THE British government has rejected the latest plan from the EU in post-Brexit treaty negotiations over the future of Gibraltar insisting that the bloc “think again”.
The European Commission on Wednesday presented the 26-page draft negotiating mandate which it said would have a positive impact for people living and working on either side of the border between Spain and the Rock.
But both London and Gibraltar said the proposed mandate strayed over red lines established in the New Year’s Eve agreement and could not form the basis for talks as it gave Spain the mandate to carry out border control and surveillance at Gibraltar’s port, airport and waters.
Under the framework agreement of December, it was agreed that Frontex would carry out this role, rather than Spain.
But the new draft mandate stated that these powers would be given to Spanish border guards.
The mandate also gives Spain a deciding voice over the issuing of visas and residency permits and on asylum decisions.
And it recommends that Gibraltar be required to join the EU’s VAT area for goods and services.
“It seeks to undermine the UK’s sovereignty over Gibraltar, and cannot form a basis for negotiations,” insisted Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab in a statement on Wednesday.
“The UK, with Gibraltar, and Spain carefully agreed a pragmatic framework agreement, in full consultation with the EU Commission,” said Raab.
“The Commission’s proposed mandate, published today, directly conflicts with that framework.”
“It seeks to undermine the UK’s sovereignty over Gibraltar, and cannot form a basis for negotiations.”
“We have consistently showed pragmatism and flexibility in the search for arrangements that work for all sides, and we are disappointed that this has not been reciprocated.”
“We urge the EU to think again.”
Posting his full statement on Twitter, Raab said: “The Commission’s draft mandate fails to respect essential elements of the framework, does not reflect a real-world solution, and cannot form a basis for negotiations.”
Gibraltar’s Chief Minister Fabian Picardo echoed the view from London.
“The draft EU mandate is a matter for them, of course, but I must say that on the basis of the current draft, there is no possibility of this forming the basis for an agreement,” Mr Picardo said.
“We will work closely with the United Kingdom, especially Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, to continue to seek the best possible outcomes for Gibraltar.”
In Madrid however, Spain’s Ministry for Foreign Affairs welcomed its publication and said it remained committed to negotiating a treaty over Gibraltar.
“Spain will at all time work alongside the European Commission to ensure that its legal positions, interests and objectives are protected and that the commitments reached between Spain and the United Kingdom are respected,” the ministry said in a statement published on Wednesday.
“Spain wishes to conclude this negotiation as soon as possible so that a new framework is rapidly established that guarantees shared prosperity for the benefit of all parties and, in particular, the citizens of the Campo de Gibraltar.”
The mandate must be approved and adopted by the European Council prior to the start of negotiations.
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