28th January 2023
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Gibraltar says it ‘will control its borders’ in response to Spain’s proposal to remove border fence

Fabian Picardo, Chief Minister of Gibraltar, has responded to Spain’s proposal for removing the border fence between Spain and Gibraltar in order to ease freedom of movement and create an ‘area of shared prosperity’ as announced by the Spanish Foreign Minister on Friday, by saying ‘we are all on the same page’ regarding the on-going Brexit treaty negotiations.

However, Picardo also made it clear that Gibraltar’s own proposals ‘provide for the removal of trade barriers and the protection of the integrity of the Single Market in a manner that would not compromise our fiscal or wider sovereignty concerns’.

In a Tweet, Picardo also wrote: ‘We’re making progress on the UK-EU treaty negotiations on Gibraltar. I believe we’ll get it done. If we do so, it will be with Gibraltar in control of our borders whilst recognising EU control over the Schengen border. A safe, secure UK-EU treaty is possible. Let’s be clear, Gibraltar will always be 100% British.’

On Friday, Madrid and Brussels had approached the British government with a proposal for removing the border fence between Spain and Gibraltar and for ‘the Campo de Gibraltar to be an area of shared prosperity’.

‘The text presented to the United Kingdom is a comprehensive proposal that includes provisions on mobility with the aim of removing the border fence and guaranteeing freedom of movement,’ Foreign Minister José Manuel Albares said, according to a ministry statement.

Such a move would make Spain, as representative of Europe’s passport-free Schengen Area, ‘responsible for controlling Gibraltar’s external borders’, it said.

The Schengen Area allows people to move freely across the internal borders of 26 member states, four of which are not part of the EU.

A British enclave at Spain’s southern tip, Gibraltar’s economy provides a lifeline for some 15,000 people who cross in and out to work every day. Most are Spanish and live in the neighbouring city of La Línea.

Although Brexit threw Gibraltar’s future into question, raising fears it would create a new ‘hard border’ with the EU, negotiators reached a ‘principal of agreement’ for it to benefit from the rules of the Schengen zone just hours before Britain’s departure on 1 January 2021. Details of the agreement have yet to be settled, but according to reports the negotiations are shortly to be concluded.

With a land area of just 6.8 square kilometres, Gibraltar is entirely dependent on imports to supply its 34,000 residents and the deal was crucial to avoid slowing cross-border goods trade with new customs procedures.

Albares said the proposal would mean Madrid ‘taking on a monitoring and protection role on behalf of the EU with regards to the internal market with the removal of the customs border control’ between Spain and Gibraltar.

The deal would ‘guarantee the free movement of goods between the EU and Gibraltar’ while guaranteeing respect for fair competition, meaning businesses in the enclave would ‘compete under similar conditions to those of other EU operators, notably those in the surrounding area’.

Although Spain ceded Gibraltar to Britain in 1713, Madrid has long wanted it back in a thorny dispute that has for decades involved pressure on the frontier.

Picardo said that he was ‘very pleased to welcome the statements from José Manuel Albares saying that the Spanish government is also working to achieve a positive outcome to treaty negotiations’, but reiterated that the UK and Gibraltar ‘also have proposals on the table which are designed to deliver benefits for the people of the whole region’.

‘Our proposals also address the issue of personal rights of fluidity across the frontier. These are achieved in keeping with the provisions already agreed between us in 2020 and taking into consideration concerns of the EU in respect of the protection of the integrity of the Schengen Area,’ he said.

ALSO READ: UK rejects EU’s proposal on Gibraltar as it ‘seeks to undermine UK sovereignty’.

ALSO READ: Gibraltar can now officially call itself a city – 180 years late.

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