After recent talks between the UK, Gibraltar, Spain and the European Commission in London on Thursday and Friday (January 26-27), an agreement on the status of Gibraltar on Spain’s southern tip is edging closer.
Spain and the United Kingdom have been negotiating a deal to regulate relations between the EU and Gibraltar after Brexit from the end of December 2020. The talks were launched just hours after the UK and the EU signed a withdrawal agreement.
Earlier in January, Gibraltar’s first minister, Fabian Picardo, said a deal on immigration and the movement of goods was a priority.
Late last year, the UK and Spain reached an agreement in principle that would allow the “potential and unrestricted movement of people between Gibraltar and the Schengen area”, removing the fence at the land border and changing customs controls. The airport and the port of Gibraltar are linked with a presence of Spanish and Gibraltarian police officers at the border crossings, and monitored by EU border security agency Frontex for four years.
Relations between Gibraltar and Spain are based on temporary arrangements, and there is no deadline for agreement on a new agreement.
However, with general elections due this year in Spain and Gibraltar, there is a sense of urgency to move forward. Political analysts expect the conservative People’s Party and the nationalist Vox party to take a tougher stance on Gibraltar’s status than the current Social Democratic government of Pedro Sánchez.
Vox has previously called for the border with Gibraltar to be closed.
Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albarez insisted the talks “cannot go on forever”, prompting Gibraltar to draw up contingency plans if the deal fails.
Last week, the Cross Frontier Group said, “The current state of affairs in this matter and the uncertainty caused by the conflicting news of the negotiation process are putting the citizens of our region under pressure, which we believe must be stopped immediately.”
“We are working hard to secure an agreement that can bring future prosperity to Gibraltar and the region,” a UK Foreign Office spokesperson told EURACTIV. The UK remains “unwavering” in its support for Gibraltar and will not agree to any deal that compromises the enclave’s sovereignty.
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