The main sticking point in the talks between the UK and Spain over Gibraltar’s status post-Brexit is keeping the cross-border traffic flowing, Spain’s Foreign Minister Arancha González Laya said on Tuesday.
Although the UK and the EU finally agreed on a trade deal on Christmas Eve, the agreement did not include Gibraltar.
At a news conference on Sunday, Gibraltar’s chief minister Fabian Picardo warned that "the clock was still ticking" ahead of the December 31 deadline, calling for a "final push" to reach a deal.
"The time has come to grasp the nettle of history, and the nettle stings less if you grab it tight," he said.
"We can each win only if we all win. And we will definitely all lose if one of us loses.
"So this is a moment where we have the choice to make for our people, of whether we ensure that none of us loses at this table even if none of us wins, or we ensure that all of us wins to ensure that none of us loses.
"It's that clear. I'm optimistic that we can get there."
It comes as González Laya insisted that Spain was ready to “open the gates” to the British Overseas Territory in order to facilitate the movement of people, but warned that unless a deal was found before the end of the year, Gibraltar would have a hard border with the EU.
The minister said that if an agreement was not reached in time, the recent scenes of thousands of trucks being stranded at the port of Dover could well be repeated.
“We do not have much time, and the scenes of chaos from the U.K. must remind us that we need to keep working to reach a deal on Gibraltar,” González Laya told Spanish state broadcaster RTVE.
“Spaniards want one, the people of Gibraltar want one, now the U.K. needs to desire one as well. Political will is needed.”
If a deal is negotiated in time, Gibraltar would become a member of the Schengen zone, an alliance of European countries that have abolished border controls.
In a 2002 referendum, 99% of Gibraltar’s 34,000 citizens voted in favour of remaining under UK sovereignty. In the 2016 EU referendum, 95.9% of citizens voted to remain in the EU.
It is believed that around 15,000 Spaniards cross the frontier every day in order to work in Gibraltar which accounts for around 50% of the territory’s labour force.
Gibraltar has been a British Overseas Territory since 1713, although Spain has maintained its claim to ‘The Rock’ which is located off the country’s southern coast.
Since the 2016 EU referendum, Spain has been applying political pressure to the British government in an attempt to wrestle back control of Gibraltar.
January 14, 2021
December 23, 2020