In practice, the agreement permits accession to the Schengen Free Movement Region
Spain will have the final say on who, under the terms of the preliminary post-Brexit agreement announced this week, will be allowed to join Gibraltar, Spain’s foreign minister said in an assertion that was immediately questioned by Gibraltar’s chief minister.
In theory, the agreement – signed just hours before the hard Brexit – makes it possible for the British overseas territories to enter the Schengen region, with Spain serving as guarantor.
Gibraltar’s port and airport will become the external boundaries of the Schengen region, with checks carried out for an initial four-year duration by the EU border agency Frontex.
“Schengen is a set of rules, procedures and tools, including its database, to which only Spain has access,” he said. “In an interview published Saturday, Arancha González Laya told the Spanish newspaper El País that Gibraltar and the United Kingdom do not have one. “The final decision on who joins the Schengen region therefore rests with Spain.”
“Asked if this would include the presence in Gibraltar of Spanish customs or police – a point that had emerged as a major sticking point in the negotiations – González Laya said further information would be known after she told the Spanish parliament about the agreement in the coming days. “Clearly, in order to meet the minimum Schengen regulation tasks, there must be a Spanish presence,” she said.
The government of Gibraltar did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
“However, on Saturday, in response to an article published by the right-leaning Spanish newspaper, Fabian Picardo, chief minister of the territory, tweeted, “Under the New Year’s Eve Agreement, only Gibraltar can determine who will enter Gibraltar and Spanish officials will not carry out any checks at the airport or port in Gibraltar now or in four years. That’s our country here.
You cannot say it any more explicitly than that.
The negotiations sought to capitalize on the mutual interests between Spain and Gibraltar, but also acknowledged that “a greater dose of trust is needed,” said González Laya, citing the deployment of Frontex agents as an element of confidence-building.
An average of 28,500 people a day crossed the border, including about 15,000 border crossers, before the pandemic.
The agreement was sent to Brussels, where talks with London will be entered into by the European Commission to turn it into a treaty. The process will take about six months, González Laya predicts.
In the meantime, he said Spain would seek to ensure that mobility is “as fluid as possible.” at the common land border, which on Friday officially became the EU’s external border.
Under the deal, at the very moment that the U.K. is officially severing relations with the bloc, Gibraltar will forge stronger ties with the EU. “That’s the great paradox,” she said, referring to the nearly 96 percent of Gibraltar voters who backed staying in the EU in the 2016 referendum.
“What we have seen is a paradigm shift, not of concessions, but of a convergence of interests between Gibraltarians and Spaniards, who are both pro-European,” she said. “This is the fruit of the Brexit.”
“no one has ceded an inch”no one has ceded an inch.
In 1713, Spain ceded Gibraltar to Britain, but has long attempted to regain it.
British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said earlier this week that the deal would not affect the integrity of the British overseas territory in any way. “We remain steadfast in our support for Gibraltar and its sovereignty is secure,” he said in a statement.