Isabel Laguna I Algeciras (Cádiz), (EFE).- The recent agreement on Northern Ireland, the main stumbling block in the post-Brexit relationship between the EU and the United Kingdom, now puts the focus on the negotiations for the Gibraltar reserve , which, three years later, still have not reached port.
The discretion and secrecy with which these negotiations are surrounded only increases the uncertainty in which, above all, the more than 32,000 Gibraltarians live, the more than 270,000 residents of Campo de Gibraltar, the 15,000 cross-border workers who every day they cross the Gate and the swarm of companies that interact on both sides of the small customs.
The future relationship between the EU and the Rock is not included in the trade agreement that London and Brussels reached on Christmas Eve 2020, so a separate agreement is needed that requires the approval of Spain.
“Everyone plays with their cards covered,” explains to EFE George Dyke, representative of the Gibraltar Chamber of Commerce and president of the Cross-Border Group, which unites businessmen and unions on both sides and who live pending this agreement.
The “New Year’s Eve Deal”
Dyke, like Ángel Serrano, UGT regional secretary and vice president of the group, and many others in the area believe that the mere fact that contacts and negotiations continue is a sign that an agreement is still possible.
They even see with optimism the secrecy with which the negotiations are carried out, without revealing the details of where the obstacles are for the “New Year’s Eve Agreement” to materialize, which was reached on December 31, 2020, one day before it ended. the transitional period of the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the EU.
In the midst of so much secrecy, each political declaration is analyzed in search of clues about the state of the negotiation that will mark the future of relations.
Last Monday, the day an agreement was reached on Northern Ireland, the Spanish Minister for Foreign Affairs, the European Union and Cooperation, José Manuel Albares, said “I think we are very close to an agreement.”
A few days earlier, the UK ambassador to Spain, Hugh Elliott, said that although “much progress” has been made in the negotiations, “thorny issues remain” on the table.
On December 14, the UK minister, James Cleverly, traveled to Madrid to meet with Albares, but, after the meeting, they only made public their good intentions to move “as quickly as possible” to reach the agreement.
Fluent dialogue to avoid pitfalls
Albares recalled that Spain and the EU have presented a “global proposal” that involves the disappearance of the Gibraltar Gate, the joint use of the airport, measures in favor of cross-border workers and the equalization of the pensions of Spaniards who have worked in the Rock, among others.
In that appearance, the British minister responded that “if the proposal were acceptable we would have already accepted it, but we have to outline the proposal because there are some fringes and differences” and invited to maintain “a fluid dialogue” to “see how to overcome these pitfalls”.
One of those stumbling blocks is who will carry out border controls. In the New Year’s Eve agreement, it was decided that Gibraltar, after Brexit, be integrated into the Schengen area (to which the United Kingdom does not belong) under the umbrella of Spain, which does belong.
This would make it possible to eliminate the Fence and for border controls to enter the Schengen area to be at the port and airport of Gibraltar. Spain believes that this control should be carried out by the Spanish Security Forces, with the initial support of Frontex, something that Gibraltar finds difficult to accept.
Be that as it may, the “commas” of the agreement on Gibraltar have not yet been resolved, which, according to what the Secretary of State for the European Union, Pascual Ignacio Navarro Ríos, already said in November, was missing for the signature.
A brutal uncertainty due to the wait
Gibraltar’s Chief Minister, Fabian Picardo, has also left room for optimism in his latest public statements on the matter: “Thousands of meetings, calls and briefings later, we may be on the brink of a treaty that gives us the chance to stop behind Brexit”.
In Gibraltar, where 96% of the population voted against the separation of the United Kingdom from the EU, and in Campo de Gibraltar, they believe that it would be “incredible” if politicians were unable to materialize the “pre-agreement” on New Year’s Eve and that a “hard Brexit” would be consummated on what is considered the smallest border in the world, which would do “a lot of damage in both areas,” says the president of the Cross-Border Group.
In the area they look with suspicion at how it can influence the fact that this year there will be electoral processes both in Gibraltar and in Spain. “This is increasing the anxiety and stress with which we await this agreement,” he adds.
“The level of uncertainty this wait generates is brutal. The more time passes, the more uncertainty and the more fuel for hoaxes that have no head and tails.
We are very concerned because a non-agreement would be a real drama for the Campo de Gibraltar”, an area in which a quarter of its GDP depends on relations with the British colony, according to a study with data from 2013, and from which A large part of the more than 10,000 cross-border workers from Gibraltar come from, emphasizes Manolo Triano, CCOO regional secretary. EFE