No treaty announcement after high-level Brussels talks, with agreement still elusive despite ‘important breakthroughs’

There was no breakthrough in the negotiation for UK/EU agreement on Gibraltar’s post-Brexit relationship with the Rock on Thursday, despite negotiators pointing to “important breakthroughs” after seven hours of intense high-level talks.

There had been mounting expectation that a deal might be announced as European Commission Vice President Maroš Šefčovič, UK Foreign Secretary Lord Cameron, his Spanish counterpart Jose Manuel Albares and Chief Minister Fabian Picardo gathered in Brussels for the second time in five weeks.

But with the EU’s June election looming, the negotiating parties emerged from the talks with a message that sought to highlight positive progress but left no doubt there was still much to be agreed.

“Today’s discussions took place in a constructive atmosphere, with important breakthroughs and additional areas of agreement,” the Commission, the UK, Spain and Gibraltar said in a joint statement.

“All sides are reassured that the agreement is getting closer and will work closely and rapidly on outstanding areas towards an overall EU-UK agreement.”

“The meeting reaffirmed their shared commitment to concluding an EU-UK Agreement to bring confidence, legal certainty and stability to the lives and livelihoods of the people of the whole region, by protecting and improving economy and trade, mobility, environment and social wellbeing, while safeguarding all parties’ legal positions.”

“They all agreed to remain in close and constant contact.”


Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares said negotiators for a UK-EU treaty on Gibraltar would continue bringing positions closer in a high-level meeting in Brussels on Thursday and would seal an agreement “if possible”.

Speaking to reporters as he arrived in the European Commission’s Berlaymont headquarters, Mr Albares underlined “good faith” on all sides as negotiators worked to reach an agreement that would “create trust and generate prosperity” either side of the border.

“I’m hopeful,” he said.

“I’m not fearful, quite the opposite.”

Asked in whose court the court negotiating ball was, Mr Albares highlighted a shared "constructive" spirit and said: “The ball will be in the meeting room and we’ll all play it as we’ve done since April 12 and over the past weeks.”

Mr Albares was speaking ahead of a meeting with European Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic, UK Foreign Secretary Lord Cameron and Chief Minister Fabian Picardo.

This is the second such meeting in the space of five weeks, fuelling speculation that negotiators may be on the cusp of a breakthrough in a negotiation spanning more than two years.

The four last met on April 12 and signalled good progress, announcing that “general political lines” on the airport, goods and mobility had been agreed.

Mr Albares would not be drawn on whether the “hoped for” agreement would be reached today.

“It’s difficult to know,” he told reporters.

“On April 12 we made good progress and reached important agreements.”

“The teams have been working intensively and have brought positions even closer and I hope today we continue doing so as much as possible, and definitively if that’s possible.”

There is no deadline for conclusion of the UK/EU treaty negotiation on Gibraltar, but all eyes are on the forthcoming EU election in June.

While there is no reason why the negotiation cannot continue after the EU elects its new parliament, the subsequent change of top officials at the European Commission would likely lead to delays and the risk of losing recent momentum, particularly with the UK due to go to the polls too in the coming months.

The EU election takes place across Europe between June 6 and June 9. Spain is set to vote on June 9, with the formal election campaign due to start on May 24.

Asked what would happen if a deal was not reached before then, Mr Albares said: “Let’s wait and see.”

“We’re going in with the best of aims and spirit,” he added.

He said Spain had proposed a “good, balanced and fair” agreement that would benefit both Gibraltar and the Campo de Gibraltar.

“I don’t see any stumbling blocks on our side in order to reach that agreement, but obviously I cannot speak for the British side, David Cameron will do that,” the Spanish minister said.