A last minute deal between the UK and Spain – agreed a few hours before Gibraltar was ready to become the only border marked by a hard border Brexit – allows free movement between the UK and overseas territories much of the EU

“Today is a day of hope,” said Spanish Foreign Minister Arancha González Laya on Thursday when she announced that an agreement in principle had been reached. “In the long history of our Gibraltar-related relations with Britain, we are today before a turning point ”

Under the agreement, the British overseas territory on the southern tip of the Iberian Peninsula could join EU programs and policies such as Schengen, with Spain acting as a guarantor, González Laya told reporters

“Schengen is used in Gibraltar with Spain taking responsibility as a Member State,” she added. “This will allow the removal of controls between Spain and Gibraltar”

The airport and port of Gibraltar are becoming the EU’s newest external border The controls are carried out by the EU border agency Frontex. The agreement is initially valid for a period of four years

When González Laya urged whether this would result in the presence of Spanish security forces in Gibraltar – a point that had turned out to be a major sticking point in the negotiations – he said the technical details would be released in the New Year / p>

The agreement is now being sent to Brussels, where the European Commission will start negotiations with London to turn it into a treaty A process that González Laya would take an estimated six months, meanwhile, she said Spain would work to make mobility at the border “as fluid as possible”

The deal was welcomed by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson “I wholeheartedly welcome today’s political agreement between Great Britain and Spain on the future relationship between Gibraltar and the EU,” he wrote on Twitter. “Britain has been and is protecting the interests of Gibraltar and always committed to its British sovereignty ”

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said this was the beginning of a “new era” that would allow the “removal of barriers”

The Brexit deal between Great Britain and the EU announced on Christmas Eve did not affect Gibraltar.Instead, the fate of the territory was the subject of months of parallel negotiations aimed at preserving freedom of movement across the common border with Spain and at the same time the centuries-old dispute over sovereignty between London and avoid Madrid

Just hours before Britain was due to leave the 27-strong bloc, negotiations on the territory’s future got to the point. “The final countdown” is how Fabian Picardo, Gibraltar’s Prime Minister, started the day on Twitter

Hours later, Picardo struck a cautious note, “I think it is important to temper this moment with the understanding that we have an agreement in principle, not a contract,” he told reporters. “If we go to the European Union, we need to make sure that the European Commission shares our enthusiasm for this ”

He warned that the treaty would involve tough negotiations, including jurisdiction issues and import tariffs. “There will be complexity,” he said, “We may have an agreement on the movement of people but not goods”

Picardo had long campaigned for Gibraltar to join the Schengen area for abolished border controls – a move that would create closer ties between the UK’s overseas territory and the EU once Britain left the bloc

On Thursday, he defended the idea despite acknowledging that nationals from Spain and other Schengen countries could freely enter Gibraltar, while those arriving from the UK would be subject to passport control

“This is the beginning of building a closer relationship with the European Union and with our neighbor Spain, in a way that in no way detracts us from the UK, which is our main relationship,” he told Picardo

In the 2016 referendum, 96% of the voters in Gibraltar supported remaining in the EU. Despite this, the territory was incredibly close to collapsing without a deal, noted Picardo. “The alternative is that Gibraltar is the only one in about eight hours without these precautions Would be part of the European continent that would suffer a hard Brexit ”

In a statement, British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab welcomed the “warm and strong relationship between Great Britain and Spain” and stated that the agreement should now be formalized. “In the meantime, all sides have committed themselves to the effects of the end of the transition period To mitigate Gibraltar and in particular to ensure the border fluidity, which is clearly in the best interests of the people living on both sides ”

Despite the cession of Gibraltar to Great Britain in 1713, Spain has long tried to reclaim the tiny area at the southern tip of the Iberian Peninsula

On Thursday, Gibraltar and Spain stressed that the deal would not affect their respective claims to sovereignty. “No aspect of the framework has been agreed that in any way transgresses Gibraltar’s positions on sovereignty, jurisdiction or control,” Picardo said, echoing previous remarks by González Laya

Gibraltar

World news – UK – Spain and UK reach draft treaty on post-Brexit status of Gibraltar

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/dec/31/spain-and-uk-reach-draft-deal-on-post-brexit-status-of-gibraltar