A deal over the post-Brexit status of the British territory of Gibraltar will depend on an agreement over the use of the airport, Spain’s foreign minister, José Manuel Albares, said in an interview published on Sunday in El País.
The status of Gibraltar and how to police the border with Spain have been points of contention since the UK voted in 2016 to leave the European Union. The UK, Spain and the EU are due to hold further talks on the matter on Wednesday.
London and Madrid revived talks at the end of November over the future of Gibraltar, which has a land border with Spain – and Albares met his counterpart, the new British foreign minister David Cameron, in Brussels.
Albares said that Spain has presented the UK with a proposal that includes free movement of people and goods, the removal of the physical border between Gibraltar and Spain and use of the airport.
‘It is up to the UK to decide whether it wants this or the simple application of European legislation,’ Albares told El País.
‘To me it seems like progress that flights can come from Spanish airports and other European countries, promoting tourism and relations,’ he said. ‘The airport has to be in the agreement.’
The negotiations had stalled earlier this year because of the Spanish government making what British officials said were unacceptable demands about ceding jurisdiction of the airport to Madrid, a move perceived as posing a threat to Gibraltar’s sovereignty.
The aim of the new negotiation is to agree a common travel area between Gibraltar and the Schengen zone, removing most immigration controls at the border – yet the control and use of the airport still needs to be resolved.
Gibraltar, an enclave at the southern tip of Spain, has been under British rule since the 18th century but was excluded from the Brexit deal reached between Britain and the EU.
Spain, Britain and the European Union agreed on 31 December 2020, hours before Britain’s full exit from the bloc, that Gibraltar would remain part of EU agreements, such as the Schengen Area, and Spain would police the port and the airport, pending a lasting solution.
Spain ceded the outpost, famed for its towering rock, to Britain in 1713 but has long called for its return.
Primera reunión con mi nuevo homólogo de Reino Unido, @David_Cameron. Hemos abordado el acuerdo de prosperidad compartida para el Campo de Gibraltar-Gibraltar. También la crisis en Gaza, y las importantes colonias española y británica en nuestros dos países. pic.twitter.com/HkyMwkWPWS— José Manuel Albares (@jmalbares) November 28, 2023