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11th January 2021, 17:57

Document describing aspects of proposed framework for Gibraltar’s future relationship with EU published by newspaper El Pais

A document describing aspects of the proposed framework for Gibraltar’s future relationship with the EU has been published by the newspaper El Pais.

Cover letters from the UK and Spanish Governments suggest the full document has already been sent to the 27 member states.

The agreement in principle is said to be without prejudice to sovereignty and jurisdiction and allows for its termination after an initial implementation period of four years, if any side is not satisfied.

Overview of documents published by El Pais

Firstly, a disclaimer: it is not clear if the documents published by El Pais make up the totality of the texts making up the agreement in principle, or only part of them.

The framework could be accompanied by other agreements on areas of national competence as well as other memoranda of understanding. 

On people's mobility, the document talks of a double gate system where Gibraltar would be responsible for anyone entering the Rock, and Spain, as the Schengen member state, would be responsible for entry into Schengen. For the next four years, the Schengen checks would be carried out by Frontex Officers - the European Borders and Coast Guards Agency. Mutual co-operation in police and judicial matters would continue and be enhanced. Gibraltar would keep its own database with Spain using Schengen’s. 

Frontex and Gibraltar authorities would carry out checks at the port facilities as well as to cruise liners and marinas and would share office space at a purpose built building adjacent at the airport. They would also jointly perform external border surveillance. 

A section headed Annex 1 raises questions. It says "the conditions required by Spanish authorities and Gibraltar authorities for authorizing admission into Gibraltar and the Schengen Area will be cumulative".

Regarding the mobility of goods, the agreement could foresee a bespoke customs solution based on the adaptation of a customs union between the EU and Gibraltar with the physical barrier between both removed. A level playing field would need to be maintained and Gibraltar would need to apply the same duties and trade policy measures as the EU as well as customs, excise and VAT legislation.

The text says VAT would be especially applicable, on what are deemed sensitive products such as alcohol, fuel and tobacco, with traceability on the latter. IT measures will also need to be aligned with the EU able to have statistics on imports into Gibraltar. Custom points would be in Spain or with the use of simplified procedures. There will be two Border Control Points, compliant with EU Legislation, one at the airport and one at the Port.

Social Security co-ordination and citizens’ rights would be modelled on the Withdrawal Agreement. EU law would continue to apply to Gibraltar on data and data protection. Gibraltar would be responsible for residence permits but would need to provide assurances that these are based on real links to the Rock.

Chief Minister responds to article in El Pais

There’s a lot of detail published that will need to be interpreted in the coming days and weeks, but it’s important to note that we don’t know what has not been published.

The Chief Minister has warned the summary provided by El Pais newspaper is skewed. He said a detailed technical explanation will be given but people should know the agreement in principle is he said “very very sovereignty safe jurisdiction assured and control retained”.

Fabian Picardo says entry into Gibraltar would remain Gibraltar’s exclusive competence. What he calls the primary key to access Gibraltar will be exercised by the Gibraltar Borders and Coastguards Agency.

In respect of jurisdiction, Mr Picardo says the whole operation happens only with “permission” from UK/Gibraltar, which he says is particularly relevant to the isthmus, which is not covered by the Treaty of Utrecht.

He also points out that Frontex guards would need to be permitted by Gibraltar law, which he says is recognition of Gibraltar’s parliament.

In a lengthy post on Facebook, the Chief Minister says there will be no power for any officer other than a Gibraltar BCA or law enforcement official to exercise jurisdiction over any person in Gibraltar.

In answer to GBC questions on whether Community Care was affected, the Government said the in-principle agreement does not affect the right or ability of charitable entities to chose their class of beneficiaries in any way.

Parliament on Friday, Viewpoint on Thursday

Mr Picardo is set to address these points in Parliament on Friday afternoon at 3. And he’ll answer questions from the public on Viewpoint this Thursday from 9.30 to 11.