Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Brexit row erupts as Gibraltar warns Spain ‘sorrow may turn to anger’

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Gibraltar‘s Chief Minister Fabian Picardo issued a major warning after failure to strike a post-Brexit deal before the European elections.

Hopes for a resolution ending years of uncertainty for the Rock following the UK’s exit from the European Union spiked in April, when Mr Picardo said London and Brussels were within “kissing distance” of a deal able to guarantee free movement over the border between Gibraltar and Spain.

However, talks on the thorny issue of the border appear to have stalled once again, with the last high-profile meeting in May involving officials from the Rock, London, Brussels and Madrid failing to mention “significant progress” on border checks.

With a new European parliament being formed following the June 6-9 elections across the 27 member states and a change in the leadership of EU institutions, discussions around Gibraltar are likely to be further delayed.

Mr Picardo stressed he wants people who live in Gibraltar but work in Spain to be able to cross the border without issues, as he wants families split between the Rock and its neighbouring province in the Mediterranean country to see each other “as seamlessly as possible”.

The chief minister of the Rock said London and Gibraltar have already done “a lot of work” on local border traffic regulations in line with the Schengen code as a fallback option should a treaty never be reached.

However, he branded a similar solution “unambitious”, adding in an interview to the Gibraltar Chronicle: “I’m not going to start negotiating for a solution that’s good if I can still see a route to the best solution. The route to this treaty does not pass through a comfortable alternative.

“And the reality is that we may fail to do a treaty, and we may also fail to agree a local border traffic arrangement.”

The full application of the Schengen border code, he went on to explain, would entail “massive difficulties”, and the Government of Gibraltar would need to apply the same rules to crossings from Spain to Gibraltar “more in sorrow than in anger”, being left with no choice.

He added: “And we can’t rely on the potential that there might be a local border traffic solution that might potentially be agreed.”

Mr Picardo warned that “sorrow might turn to anger quite quickly” should there be no agreement to make border crossings as smooth as possible between Spain and Gibraltar.

He added: “If the talks fail, they’ll probably fail because I will have to explain to the people of Gibraltar the things that we have found unacceptable in the context of these discussions. And then the atmosphere will become very difficult, very quickly.

“I think there are certain fundamentals that we have to protect, and I can only bring back a treaty that’s safe and secure. And the safety and security analysis passes through whether the fundamentals are protected or not.

“And that’s the Gibraltar economy, it’s the safety and security of the people of Gibraltar through an immigration system that stands up to scrutiny, both in terms of the removal of parts of the frontier fence and how Schengen security is done at our entry points. It’s complex, very complex. Complexity like never before.”

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