A NEW ‘common travel area’ would benefit Gibraltar and the surrounding area, said the Deputy Chief Minister in a recent visit to Brussels.
Joseph Garcia believes this is the best solution to the frontier situation from January 1, 2021, once he accepted Brexit was now inevitable.
He said that Gibraltarians ‘did not want Brexit’ as 96% voted to remain.
Now the UK has left he has resolved to ‘get on with it’ and secure the best possible deal going forward’.
Garcia’s was speaking at a reception for contacts and guests from the Brussels community at Gibraltar House in Brussels.
Home from home
He said that the Government had no intention of closing the Gibraltar mission in Brussels after Brexit.
He pointed to the Channel Islands as territories largely outside the EU that had long maintained an office there.
“The UK Overseas Territory of Bermuda, for example, opened an office in Brussels only after the Brexit referendum,” said Garcia.
“The work of the Brussels office would now be more challenging but also more important than ever before.
“There will be plenty to do and Gibraltar House will play a vital role going forward.”
There were calls to shut down the office as a protest to the EU’s treatment of Gibraltar although the government seems to think that it is not a closed shop yet.
Dr Garcia made the point that this was his first visit to Brussels as a third country national now that the UK and Gibraltar are no longer part of the EU.
“This change has not been easy but now is the time to move past the labels of Remain and Leave in order to concentrate instead on securing the future.”
One of the key points in that direction is the need to make sure the frontier is as free-flowing as it is now.
Garcia believes “residents, tourists and workers” all need that level of free access between Gibraltar and Spain.
“A common travel area between Gibraltar and the European Union is a possible solution,” said Garcia.
“Different micro-states inside the geographical territory of the EU have all developed bespoke border relationships with their neighbours.
“I cannot stress enough that a fluid border for residents, workers and tourists would be essential to generate even greater prosperity than we already do.”
The UK has said that it would want to sign a deal ‘for the whole British family’ which commentators took to mean that Gibraltar would not get a separate arrangement.
Despite this, London Mayor Sadiq Kahn is now pushing for British citizens to continue to remain EU citizens if they desire free movement.
Such a development would give Gibraltarians the possibility of getting the quick access they desire.
However, strict rules on employment under the new rules proposed by the Tories could be problematic for the low-skilled workforce in Gibraltar.