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31st December 2020, 14:59

UK & Spain reach agreement in principle over Gibraltar’s relationship with EU

The Spanish Foreign Minister and Chief Minister of Gibraltar have said the UK and Spain have reached an agreement in principle over Gibraltar’s future relationship with the EU. Arancha Gonzalez Laya said this was a time of hope and the start of a new relationship, while Fabian Picardo said this would be the beginning of the creation of an area of shared prosperity. They highlighted that the negotiations had gone down to the wire last night, with the negotiations hindered by the pandemic.

Ms Gonzalez Laya says the historic deal will see the lifting of the Gibraltar / Spain border. Access in and out of Gibraltar would be controlled by the European border agency, Frontex. According to Spanish press reports, this item had remained the stumbling block in negotiations over the last few days.

Ms Gonzalez Laya said Spain, as a Schengen member state, would have responsibility for the application of Schengen norms, but that Frontex would be in charge of the operation at Schengen entrance points in Gibraltar for a transitional period of four years. Neither Ms Gonzalez Laya nor Fabian Picardo confirmed exactly what would happen after that. In response to GBC questions, the Chief Minister said there were areas still to negotiate; he added he reserved his views at this stage, but said people should not be concerned that the Guardia Civil would follow Frontex.

On concerns over security at a more open frontier, the Chief Minister said Gibraltar would benefit from the Schengen information system and from enhanced electronic surveillance. He said there would be two controls: Gibraltar entry points and Schengen entry points, with the Borders and Coastguard Agency to work closely with Frontex.

The Chief Minister said the agreement allows Gibraltar to avert the worst effects of a Hard Brexit, providing the framework for a treaty on Gibraltar’s future relationship with the EU that will deal with maximized and unrestricted mobility of people between Gibraltar and Spain. He said no aspect of the agreement transgress sovereignty, jurisdiction and control. Meanwhile, Arancha Gonzalez Laya said the agreement had prevented Gibraltar from becoming the only place to suffer a hard Brexit. She said the agreement had been reached with neither side renouncing its principles on the question of sovereignty.

Both Ms Gonzalez Laya and Mr Picardo said more details would follow, including a finalized text for the in-principle agreement. Details are to be given to both the Gibraltar and Spanish parliaments. A period of six months was set for the treaty to be finalized, at which point it would be signed into international law. 

Christine Vasquez spoke to the Chief Minister.