19th May 2024
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Spain and the UK make ‘significant progress’ in Gibraltar talks

Spain and the UK made ‘significant progress’ on Friday in talks in Brussels aimed at reaching an agreement to allow free circulation of goods and people between disputed Gibraltar and Spain, the two nations said in a joint statement.

‘Discussions took place in a constructive atmosphere, with significant progress achieved. General political lines have been agreed, including on airport, goods and mobility,’ the statement said, adding the talks would ‘continue over the coming weeks’ to conclude the agreement.

David Cameron and José Manuel Albares, the British and Spanish foreign ministers respectively, met on Friday in Brussels with European Commission vice president Maros Sefcovic and Gibraltar government chief Fabian Picardo (main image), to try to conclude an agreement over the tiny British territory’s status following Britain’s exit from the European Union.

Picardo told reporters that ‘we are within spitting distance, actually I would say within kissing distance’ of reaching an agreement, while Albares said the aim was to ‘conclude it as quickly as possible’.

Britain and Spain, which have disputed control of the tiny territory since it was ceded to Britain in the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht, reached a provisional accord in 2020 on free access for goods and people after Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union. But no definitive agreement has been reached.

Spain and the European Union in 2022 proposed creating a ‘shared prosperity zone’ with Britain for Gibraltar, where thousands of Spaniards go to work each day.

But that would have meant Spain taking control of Gibraltar’s external frontiers to control access to the Schengen visa free zone.

Spain has insisted that while it is ready to make a deal with Britain on free access, it is not giving up its demand to take back sovereignty of the tiny rock at the southern tip of the Iberian peninsula.

With the protocol on Northern Ireland agreed by London and Brussels last year, Gibraltar is now the last British territory without a deal clarifying its future relationship with the EU.

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