Brexit: Spain threatens to wreak havoc on Gibraltar unless UK caves to demands

Gibraltar is a sticking point between the EU and the UK after the latter voted to leave the bloc.
Gibraltar is a sticking point between the EU and the UK after the latter voted to leave the bloc.

Jose Manuel Albares says the ball is now in London’s court after 11 rounds of tough negotiation

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Spain and the EU are prepared for a hard Brexit when it comes to the bloc’s relationship with Gibraltar, according to Spain’s foreign minister.

Jose Manuel Albares says the ball is now in London’s court after 11 rounds of tough negotiation.

He told Europa Press: “Spain doesn’t want a ‘no deal’ scenario. The government of Spain and the EU, which is ultimately the signatory on the agreement with the UK, are ready for any scenario.”

Gibraltar was not covered in the Brexit withdrawal agreement which was unveiled on Christmas Eve 2020.

Madrid and London then signed off on an agreement in principle days later that promoted the idea of including the overseas territory in the EU’s Schengen area.

The Gibraltar economy is propped up by 15,000 workers who cross into the overseas territory on a daily basis from Spain.
The Gibraltar economy is propped up by 15,000 workers who cross into the overseas territory on a daily basis from Spain.

Negotiations kicked off in 2021 that looked to turn the agreement into a formal treaty as EU and UK delegates made a point of steering clear of a sovereignty dispute.

London and Madrid focused on common ground with issues such as the 15,000 workers who cross into Gibraltar daily from Spain, maintaining the economy on both sides of the border.

As both sides sought to protect the freedom of movement afforded to workers, a sticking point has arisen over who will carry out passport checks on travellers who arrive at the airport in Gibraltar.

Spain has argued that the responsibility should be imposed upon the Spanish police, due to the country being the sponsoring Schengen member.

The UK, however, is pushing for EU border agency Frontex to take on the responsibility.

Historical factors have added an underlying current to negotiations after Spain ceded Gibraltar to Britain in 1713, but has long since looked to reclaim the territory.

Despite reports of goodwill from both sides, the issue has resulted in both parties walking away from the latest proposal on the table.

A hard Brexit as threatened by Spain would risk requiring passports to be checked every time people cross the border, causing daily chaos for workers.

“Obviously we cannot be in this situation forever,” said Albares.

“The United Kingdom has to say clearly if it wants this agreement, which is global and touches all aspects of what has to be the relationship between Spain and the United Kingdom regarding Gibraltar, or if it does not want it.”

The Foreign Office said the coming weeks will see further discussions, with a recent mid-December meeting between the foreign secretary, James Cleverly, and his Spanish counterpart being described as a “productive discussion” in a statement.

"The UK remains steadfast in our support for Gibraltar and will not agree to anything that compromises sovereignty,” it added.