Boris Johnson signs Brexit trade deal with EU
Britain will fully leave the European Union and cut all ties with the bloc at 11pm on December 31. On Christmas Eve, London and Brussels announced they had finally agreed to terms on a post-Brexit trade deal following several months of tense and often bitter negotiations. The deal has been given the green light by the European Parliament is expected to pass through the House of Lords in London on Wednesday evening.
But British territory Gibraltar is excluded from the trade deal reached between the UK and EU to regulate the relations that as of January 1, the EU will maintain with its former member.
Sources close to the office of Foreign Affairs Minister Arancha González Laya claim talks have been deadlocked for the past week.
Spain has said the European border agency (Frontex) temporarily assumes control of passengers at the port and airport in Gibraltar, which limits the visibility of Spanish agents.
This highlights that Frontex must depend on and report to the Spanish authorities because it is Spain who will be held accountable to its partners that the Schengen rules are met in Gibraltar.
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But this is not yet possible as the UK is yet to sign the treaty and Gibraltar can’t enforce the measures because it is not a state.
Ms González Laya has insisted Spain is ready to “lift the gate” to facilitate the free movement of people with Gibraltar but warned that if a deal cannot be reached with the UK, the Rock will be “the only place where a hard Brexit is applied.”
Spain’s Foreign Affairs Minister repeated the country wants an agreement that enables full mobility and promotes a “space of shared prosperity” on both sides of the border gate.
She vowed she would continue negotiating “until the last second of 2020” to prevent Gibraltar from becoming a “hard border” for the EU.
But Ms González Laya warned that if an agreement can’t be struck with Britain, passports will have to be stamped to enter or leave Gibraltar.
This would exclude the 15,000 people previously registered cross-border workers, for whom an identity document will be sufficient.
In reference to the decision from France to close the border after a new strain of the coronavirus was recently discovered in the UK, she warned: “On a smaller scale, one of the consequences might be queues similar to those we have seen in Dover.”
In a further warning, Ms González Laya also sent a reminder that the personal benefits enjoyed by the British from the Brexit deal will not be felt by Gibraltarians.
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For example, she said the Rock would now be outside European airspace and that its inhabitants will no longer have access to Spanish Social Security.
Citizens would need a specific recognition of their driving licence or alternatively would have to pay a supplement to their car insurance.
Mayor of La Linea (Cadiz) Juan Franco has also warned if there is no deal between Spain and the UK on Gibraltar on January 1, it would be “a bit catastrophic”, since access would be difficult and jobs would be lost in the British colony.
He insisted that “it seems that everyone wants to reach an agreement and that the end is clear to them.”
The mayor added in an interview with Canal Sur collected by Europa Press: “I hope the rope does not get so tight that it ends up breaking.
“As mayor, I’m not going to be talking about Schengen, or Frontex, but I think about the people who have to go to work every day, to sell their products, or the Gibraltarians who come to Spain to do their shopping.”
He explained that while workers could enter the country with a special accreditation, potential clients who go to those businesses would experience difficulties and Spanish firms would also find it increasingly hard to bring products across the border.
The mayor warned: “There would be a stage of quite serious economic readjustment for the region in general and La Línea in particular, which now has almost 40 percent unemployment with the negative effects of Covid.”
Additional reporting by Maria Ortega.
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