Spain is on the brink of finalising an agreement regarding the post-Brexit status of Gibraltar, potentially as soon as today (29 November) as stated by the Spanish Foreign Minister, José Manuel Albares.
The development emerged prior to a meeting in Brussels with his British counterpart, David Cameron. The focus of the deal is on trade, immigration, and the movement of workers between Spain and Gibraltar.
The agreement aims to transform the Campo de Gibraltar, the Spanish region surrounding Gibraltar, into a "zone of shared prosperity". This initiative is expected to remove the border fence, thereby facilitating the free movement of people and goods between Gibraltar and the European Union.
Albares, in a conversation with Telecinco, a Spanish TV station, mentioned that the majority of the agreement has already been settled, with only specific details remaining. He emphasised that the deal would significantly influence the daily lives of people in both Gibraltar and Campo de Gibraltar, promoting a shared prosperity zone.
David Cameron, representing the UK, has expressed his commitment to concluding a UK-EU treaty on Gibraltar as soon as possible, while maintaining sovereignty. Albares highlighted the importance of this deal for the Campo de Gibraltar, especially in the wake of the UK's decision to leave the EU. He stressed the need for political will from the UK to progress decisively.
Despite Spain's eagerness to sign the deal, Albares plans to discuss the possible timelines for finalising the agreement with Cameron. However, sources in Brussels suggest that there is still a considerable journey ahead, with a meeting between the EU and the UK expected in the coming weeks.
The status of Gibraltar and the management of its border with Spain have been contentious issues since the UK's decision to leave the EU in 2016. Unlike the Northern Ireland situation, a trade deal between the EU and Gibraltar would require full alignment with EU standards, particularly concerning goods crossing into the EU.
As part of the Brexit negotiations, it was agreed that Gibraltar would remain part of certain EU agreements, such as the Schengen area, with Spain overseeing the port and airport, pending a permanent solution. The proposed deal aims to establish a new legal framework post-Brexit, fostering a stable relationship between Spain, the EU, and Gibraltar through the UK.
The Spanish foreign ministry indicated that the agreement would enable Spain to use the Schengen agreement to manage Gibraltar’s external borders, protect the rights of cross-border workers, and ensure the free movement of goods without compromising the EU internal market. Additionally, the agreement includes measures to combat money laundering and uphold environmental protection and nuclear safety standards.
Albares emphasised that the primary goal is to defend and protect the interests and rights of Spanish citizens, particularly the 270,000 residents of Campo de Gibraltar. He also reaffirmed Spain's unchanged stance on Gibraltar's sovereignty, clarifying that the agreement, or any actions stemming from it, would not imply any concession or alteration of Spain's legal position regarding sovereignty and jurisdiction over Gibraltar.