Spain and the UK have reached a ‘principle of agreement’ regarding Gibraltar, a British Overseas Territory, in order to avoid a hard border following the end of the transition period of Brexit at midnight on Thursday. The post-Brexit trade deal was officially signed off by the UK Parliament and EU officials on Wednesday. From Friday 1 January, the UK will now be entirely out of the EU, although an agreement on the status of Gibraltar had still been pending.
‘We have reached a principle of agreement with the United Kingdom regarding Gibraltar,’ Spain’s Foreign Minister, Arancha González Laya, told a press conference on Thursday, to report on the negotiations with the UK, a few hours before the deadline to decide the future of Gibraltar in the framework of Brexit.
The ‘principle of agreement’ is to allow the application to Gibraltar of policies and programmes of the European Union such as the Schengen Agreement, the Spanish foreign minister told reporters.
‘We are breaking down barriers to build an area of shared prosperity,’ González Laya said, adding that ‘Schengen will be applied to Gibraltar with Spain as responsible’.
Fabian Picardo, Chief Minister of the Gibraltar government, had been advocating for Gibraltar to join the Schengen area of abolished border controls – a move that would see the British territory establish closer ties to the EU just as the UK leaves the bloc. Picardo had said on 24 December that, ‘The clock is still ticking for Gibraltar and the Campo de Gibraltar. I am optimistic that working hand in glove with the UK, we can do an agreement.’
‘The citizens of the Campo de Gibraltar can breathe easy,’ González Laya said on Thursday. ‘Gibraltar will remain within the EU agreements, such as the Schengen space. Spain is solely responsible for the application of Schengen in Gibraltar, we have adopted practical modalities with the UK, where technical issues are stipulated.’ She said that further details would be announced after the New Year’s Day holiday.
Spain and the UK had been redoubling their efforts to achieve a principle of agreement on Gibraltar before midnight on Thursday, without which there would have been a ‘hard border’.
#UPDATE – UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has also issued a short statement on Thursday:
‘Today, working side by side with the Chief Minister of Gibraltar, and following intensive discussions with the Spanish government, we reached agreement on a political framework to form the basis of a separate treaty between the UK and the EU regarding Gibraltar.
‘We will now send this to the European Commission, in order to initiate negotiations on the formal treaty. In the meantime, all sides are committed to mitigating the effects of the end of the Transition Period on Gibraltar, and in particular ensure border fluidity, which is clearly in the best interests of the people living on both sides.
‘We remain steadfast in our support for Gibraltar, and its sovereignty is safeguarded. I am grateful to Foreign Minister Laya and her team for their positive and constructive approach. We have a warm and strong relationship with Spain, and we look forward to building on it in 2021.’
Thank you @AranchaGlezLaya for the goodwill and hard-work that helped us reach today’s agreement on Gibraltar’s future relationship with the EU.
My full statement ⤵️https://t.co/vwQz6oeiV6
— Dominic Raab (@DominicRaab) December 31, 2020
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