9 Apr, 2024 @ 10:21
2 mins read

Spain and the UK ‘are days away’ from signing a post-Brexit Gibraltar deal as negotiations enter ‘sensitive phase’, claim sources

THE UK and Spain are on the verge of signing a post-Brexit agreement over the future of Gibraltar, according to sources close to the negotiations.

An article published by The Times of London claims that the two countries are inching closer to a deal following discussions between the UK’s Foreign Secretary, the former Prime Minister Lord Cameron of Chipping Norton, and his Spanish counterpart, foreign minister Jose Manuel Albares.

The pair are reported to have met last week after progress was made on the negotiations which were revived in December of last year after stalling.

Contentious talks had fallen apart after Spanish figures insisted that the UK surrender control of Gibraltar’s airport, which includes an RAF base – according to the report, the two sides are close to overcoming this important hurdle. 

Negotiations have been spearheaded by Lord Cameron, UK Foreign Secretary, and Fabian Picardo, Gibraltar’s chief minister. Credit: Cordon Press

Sources at the European Union’s headquarters in Brussels claim the sides are ‘optimistic’ about an upcoming resolution, although figures at Whitehall were quick to play down the prospect of an iminent deal. 

The future of the tiny Overseas Territory, located on the southern tip of the Iberian peninsula in a strategically critical area overlooking the Strait of Gibraltar which separates Europe and the African coast, has been enveloped in controversy since the UK voted to leave the EU in the 2016 Brexit referendum. 

Spain claims it has a right to control Gibraltar Airport as Britain is alleged to have illegally seized the zone when allowed to build a hospital near the Rock during a deadly outbreak of yellow fever in 1815.

Progress for the negotiations, which began in 2020 after the UK formally left the European bloc, are expected to continue with Cameron and Albares meeting again this week. 

The European Commission vice-president leading the Gibraltar negotiation, Maros Sefcovic, commented last week: “We are entering into a sensitive phase of the negotiations”.

Negotiations over the Rock have worn on since 2020 with plenty of obstacles along the way. Credit: Cordon Press

The prospect of a deal has already been met with stiff opposition from Conservative backbenchers who have raised concerns that any agreement would endanger British sovereignty of the Rock. 

Sir William Cash, chairman of the European scrutiny committee in the House of Commons, said; “I was disturbed to hear that what appears to have been agreed in principle between the UK and the EU with regards to Gibraltar would include EU Schengen border checks being performed in Gibraltar, Gibraltar aligning with EU rules to ensure a so-called level playing field, they say, and joint UK-Spanish management of Gibraltar’s airport and, therefore, defence issues”. 

“If so, what the government has agreed crosses its own negotiating red lines as first set out to my committee in 2021. It risks setting a dangerous precedent for the UK’s overseas territories and crown dependencies, allowing a foreign power to set the rules of our engagement and diminishing the constitutionally entrusted role which the UK plays”, he added. 

Fabio Picardo, Gibraltar’s chief minister who is currently embroiled in a highly contentious corruption inquiry, has said that an agreement betweent the two nations ‘can create prosperity for Gibraltar and the area around us. We are committed to delivering a great agreement but in a way that requires neither Spain nor Gibraltar to compromise on fundamentals”.

There are concerns over any restrictions increasing border checks and limiting the freedom of movement as the Rock is dependent on over 15,000 workers who cross the border every day from neighbouring Spain.

A UK government spokesman told The Times: “Gibraltar is an important part of the UK family, and we will not agree to anything that compromises its sovereignty”.

“The foreign secretary is expected to discuss the most complex issues in the negotiations later this week. While a final agreement is not imminent, the meeting will provide a platform to make further progress”.

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Ben Pawlowski

Ben joined the Olive Press in January 2024 after a four-month stint teaching English in Paraguay. He loves the adrenaline rush of a breaking news story and the tireless work required to uncover an eye-opening exclusive. He is currently based in Barcelona from where he covers the city, the wider Catalunya region, and the north of Spain. Send tips to [email protected]

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