Gibraltar Set to Drop Border Restrictions With Spain in New Post-Brexit Agreement
12:54 GMT 17.01.2021(updated 14:00 GMT 17.01.2021)
The United Kingdom formally left the European Union's structures on 31 December 2020. Gibraltar, which is a British Overseas Territory (BOT), shares a border with Spain, which remains an EU member. While the UK has rejected free movement, a new post-Brexit agreement for the rock would allow for eased movement between the two.
Border controls in Gibraltar between the UK and Spain are set to end in the coming weeks under the new Brexit arrangement, prompting celebration from residents on the Spanish side.
The UK and Spain have agreed in principle to end the land border, which is likely to happen within six months, with the terms of the deal to be set out in a formal agreement with the European Union.
The single road between the two territories will be extended to permit a further easing of travel for people and traffic. Certain infrastructure will remain with a few guards on standby. The specifics over certain customs checks away from the border are still to be worked out.
Gibraltar will become a de facto part of Europe's Schengen zone although the language over whether the rock will be "part of", or "connected to" the passport-free travel is still to be worked out.
Under the new arrangement, arrivals will be checked only if they enter by sea at the port and through flight.
Along with the Gibraltar border personnel, guards will also be placed on the EU border for the first time as well as a coastguard agency known as Frontex enforcing passport controls.
According to the BBC, Juan JosĂ© Uceda from the La LĂnea Workers Association celebrated the new arrangement with a 1940s bottle of Rioja after hearing about the new deal.
"This is great news for us. In the future it means it'll be easier to simply cross for people [trying] to get jobs. For my son, for example, who has no job", she told the BBC. "Work here for me is far more important than what colour the flag is".
While the move might be a celebratory affair for residents, tensions over who will ultimately administer movement in the territory remain in place.
Gibraltar's chief minister, Fabien Picardo, likened the agreement to a "common travel area between Gibraltar and the rest of Schengen".
"This is a little like the juxtaposed controls that you would see at St Pancras station when you're going on the Eurostar. You'd go first through British passport control. And then a few steps later you'd go through the French passport control".
"That is exactly the set-up of what we propose should happen if the European Commission agree, and we elevate our pre-agreement into a treaty", he said.
However, Spanish Foreign Minister Arancha GonzĂˇlez Laya recently claimed that Spain, which disputes sovereignty with the UK over the territory, would have to have the "last say" over airport and port border arrangements due to Madrid's continuation as a Schengen member country making the deal possible.
Mr Picardo rejected claims that this would impact British control over Gibraltar and clarified that movement between the two will only ever be made by Gibraltar guards, therefore "primacy" would be given to the British Overseas Territory.
"So if we say 'No' you've got to turn your tail and go. Then, you're not coming in through Gibraltar", he said.
"There is absolutely no way that anybody can suggest the agreement we've done or indeed that we would form part of a treaty that would in any way dilute British sovereignty".
Despite disputes over ultimate control over the territory, Gibraltar has had more cordial relations with the ruling Socialist coalition in Madrid compared to former more conservative governments.
During the tenure of the Popular Party, Spain's foreign minister claimed that Brexit would ultimately see the Spanish flag fly over the territory.
The residents of the area have experienced the reality of hard border closures, having lived under a brutal 13-year blockade by Spain's former fascist regime of Francisco Franco from 1969.
|Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list|