The Chief Minister of Gibraltar Fabian Picardo today announced that an “in principle” Brexit agreement has finally been reached, without “prejudicing Gibraltar’s position on sovereignty, jurisdiction and control”, which will govern the relationship between Gibraltar and the EU. Gibraltar will become part of the Schengen system.
The Schengen system was first established 1985 to abolish border checks between participating countries in order to speed up the movement of people and goods.
Ironically, despite the fact that Gibraltar joined the predecessor of the European Union together with the United Kingdom in 1973, neither the UK nor Gibraltar were ever members of the Schengen system.
“We believe that we may be able to reset our relationship with Spain and cast it in a more positive light going forward”, Mr. Picardo said.
The Chief Minister stated that this agreement has avoided the negative effects of a hard-Brexit on the Gibraltar-Spain frontier as Gibraltar will become part of the Schengen system.
The European Border and Coastguard Agency (FRONTEX) will manage Gibraltar’s entry points at the airport and the port for a transitionary period of 4 years.
He asked for patience whilst the details were hammered out.
Mr. Picardo was upbeat and made it clear that the consequences for Gibraltar of a hard-Brexit would be dire.
Confirming many of the points that had been made a few minutes earlier in a press conference in Madrid by the Spanish Foreign Minister Arancha Gonzalez Laya, the Chief Minister said that the British Foreign Office had confirmed the UK’s desire that an agreement should be pursued and that Spain had notified the European Commission of its intention to seek a mandate for that purpose.
In summary, Mr. Picardo said that the agreement struck overnight and into this morning “maximised unrestricted mobility of persons and goods between Gibraltar and the Schengen area”, which of course, includes Spain.
There will be a transition period of 4 years, with the ultimate aim being to create a “level playing field” in terms of commerce, social security, citizens’ rights, data and document recognition:
“These are the things that matter to people; to our citizens generally and to our workers in particular… to our wealth creators…”
But he emphasized that the road to where we are now has not been easy and that “we have gone to the wire”:
“Almost to the last minute, the negotiation is successfully completed, and the clock has stopped ticking. We are going to avert the worst effects of a hard-Brexit, but of course, going to the wire means that there are going to be many loose ends to settle.”
Like the Spanish Foreign Minister had previously said, there were no sovereignty implications in the agreement or anything that “in any way transgresses Gibraltar’s position on sovereignty, jurisdiction or control”.
Mr. Picardo was profuse in his thanks, starting with the Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, whom he lauded for “the approach that he and his government had adopted in this situation”.
Of the Spanish Foreign Minister, he said that he was grateful “for her work, sensitivity and her own very, very personal efforts to getting a mutually acceptable framework over the line”.
Premier Boris Johnson, he said, had been in contact with him and had never forgotten Gibraltar in the Brexit negotiation.
He was grateful to Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab for “getting the right result for Gibraltar and its people”.
He also thanked the Deputy Chief Minister Dr. Joseph Garcia, the Attorney General Michael Llamas and all those who have been involved in the negotiation process on behalf of Gibraltar.
“This has been a difficult process, we have been battling the tide of history, but with this agreement in principle we hope to start to see the future come into view. We are in the beginning of the creation of an area of shared prosperity… that is what we want to see; greater economic growth, we want to see greater cooperation and we want to see greater prosperity become a reality for the people of Gibraltar and the region around us”.
He finished by saying that we cannot allow a “backwards step” of restrictions on the mobility of people become the “new normal … we could not see ourselves cut off from the physical continent of Europe”.
Mr. Picardo will be giving a full statement in Parliament in the next few days.