Gibraltar Brexit breakthrough looms as Spain hails progress ahead of Sefcovic showdown

Gibraltar: ‘No future role for ECJ’ says Boris Johnson

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Despite leaving the EU in January 2021, the UK and Spain agreed a deal that made Gibraltar part of the Schengen passport-free area. However British citizens need to go through a Schengen border post to enter Gibraltar through its airport and seaport. The agreement was also not legally binding and was not included as part of the UK and EU’s free trade deal.

After extending the agreement and talks in December, Spanish officials highlighted the “constructive spirit” in which the negotiations on Gibraltar are taking place.

Speaking on Tuesday, Pascual Ignacio Navarro Ríos, the Secretary of State for the EU, said he hopes there will be “sufficient progress” in the two rounds of negotiations scheduled for the coming weeks.

He said upon arrival at the General Affairs Council being held in Brussels: “The talks, the negotiations are going well.”

He then added: “Although there is no agreement yet, obviously because there are complicated issues to address, we hope to make sufficient progress in the coming weeks.”

Negotiations on Gibraltar’s status with the EU were only approved by the bloc in October 2021.

The EU Council gave its green light to the European Commission’s mandate at the time for formal negotiations between the bloc and the UK to “establish a broad and balanced” agreement “without prejudice to the issues of sovereignty and jurisdiction”.

It came after a draft EU proposal in September on Gibraltar drew anger from the UK, as it explicitly named Spain as responsible for border control rather than Frontex.

Wendy Morton, then-Minister for Europe and Americas at the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office, said at the time the draft “ignores the crucial role” of Frontex.

She added it also “overrides” the agreement in principle by granting Madrid the power to issue visas and residence permits.

It also comes ahead of European Commission Vice-President Maros Sefcovic speaking on Wednesday about his negotiations with Britain.

On Tuesday, Spanish Foreign Minister José Manuel Albares met with Mr Sefcovic in Brussels to discuss progress on the Gibraltar deal, which is expected to be concluded before Easter.

The Commission’s Vice President said on Twitter: “I was pleased to meet with Spanish Foreign Minister José Manuel Albares to discuss EU-UK relations and in particular the ongoing negotiations on Gibraltar.

“Our European and Spanish teams are working hand in hand to move the talks forward.”

Earlier in January, it emerged Gibraltar was preparing for a no deal scenario to negotiations between the UK and the EU.

Following a meeting, the Gibraltarian Government said it “continues to work constructively to achieve a treaty that sets out Gibraltar’s future relationship with the European Union and that this is the preferred outcome.

They added: “However, in the event that there is no agreement, it is important that both businesses and citizens continue to be informed about the impact this would have on the areas that concern them.

“It remains important, nonetheless, to understand that there are areas where it is not possible to mitigate and where the outcome, in a no deal scenario, would simply reflect what it means to be a third country outside the European Union.

“This would entail different processes and procedures from the ones we have been used to in our dealings with the EU which are likely to be more cumbersome, bureaucratic and time-consuming.

“An example of this would be the stamping of all passports on entry and exit from the Schengen area, not only from Spain.”

Additional reporting by Maria Ortega

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