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9th May 2024, 20:02

European Scrutiny Committee calls for pause in Treaty negotiations over Gibraltar

Published by GBC News

The European Scrutiny Committee is calling for a pause in Treaty negotiations over Gibraltar.

In a letter from its Chairman, Sir Bill Cash, to the Overseas Territories Minister David Rutley, it advises the Foreign Office to stop and take stock after last week's evidence session.

It describes the agreement as a possible “Northern Ireland Protocol 2.0” .

Sir William Cash warns the proposed deal as outlined by Government ministers in an evidence session amounts to a “serious diminution of UK sovereignty”.

He says one of the major concerns for the Committee is how UK nationals and Gibraltarians will be handled if Schengen controls are introduced at Gibraltar’s airport rather than the border – a move the Committee says would render ‘Gibraltar’s frontier British in all but name.” It labelled the practical implications of people being checked to enter their own territory as “seismic”.

Gibraltar's unique cultural and constitutional status, within the UK family, it says, must be respected. But, it's also aware of the importance of a deal for Gibraltar, saying there's a balance to be struck and that a deal must not be pursued irrespective of cost.

It believes that allowing Schengen checks to be administered by Frontex Border Guards at the airport would erode UK sovereignty to the point of meaninglessness and that the potential implications of the new Entry/Exit regime in October have not been explored.

People returning to Gibraltar or Brits travelling there for work, it says, could be forced to undergo biometric registration.

It remains “unclear whether any time spent in Gibraltar by UK nationals would count towards the 90 days in 180 days permitted for non-EU nationals in the Schengen Area”, the letter said.

With the airport and the broader Gibraltar peninsula doubling up as a strategic UK military base, the Committee raised concerns over the powers EU border guards could theoretically have to block UK and NATO military personnel from entering the territory. The letter demanded that any change in status of the airport “no matter how small or innocuous, must be ruled out”.

Other concerns raised were military and security concerns over the border operating model at the airport and potential oversight by the European Court of Justice for border and trade matters.

The Committee has called on the British Government to clearly set out its negotiating red lines during a proposed pause so that the views of all stakeholders can be sought.

It believes it's important that space is provided for open debate and public scrutiny, adding it's worrying that negotiations should have reached such an advanced stage without the Government having shared its direction of travel.