom have been negotiating the agreement that will govern the EU’s relations with Gibraltar following Brexit ever since a pre-agreement was reached at the end of December 2020, within hours of the conclusion of the UK’s Withdrawal Agreement with the bloc.  

At the start of January, Gibraltar’s First Minister Fabian Picardo said that the main priority is agreements on immigration and the movement of goods.

An agreement-in-principle was struck between the UK and Spain late last year, whereby “maximised and unrestricted mobility of persons between Gibraltar and the Schengen area”, the removal of the fence at the land border and relocation of customs checks to Gibraltar’s airport and port, will be conditioned by the presence of Spanish and Gibraltarian police at entry points and overseen by Frontex, the EU’s border agency, for four years. 

The Spain-Gibraltar border is crossed every day by 15,000 workers, 11,000 of whom are Spanish, according to figures from the Cross Frontier Group, an organisation made up of businesses and trade unions. 

Gibraltar/Spain relations have been operating on ad hoc arrangements, and there is no hard deadline by which an agreement on a new treaty must be reached.

However, general elections are due this year in Spain and Gibraltar; there is a sense of urgency to making progress; political analysts believe that the conservative Popular Party and nationalist Vox party would be far more hawkish on the Rock’s status than Pedro Sanchez’s Socialist government.

Vox has previously called for the closure of the border with Gibraltar. 

Spanish foreign minister José Manuel Albares has said that negotiations “cannot go on eternally”, prompting Gibraltar to make contingency plans for a Non-Negotiated Agreement. 

Last week, the Cross Frontier Group expressed concern that “the current state of affairs on this matter and the uncertainty caused by the contradictory news emanating from the negotiating process are subjecting the citizens of our area to stress, that we believe should be stopped immediately.” 

It also called for “the dismantling of the border crossing for citizens and goods” in a joint letter to negotiators. 

“We are working intensively to conclude an agreement that can help secure future prosperity for Gibraltar and the region,” a UK Foreign Office spokesperson told EURACTIV, adding that “the UK remains steadfast in our support for Gibraltar and will not agree to anything that compromises sovereignty”. 

[Edited by Alice Taylor]

Source: Euractiv.com

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