Spain stands firm with Gibraltar demand as Brexit row erupts -EU guards MUST police border

Picardo: Nothing will cleave Gibraltar from the UK

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The Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation, José Manuel Albares, reiterated the Government of Spain will request the assistance of Frontex agents to exercise control of the external border with Gibraltar. The announcement came after his meeting with his British counterpart, Dominic Raab, in which he also highlighted the importance of talks between the two states as a matter of urgency.

“The objective of the trip is to create trust between Spain and the United Kingdom,” Mr Albares said, while underlining that for Gibraltar it is necessary to “create a climate of trust” because “there are many interests at stake” for “hundreds of thousands of British and Spanish”.

He reiterated Spain will comply with the principle of the post-Brexit agreement reached between Madrid and London on December 31, and will request Frontex assistance for the border with the Rock.

The European Commission proposed on Tuesday the European Union negotiate with the United Kingdom the end of the border gate in Gibraltar, as Madrid and London temporarily agreed last December, although it makes it clear that the Rock will continue to be outside the Schengen space, with controls at the airport and ports by the Spanish authorities.

On the other hand, Mr Albares shared with his British counterpart the concern about the COVID-19 crisis and the Delta variant, although he recalled that both countries maintain the highest vaccination rates in the world.

Mr Albares also assured that, after the meeting, there is “no indication” now that the United Kingdom is going to include Spain in the “red list” due to the health situation.

The meeting between the pair came after the UK was forced to tell the European Union to “think again” after the bloc published a plan for post-Brexit negotiations over the future of Gibraltar that London said sought to undermine British sovereignty over the territory.

The European Commission said the draft negotiating mandate would have a positive impact for people living and working on either side of the border between Spain and Gibraltar without undermining the EU’s single market.

The mandate includes rules for establishing responsibility for asylum, visas, residence permits and police cooperation and information exchange.

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Mr Sefcovic, a commission vice-president, said: “By putting forward this draft mandate, we are honouring the political commitment we made to Spain to start the negotiations of a separate agreement between the EU and the UK on Gibraltar.

“This is a detailed mandate, which aims to have a positive impact for those living and working on either side of the border between Spain and Gibraltar, while protecting the integrity of the Schengen Area and the Single Market.”

But Mr Raab said the plan conflicted with an agreement between London, Madrid and Gibraltar reached in December last year, just before Britain completed its exit from the EU.

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“It seeks to undermine the UK’s sovereignty over Gibraltar, and cannot form a basis for negotiations,” Mr Raab said in a statement.

“We have consistently showed pragmatism and flexibility in the search for arrangements that work for all sides, and we are disappointed that this has not been reciprocated.

“We urge the EU to think again.”

A British official said that one issue with the EU mandate was its provision that Spain should carry out border control and surveillance at Gibraltar’s port, airport and waters.

Under the framework agreement of December, EU border agency Frontex would carry out this role, the official said.

Gibraltar, whose sovereignty is disputed by Spain and Britain, currently remains subject to the rules of the free-travel Schengen area, keeping the border with Spain open.

The territory was not included within the trade agreement brokered between the EU and the UK last year and a separate deal must be agreed.

Additional reporting by Maria Ortega

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