Gibraltar 'not willing to negotiate an inch' with Spain says expert
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In his New Year message, Mr Garcia said there are “difficult challenges and tough decisions” ahead for the Rock amid Brexit negotiations and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. He said it is “essential” for Gibraltar to “get it right” in negotiations with the EU about the future of the Rock following the UK’s exit from the bloc.
Mr Garcia said: “Unlike with the pandemic, people are not going to lose their lives here, but the importance of a successful outcome to the treaty negotiations is not lost on anyone.
“The objective remains to carve out a future relationship for Gibraltar with the European Union which is in keeping with our well-known position on sovereignty.
“We will walk away from a treaty rather than compromise our birthright.”
The British overseas territory is at the centre of a row between the UK and EU after Brexit, as access to Gibraltar was not included in the trade agreement.
Under an EU proposal, Spain would gain control over the country’s external border.
Since then, Madrid has stepped up its attempts to use Britain’s EU split to reclaim the British overseas territory
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Despite his warning, Mr Garcia said it is important for British Overseas Territory to have an agreement in place with EU.
On the impact of the Rock being left without a deal, he added: “It is important to emphasise that there are some areas where, despite all the planning in the world, it will simply not be possible to provide any mitigation and where the position Gibraltar ends up in will simply reflect what it means to be a third country outside the EU.
“This may lead to greater bureaucracy, disruption and red-tape for citizens and businesses in our interactions with the EU as we adapt to a new and very different reality.
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“Indeed, the aim of a successful treaty negotiation is precisely to pull us away from that unattractive alternate universe.
“In short, we need to understand that we are all in it together.”
On New Year’s Eve last year – the final day before the UK unshackled itself from the EU – a deal was struck with Spain which would maintain free movement of people to and from Gibraltar.
To avoid a hard border, it was agreed Gibraltar would join the EU’s Schengen zone and follow other Brussels rules, while remaining a British overseas territory.
The deal also meant the EU would send Frontex border guards to facilitate free movement to and from Gibraltar.
The European Border and Coast Guard Agency – also known as Frontex – is an agency of the EU tasked with border control of the European Schengen area.
For the UK-Spain deal to become final, it has to be codified in a UK-EU treaty.
But the European Commission sparked anger in the UK in July when it published draft guidelines deviating from the original UK-Spain agreement.
The changes intimated that Spanish border authorities would be stationed in Gibraltar as opposed to Frontex, something which the UK opposes.
Gibraltar’s post-Brexit status is of importance because the territory depends on about 15,000 Spanish workers crossing the border it shares with Spain every day.
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