GIBRALTAR IN SCHENGEN?

Other than the headings all that follows are quotes taken directly from the statement made to Parliament by the Chief Minister, Fabian Picardo, on 16th May 2022.

The selective extracts are intended to give a picture of the substance of what the Chief Minister said, without comment.

Each reader can come to their own conclusions on careful and studied consideration, referring and comparing to the actual text, which is online, should they so wish to do.

Two questions are do we become de facto part of the Schengen space, as the Chief Minister himself says, and if so what are the consequences that flow from that?

COMPLEXITY

“The complexity of this negotiation is, frankly, unimaginable. The EU treaties … are all very detailed and complex.

We are, in effect, touching every single aspect of the basic building blocks of the European Union, and considering whether, and if so, how each of those should apply to Gibraltar going forward.”

PROGRESS

“In terms of progress of the talks, I am able to advise … that considerable positive engagement in the past four weeks has led us to be very pleased with where we are today.

We are not able to say we have agreed any text.

We are simply refining principles in great detail.

The progress we have made last week … has been satisfactory to all of us at this stage.

On many areas, there has been agreement around basic principles for full agreement to follow.”

MOBILITY

“The areas that remained most open in principle relate to aspects of mobility of persons and aspects of mobility of goods. The main issue has centred around mobility of persons. The key has been resolving how would be able to give effect to the practical arrangements necessary that will arise from the delicate balance reached in the New Year’s Eve Agreement.

By seeking mobility of goods and persons we are seeking, in effect, to carve a niche for ourselves in the infrastructure of the EU which cannot in any way threaten the integrity of the single market or the security of the Schengen area.”

CHECKS ON PERSONS

“Spain is the neighbouring member state and is today responsible for the Schengen checks as individuals seek to enter Schengen via Gibraltar-Spain frontier at La Linea.

We, therefore agreed in the New Year’s Eve Agreement, which we debated in this House, that Spain will have the responsibility for the Schengen checks as people enter Schengen via the entry points in Gibraltar.

At least for the first four years, she will carry out those checks with the assistance of Frontex.

The question, however, is how to do that in a way that is safe, secure, and agreeable to Gibraltar and the UK and Spain and the EU from day one.

The location and manner of the carrying out of the Schengen checks has been a key issue throughout the negotiation.

That means working to agree in detail where relevant people will be, what they will do and who they will do it to.

As such, we have also had to determine what each relevant agency will do in carrying put such checks.

The key, however, is that there will be no such checks at the frontier between us and Spain.

We also want those issues not to create unnecessary additional burdens for passengers arriving at Gibraltar Airport and Port.”

SECRECY

“Nothing will be finally and irrevocably agreed in secret.

But what we cannot do is negotiate in public.

So, I am sorry to say that we cannot say more.

We cannot go into more details because we want to give the opportunity to finalise this deal the best chance possible.

This is not because our instinct is not to be transparent, but because our obligation is to a higher purpose than ourselves and even our own political reputations and fortunes.

We have to do the right things for the Gibraltarians and all residents of Gibraltar.

In our view, a lack of transparency arises when a government can say something without a negative repercussion to the nation, but chooses not to do so, even if that is as a result of seeking to avoid embarrassment for itself.

We are not in the realms of such transparency.

We are walking a tissue of diplomacy that still remains untorn.

If we get to the end without tearing it, it will allow us the twin objectives of making a success of our future relationship with the EU whilst not turning one atom away from the steadfast reality of that we are and want to remain exclusively British in every regard.”

TREATY IMMINENT

“We are within touching distance of a historic treaty … between the UK and the EU.

A treaty that, if we can get there, will create renewed optimism in the European idea itself.

It will create opportunity for our economic development and the further economic development of the region around us, and perhaps even beyond, reaching across the strait.”

BUSINESS SND POLITICAL INTERESTS, NOT INFRASTRUCTURE

“Because I want to be clear, that the shared prosperity we talk about is about business development, not about Gibraltar paying for the creation or maintenance of Spanish infrastructure.

It will protect our post ’86 way of life, while at the same time safeguarding ALL of our fundamental political interests and not asking any other party to compromise theirs, as already provided in the New Year’s Agreement.”

PROGRESS

“We can see the contours of the final agreement between the UK and the EU that will be turned into a treaty text.

The positions we are landing on are becoming clear and concrete proposals on the table.

That will enable the UK and the EU to consider draft texts for the agreement in those areas.”

RATIFICATION PROCESS

“We are not, for one moment, going to spring an agreement on anyone.

Neither will we pretend to declare an agreement can be ratified by the United Kingdom on behalf of Gibraltar without consultation.

We have al ready said that we will not give Gibraltar’s consent to the United Kingdom’s ratification of the Treaty without the agreement of the Cabinet and the agreement of this House after a debate on a substantive motion.”

BRITISH WITH COMPROMISE

“The future of Gibraltar is exclusively British.
Nothing in the negotiation has called this into question or challenged the tenets of British Sovereignty over Gibraltar.

The EU is built on compromise – and we will need to compromise in some areas, of course.

But for us the compromises on the table cannot concern compromises on British sovereignty, jurisdiction, or control.

But they will include practical measures to secure fluidity that will make us all safer and more secure if we become de facto part of the Schengen space.”

NORTHERN IRELAND

“The most high-profile issue … is how matters relating to Northern Ireland and the disputes over the application of its protocol may affect our negotiation… both our negotiations are different.

The United Kingdom … has consistently made the point that the issues arising in respect of Northern Ireland and those which arise in relation to Gibraltar are entirely different.

It is also the position of the Kingdom of Spain, at whose suit the European Commission has launched this negotiation.

The Foreign Secretary Of the Republic of Ireland … was also forthright and clear in separating the issues of dispute.

The European Commission has previously made similar statements.”

PROSPERITY AND PLANS

“My obligation … has been to steer a course to continued prosperity and to seek a path to future prosperity in an exclusively British Gibraltar.

We have a plan for being outside the EU now and a plan for being outside the EU in four years’ time if needs be.

Our better plan is the plan that sees us enter into arrangements with the EU so long as the circumstances for those arrangements are right and remain right.

We are leaving no stone unturned to negotiate a safe, secure, and positive agreement for Gibraltar’s future relationship with the EU.”

More on past Brexit negotiations.

Gibraltar could become part of the European Union’s borderless area of Schengen by the end of this year, according to Gibraltar’s Minister of Tourism and Business, Vijay Daryanyani.

Minister Daryanyani raised Gibraltar citizens’ hopes that a new historic treaty permitting freedom of movement between the territory as well as the EU would be signed within the coming months, SchengenVisaInfo.com reports.

In this regard, he stressed that such an agreement could bring major economic benefits to Gibraltar as well as Spain facilitating the travel process for Spanish workers who enter the territory as well as residents from the Rock shopping across the border and tourists from EU countries.

However, the Minister emphasised that in order for such an agreement to be finalised, there would be no need for the sacrifice of sovereignty.

“There’ll be no concessions whatsoever on sovereignty, jurisdiction or control. That is one of the things that Gibraltarians as well as the Government are 100 per cent sure of,” he pointed out regarding the issue.

There have been continuous negotiations in order to reach a common agreement since the temporary agreement permitting freedom of movement for a period of over four years was finalised in December 2020, before the United Kingdom officially left the European Union.

The Minister considered that Gibraltar was in a good place, expressing hope that the territory could reach an agreement within the coming months. However, he emphasised that the territory’s authorities would like to think that a treaty could be finalised by the end of this year.

“It would mean 16,000 citizens of Spain who daily cross the border to work in Gibraltar’s hospitals, hotels, restaurants, and other businesses would be able to travel into the territory without passport checks. We have more jobs than people; we need them to come and work in Gibraltar,” he stressed, as reported by MSN.

Gibraltar has often sparked controversies between authorities in Spain as well as those in the United Kingdom.

Previously, the Former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Spain, Arancha González Laya, said that only Spain has the right to decide when it comes to persons who are eligible to travel to Gibraltar following the terms of the preliminary post-Brexit deal that was reached back then.

The polemics rose after Gibraltar’s authorities announced that the territory plans to join the Schengen Zone as part of the agreement reached hours before the UK left the EU on January 1.

“Schengen is a set of rules, procedures and tools, including its database, to which only Spain has access. Gibraltar and the UK do not. That is why the final decision on who enters the Schengen area belongs to Spain,” the former Foreign Minister pointed out.

According to her, the responsibility for border checks is in the Spanish authorities’ hands.