EU and UK make significant progress on broad Gibraltar policy lines

EU and UK make significant progress on broad Gibraltar policy lines
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Several years after the United Kingdom's 2020 exit from the European Union, the final piece of the Brexit puzzle is beginning to take shape.

This final piece, that of the bloc's relationship with Gibraltar, is now coming together following a four-way meeting between European Commission Vice-President Maros Sefcovic, the Spanish and UK foreign ministers, José Manuel Albares and David Cameron, as well as Gibraltar's Chief Minister, Fabian Picardo.

In a joint statement after a unique format meeting, they confirmed that the general policy lines, including critical issues like airports, goods, and mobility, have been agreed upon - key sticking points in the EU-UK agreement. Both Albares and Picardo refrained from providing further details, with the Spanish minister saying, "the negotiation is at its peak and we want to protect it."

Picardo noted that "very little time is left" for the final agreement, though he did not specify a date. In their statements to the press, both he and Albares emphasised the "positive" and "constructive" nature of their discussions.

Negotiations are expected to continue in the coming weeks.

According to Picardo, the agreement will bring a "new dynamic and a new relationship" with Spain, which could begin with the demolition of the fence that separates the British territory from the rest of the Iberian Peninsula.

"This agreement is going to be good for the entire population of Campo de Gibraltar, including 300,000 Spanish citizens who live there, who are the ones who guide what we are doing at all times", Albares argued.

Although the Spanish foreign minister insists that "it perfectly safeguards their position of sovereignty", the negotiations did not include a debate on the ownership of the Rock.

The final frictions

Picardo explained that the current document being drafted is "consistently based on the New Year's Eve Agreement," referring to an initial agreement reached at the end of 2020 between the UK and the EU that ultimately was not formalised into legal text. In doing so, they aim to resolve a situation that has lasted more than three years.

Removing the fence would be a major change for Gibraltar, easing daily crossings for the 15,000 border workers. Under the proposed changes, border controls would shift to Gibraltar’s port and airport, and Frontex, the European agency responsible for managing the bloc's borders, would oversee Gibraltarians according to the New Year's Eve Agreement.

Gibraltar, like Northern Ireland, became one of the UK territories with a land border adjacent to the European Union following Brexit. The UK exited the EU in February 2020, but discussions about its land borders continued for years. The final agreement addressing the situation in Northern Ireland was concluded about a year ago.