Spain and the UK seek to “avoid the last hurdles” over Gibraltar | Spain

The Foreign Minister, José Manuel Albares (R), met his British counterpart, James Cleverly, at the Foreign Office, on Wednesday in Madrid.Perez Mica (Europe Press)

Spain and the United Kingdom are closer than ever to reaching agreement on Gibraltar’s relations with the European Union Britain’s exit from the European Union, But there are still “points to be identified, pitfalls to be overcome, margins for polishing”, in the words of the Foreign Secretary, James Cleverly. Minister of Foreign Affairs The Briton and his Spanish counterpart, Jose Manuel Albares, appeared before reporters at the end of their meeting on Wednesday in Madrid and both showed their “constructive spirit” and their desire to reach an agreement as soon as possible, but avoided setting a deadline. “If it were easy, we would have already done it,” he slyly apologized.

Although they did not want to go into details, the head of British diplomacy acknowledged that one of the sticking points remained the presence of the Spanish police and civil guards at the port and airport of El Pinion. Albares stressed that if Gibraltar wanted to join Schengen – the borderless European area which includes 24 EU countries plus Switzerland and Norway, and which Croatia would join on January 1 – Spain would have to implement the checks, which are working. As a guarantor of the application of its acceptance rules. But he added that the commitment, reached in December 2020, that during the first four years of the implementation of the agreement, Spanish clients would be assisted in this task by the European border agency, Frontex, remains valid. He shrewdly emphasized that nothing negotiated called into question the respective positions on The Rock’s sovereignty.

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Albars defended the proposal put forward by the European Commission to the United Kingdom, a proposal that in his opinion is “global and balanced” that includes the disappearance of the gate, free movement of people and goods, and joint use of the airport on which it is built. isthmus, equating the pensions of Spaniards who worked in the British colony with those on the plains, as the people of Gibraltar are known, or promoting environmental standards. The Spanish minister had expressed his willingness to sign it “tomorrow”, but his British colleague admitted he still had problems. “If it were acceptable, I would accept it now,” he said.

The United Kingdom and the European Commission held twelve rounds of negotiations to agree on the framework for relations between Gibraltar and the European Union after the completion of Britain’s exit from the European Union. Madrid and London had already reached an agreement in principle at Christmas 2020, which was reflected in the so-called Christmas Eve Pact, but it had to be developed into a binding treaty between the UK and the Union which negotiations began in October 2021, just over a year ago. .

The exit of the United Kingdom – and therefore Gibraltar as well – from the European Union was completed on February 1, 2020. However, the Rock’s relationship to its surroundings remained unchanged, as if it were still part of the Union. The European Commission turned a blind eye, without installing the controls that correspond to the external borders, waiting for the conclusion of the ongoing negotiations with an agreement that would allow the final demolition of the fence. Albaris realized that this situation could not be maintained indefinitely, but he apologized, claiming that in any of the matters relating to Britain’s exit from the European Union Deadlines have been met.

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The meeting they held in Madrid is the third meeting between the two ministers. Albaris and Cleverley met on October 8 in Oxford (United Kingdom), where the former had come to participate in the Hispano-British gatherings, and on November 29 in Bucharest (Romania), on the occasion of the NATO ministerial meeting. On 10 November, Albaris traveled to Brussels to meet with the Commissioner for Inter-Institutional Relations, Maroš Šefović, in charge of the negotiations, who told him that he saw the British will to move quickly towards an agreement.

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The appointment with Cleverly was not on the official agenda for Albares — who travels to Mexico at night to take part in a bilateral commission meeting between the two countries, accompanied by the heads of commerce, culture, universities and education — and it was announced this morning.

Alpars summoned the mayors of Campo de Gibraltar at his ministry headquarters on the 25th to express his optimism about the possibility of closure before the end of the year. Agreement with the UK includes “physical removal of the fence” It lays the foundations for a “co-prosperity space” between the British colony and its environment. In an interview with EL PAÍS on November 26, The minister stressed that “if there is an extension [a Gibraltar] Schengen [el espacio europeo sin fronteras] It is necessary that it is the Spanish police, responsible before the Schengen, that exercise these controls”; and that “if there is to be an area of ​​co-prosperity, there must be a co-use of the airport.”

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