THE New Year’s Eve Schengen deal is only for a framework and does not guarantee an EU treaty, the Chief Minister warned this afternoon.
Both the UK Foreign Secretary and the European Commission have confirmed in recent days that there is a lot of hard negotiation to come to avoid a hard Brexit for Gibraltar.
The Chief Minister Fabian Picardo was speaking to Parliament on its first session since the Christmas break.
“The framework is the basis for the negotiation now of the UK/EU Treaty,” said Picardo.
“It has no public international legal value of itself.
“It is not an agreement to prevent a hard Brexit.”
This had been confirmed by UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab only yesterday.
“The political framework covers issues of key importance to Gibraltar and the surrounding region, including on border fluidity.
“It creates the basis for a bespoke model for Gibraltar’s future relationship with the EU that will permit an absence of physical checks at the land border with Spain, and therefore ensure fluidity of movement of people and goods between Gibraltar and the EU.
“The Governments of both the UK and Gibraltar judge that this framework provides a firm basis to safeguard Gibraltar’s interests.”
In the meantime, free movement will continue at the land frontier, Raab assured.
“The UK and Gibraltar are committed to ensuring that cross-border arrangements can continue in the interim, until a new treaty enters into force,” said Raab.
“Arrangements have been agreed with Spain that include provisions for the border (goods and people), road transport, healthcare, waste disposal, and data.
“In addition, the UK Government provided financial and other support to ensure that Gibraltar was fully prepared for the end of the Transition Period.
“We remain steadfast in our support for Gibraltar, and its sovereignty is safeguarded.”
This was echoed by Mrs Clara Martínez Alberola, Deputy Director-General, Task Force for Relations with the United Kingdom at the European Commission.
“This [framework] has first to be reflected in a draft, a mandate by the Commission, and we will need to take into consideration all the provisions relating to Schengen, goods, transport, level playing field, etc,” said Martinez.
“Then we will have to negotiate it with the UK authorities in the form of an agreement, that we should not forget will be an EU-UK agreement, and not anything else.
“So we will see this develop probably in the next weeks and months.”
Following the leaking of the proposed treaty in a Spanish newspaper, Picardo confirmed it would ‘reset’ the relationship with Spain and the EU in all areas.
“The framework provides that the treaty to be negotiated will deal with maximised and unrestricted mobility of persons between Gibraltar and the Schengen area,” said Picardo.
“Spain, as the neighbouring Schengen member state, will be responsible as regards the European Union for the implementation of Schengen.
“This will be managed by the introduction of a FRONTEX operation for the control of entry and exit points from the Schengen area at the Gibraltar entry points.”
He suggested that while Gibraltar has no experience of the European Common Market, some aspects of it would have to exist for free movement of goods.
“We are not going to join it but we are considering a bespoke arrangement, which permits potential suppression of customs controls.
“This will require an in-depth consideration of issues with out business community.
“We have already established a Treaty Liaison and Advisory Committee to advise us on these matters.”
Finally, the Chief Minister said that the only way to have shared prosperity was to keep things the way they were as much as possible.
“Remember that Gibraltar will need to be an engine of economic growth and to do so we will only agree to arrangements which preserve our prosperity,” he added.
“It is in that way that we will be able to continue to create more private sector employment in and around Gibraltar for the benefit of Gibraltar and the whole region around us.”