"Former Spanish ambassador Josep Pons has welcomed the in-principle agreement over Gibraltar. He says it has historical dimensions which go above and beyond the traditional Spanish claim to the Rock, which he adds never got Spain anywhere."
by JOE GARCIA
A motion before the Spanish Senate calls for joint sovereignty leading to full Spanish sovereignty.
It has been moved by the Partido Popular. Either they are stuck in prehistoric times or do not adhere to democratic principles, as the people of Gibraltar have rejected any question of sovereignty.
The motion calls for it to be put before the Foreign Affairs committee to urge the Spanish Government to continue to explore the question of joint sovereignty over Gibraltar, without relinquishing full sovereignty in future, thus putting an end to this colonial relic, as manifested by the United Nations on numerous occasions.
The motion also urges the Spanish Government to defend, with firmness and clarity, Spanish interests over Gibraltar 'and our legitimate interests in accordance with international rights.'
Given the changes that could ensue as a result of the Brexit situation, they want the new situation defined in concrete terms as well as the developments that are foreseen in relation to Gibraltar, given the new relations that are established with the colony as a consequence of Brexit.
In a shock announcement yesterday, the Spanish government said that it is to take Britain to the court of justice in Luxembourg to effectively stop Gibraltar voting in elections to the European parliament.
Spanish foreign minister Ana Palacio said that they are starting a procedure to question the British legislation which allows residents of Gibraltar to vote for the European Parliament.
She was speaking at the Hotel Palace in Madrid yesterday morning at a conference called 'Forum Europa', which covers a wide range of topics.
She suggested that this issue could be raised at the meeting being held today between the Spanish under-secretary for Europe Ramon de Miguel and the Minister of Europe Dennis MacShane.
The GSD is calling on the Government to ensure that the “status quo is maintained while there is a prospect of negotiations on a possible treaty.”
A statement from the GSD follows below:
Gibraltar had been told by Mr Picardo’s Government that bridging measures had been put in place till the end of June to allow the negotiations on a treaty for a future relationship with EU to proceed without affecting people on the ground. This would effectively maintain the status quo given that the Government had failed to obtain a deal by the end of the transition period. The Government had also said that the expectation was that the bridging measures would be extended if it was not possible to conclude the negotiations by the end of June.
We are now at the beginning of June and the Spanish authorities have started stamping the passports of British resident Blue ID card holders which in practice disregards the bridging measures that had operated so far. Worse still the negotiations with the EU have not even started yet even though it was said they would end by June. The Government has stated that this measure in respect of Blue ID card holders may be about travel to the UK although it does not know. But how is this logical? ID card holders of whatever colour reside in Gibraltar. Surely if it is about the issue of monitoring travel to Spain by UK residents the Spanish authorities should stamp the passports of persons without an ID card of any colour.
Leader of the Opposition, Keith Azopardi said:
“The GSD calls on Government to ensure that the status quo is maintained while there is a prospect of negotiations on a possible treaty. That means that it should be confirmed now that bridging measures will be extended till the conclusion of negotiations – whenever that takes place – and that Spain will revert to the previous practice and stop stamping passports of Blue ID card holders. Otherwise Mr Picardo will be piling the failure to obtain bridging measures on his failure to obtain a safe and beneficial treaty for Gibraltar so far. It is worth reflecting on the fact that the people of Gibraltar have been left behind because of the Government’s failures and we are the only British place now without a deal and without any apparent immediate prospect of one.
Let’s not beat about the bush here. We have been warning about the Government’s failure to secure freedom of movement for British residents of Gibraltar when Spain bagged long-term freedom of movement for its workers. We should have obtained simultaneous rights at that stage in 2018 but Mr Picardo lost that opportunity. They lost a second opportunity to conclude a deal by the end of December 2020 even though the UK got a deal for itself. That meant we got left behind with a non-enforceable flimsy and vague framework. For Government to fail again to conclude a safe and beneficial treaty would be bad for Gibraltar. In the meantime any failure to get bridging measures would simply exacerbate the situation and lies at the Government’s door alone.”
I can't help but think this move of restrict passport control at the border is getting everyone used to the "new normal" of showing "nazi-style papers" in order to move around, which comes in the form of a health passport tied in with all kinds of other data (a digital identity), eventually leading to social scores and their ability to turn electronic-money (cryptocurrency) off and on depending on how conform to their draconian legislation.
Spain signed up for the digital health passports early on; and it was also confirmed that Spain would trial the EU's Covid-19 passport.
So essentially, isn't this just preparation for or a glimpse as what's to come?
The globalist Gibraltar politicians are on-board with the Great Reset's New Normal. And they've been normalizing totalitarianism for awhile now.
We've been warning Gibraltarians in the Health Passports Are Coming Thread. Proof of vaccination will be required to travel, and eventually be required to buy food. Eventually, the unvaccinated with be treated like the plague.
One move could be that "free-movement" will happen when everyone is vaccinated (another reason to hate the unvaccinated because they are stopping ease of travel etc). AND, it's not really free movement because people will have a digital identity and how well they behave will determine what they can and can't do – just like in communist China.
Don't think this is all happening? Open your eyes. Millions are seeing it worldwide and hundreds of thousands are marching in protests – like in London.
- CM marks fifth anniversary of Brexit vote with optimism, ‘and a tinge of sadness’
The UK Government is “fully prepared to accept the implications” in the event that a UK/EU treaty on Gibraltar’s post-Brexit relations with the bloc cannot be negotiated, and will “stand fully” by the Rock and its people, the House of Lords was told this week.
Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, the Minister for South Asia and the Commonwealth at the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office, delivered the message in response to a question from Labour peer and Freeman of Gibraltar, Lord Hoyle, even while remaining confident that a deal was possible.
He was speaking ahead of today’s fifth anniversary of the 2016 Brexit referendum in which the UK voted narrowly to leave the EU, taking Gibraltar with it.
Talks for a UK/EU treaty that will define Gibraltar’s future relationship with the EU have yet to commence, with the European Commission still to finalise a negotiating mandate on the foundation of a framework agreement announced by the UK, Spain and Gibraltar last December.
And reflecting on today’s anniversary, Chief Minister Fabian Picardo said that despite Gibraltar’s firm vote to remain in the EU, Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic had brought this community “closer than ever” to the UK.
While Spanish right-wing politicians had hoped Brexit would drive wedge between the Rock and the UK and weaken Gibraltar, the reverse had transpired.
“What they did not appreciate was how hard the Gibraltar team would work from the morning after that result, to secure long-lasting prosperity and security for Gibraltar and its inhabitants,” Mr Picardo said.
“The stresses and strains of the past five years have been many and they are not yet over, but we are in good shape as we look to start the negotiation of the potential UK treaty with the EU.”
“It is therefore testament to this hard work that we are now very close to securing a treaty between the United Kingdom and the European Union based on our New Year’s Eve Agreement with Spain.”
“Although the start of the negotiation with the EU is delayed, I am confident that all parties remain optimistic that we can finalise a treaty which guarantees the fluidity at the frontier and the other elements necessary for Gibraltar and its neighbours in the region to share in a future of ‘shared prosperity’ that will not be a victim of the departure of the United Kingdom from the EU but an example that cooperation can endure despite it.”
“For Gibraltar, that comes with a guarantee of continued, undiluted British Sovereignty over the Rock.”
The UK’s commitment on sovereignty was also underlined by Lord Ahmad in response to questions from Lord Hoyle in the House of Lords this week.
Lord Hoyle, father of Sir Lyndsay Hoyle, the Speaker of the House of Commons, had asked the UK Government as to what steps it was staking to ensure that Gibraltar was protected politically and economically from the negative consequences of leaving the EU.
Lord Ahmad said the framework agreement announced on December 31, 2020, would provide the basis for a UK/EU treaty on Gibraltar and that the UK Government remained confident this could be agreed.
“We are committed to delivering a treaty which safeguards the UK's sovereignty of Gibraltar and supports the prosperity of both Gibraltar and the surrounding region,” he said.
“Negotiations will begin once the EU has agreed its mandate and we are confident that a treaty between the UK and the EU can be agreed.”
“However, if this does not prove to be the case, or the deal on offer is not the right one for the UK and Gibraltar, we are fully prepared to accept the implications.”
“The UK will stand fully behind Gibraltar, its people and its economy in any scenario.”
And in a response to a second question from Lord Hoyle, Lord Ahmad reaffirmed the UK’s double-lock commitment on sovereignty to the people of Gibraltar.
Lord Hoyle had asked whether it was the UK Government’s position that Gibraltar would remain British for as long as the residents of the Rock wish it to be.
“The UK stands by its assurances to Gibraltar that we will never enter into arrangements under which the people of Gibraltar would pass under the sovereignty of another state against their freely and democratically expressed wishes, nor enter into a process of sovereignty negotiations with which Gibraltar is not content,” Lord Ahmad replied.
The European Commission confirmed earlier this year that it would seek a mandate from the European Council to begin formal negotiations for a UK/EU treaty on Gibraltar based on the New Year’s Eve framework agreement between the UK and Spain.
The hope last December had been to conclude the treaty by the end of June but, six months on, the EU mandate has yet to be finalised and approved so that negotiations can start.
The UK and Gibraltar have already finalised their negotiating mandate ahead of the talks and continue to maintain contact with Spanish counterparts while the EU finalises its position.
Bridging measures are expected to remain in place in the meantime allowing for additional time to negotiate the final agreement.
Yesterday, Spain announced it would continue interim arrangements at the border to relating to such as driving permits and healthcare rights for cross-border workers to October 31.
In marking the fifth anniversary of the Brexit vote, Mr Picardo said Gibraltar’s core focus had been on delivering “a viable and fruitful solution” for both Gibraltar and the neighbouring area to guarantee frontier fluidity, continued investment and job creation.
The New Year’s Eve framework agreement was a vehicle that had the potential to deliver prosperity to the Rock and the neighbouring hinterland for years to come.
But he added too that despite the partnership with the UK Government over the past five years to achieve that aim, he still viewed the result of the 2016 referendum “with a tinge of sadness”.
“I have never worked so hard since the announcement that day to give my all for Gibraltar, as have done all my colleagues in Government and in the core Brexit team,” he said, highlighting the contribution in particular of Deputy Chief Minister Dr Joseph Garcia, Attorney General Michael Llamas and Financial Secretary Albert Mena.
“I thank everyone who has worked with us since then and I pledge not to rest until we finalise suitable arrangements for Gibraltar that successfully deliver the certainty and security that we need going forward.”
“I especially thank Joseph, Michael and Albert for their hard work each day as we have slogged through.”
“My job now is to ensure that, generations from now, when people look back on this anniversary, they can reflect that things did not turn out so badly for Gibraltar in the end as a result of the work and solutions delivered by my government team and that the relationship with Britain and Europe has blossomed despite the challenges."
“We are not there yet, but we can see light at the end of the Brexit tunnel now.”
“Hopefully, we will be fully out of the tunnel soon.”
So, the UK ‘will stand fully’ by Gibraltar, if talks with the EU on a post-Brexit treaty engaging Gibraltar fail. We have it from the UK Parliament in the form of an answer to questions in the House of Lords.
Does this mean it will allow us to live at the extravagant level (when compared to UK voters) that we have today? Does this statement indicate that the UK-EU talks on a Gibraltar treaty are stuck and may well fail to come to a good conclusion? Why the need for a treaty, if the UK will support us so that we will continue with our current lifestyle?
WHAT WAS SAID, AND WHAT DOES IT MEAN?
Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, Minister for South Asia and the Commonwealth at the FCDO, said in the House of Lords that The UK Government is ‘fully prepared to accept the implications’, should no post-Brexit treaty by the UK with the EU over Gibraltar be agreed.
Well, that only means that whatever the implications, these will be ‘accepted’, as we say here, ‘di huevo con la boca cerrada’, a saying that briefly means that Lord Ahmad’s answer simply states the obvious.
We, in Gibraltar, are the ones who will have to ‘accept’ and live with the consequence of no agreement, not the UK, or its government, or its people.
WHAT DOES “STAND FULLY” BEHIND SUGGEST?
Lord Ahmad went on to say that “The UK will stand fully behind Gibraltar, its people and its economy in any scenario.” What does that mean?
The statement raises more questions than it answers. Is it a political commitment? If so, it has no flesh but is mere bones, beyond the repetition of the ‘double-lock formula’. On the economy, no doubt the UK will ‘stand’ with us, but doing what? Giving aid? Providing new loans? If so, on what terms and conditions?
The UK, Spain and Gibraltar remain “extremely positive” ahead of talks for a UK/EU treaty on Gibraltar, with the European Commission expected to finalise its negotiating mandate “before the summer break”, the House of Commons was told yesterday.
Lyndsay Croisdale-Appleby, the UK’s Head of Mission to the EU, told the Commons’ Foreign Affairs Committee that the New Year’s Eve framework agreement provided a “very strong basis” for the negotiation, even while acknowledging that there remained much work to do before a treaty could be agreed.
“What it does is provide a framework, so it’s absolutely true that there is quite a lot of complexity around movement of people and it’s a special arrangement which obviously needs to work with the EU’s Schengen system for people,” he said, responding to a question from Conservative MP Henry Smith.
“Similarly, there are quite complex issues around the way the goods relationship would work.”
“Those I think are the two big areas of the agreement which will take working through via the mandate which we will expect the EU to produce before the summer break.”
“But I think the spirit between the UK, the Government of Gibraltar and Spain on this remains extremely positive and the relationships that have underpinned it, in particular the sort of determination of all parties to build an area of shared prosperity around Gibraltar and the Campo de Gibraltar as the Spanish call the area.”
The UK, Spain and Gibraltar had hoped a treaty could be concluded by the end of June but the negotiations have yet to start while the Commission finalises its negotiating mandate, which must then be approved by the European Council.
Given the delays so far, talks seem unlikely to commence until after August during which much of Brussels shuts down for normal business.
Speaking during the same session of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Lord David Frost, the UK’s chief Brexit negotiator, hinted at the UK’s frustration at the progress toward negotiations.
“Obviously at the moment with regards to Gibraltar, we’re operating on the basis of the political understanding agreed right at the end of last year and that now needs to be formalised,” Lord Frost said.
“I think we’d have liked it to go a bit quicker than it has, but these things are often more complicated than you think and take longer, but we’re ready to go when the EU is ready.”
Mr Smith asked the two witnesses during the session how the movement of people would work and whether the mechanisms agreed in the Cordoba Accord might offer a solution.
He asked too whether there were any parallels between Gibraltar and Northern Ireland in terms of alignment with EU rules.
Mr Croisdale-Appleby, who in a previous role as deputy chief Brexit negotiator was deeply involved in talks relating to Gibraltar, replied that the situation now was very different and the context had changed because the border with Spain was now an external EU frontier.
“We are instead looking at a solution that reopens the whole of the border area, rather than just having a corridor through the airport,” he said.
“In terms of whether there are parallels with other situations, whether in Northern Ireland or elsewhere, I would say that I think the EU recognises that the situation in Gibraltar is rather distinctive as the other situations in which we’ve found agreements are.”
Arancha Gonzalez Laya to be replaced as Spanish Foreign Minister by José Manuel Albares
Arancha Gonzalez Laya is to be replaced as Spanish Foreign Minister, with Spanish ambassador to France, José Manuel Albares, to take up the post instead.
According to reports in the Spanish press, Mr Albares has been a long-time adviser of Spanish Premier, Pedro Sanchez, and has been involved in international negotiations, including over Brexit.
For her part, Arancha Gonzalez Laya tweeted that it had been a great honour to serve her country and its citizens. She thanked Pedro Sanchez for his trust in her, as well as her colleagues at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
CHIEF MINISTER'S RESPONSE
The Chief Minister says he has thanked Arancha Gonzalez Laya for her "positive approach' during her time in office, and wished her well on behalf of the people of Gibraltar.
Fabian Picardo says the reshuffle in the Spanish government has been widely predicted. He says José Manuel Albares has worked on Gibraltar matters before, at the time of the Withdrawal Agreement, and is therefore "familiar with the respective positions of the parties". Mr Picardo says he looks forward to the UK-EU treaty negotiations being "positively supported" by Mr Albares as he takes over in the Spanish Foreign Ministry.
We have a new foreign minister in Spain. The effect of this change, on the ongoing position engaging Gibraltar at Brexit, is not likely to be felt. Many indicators point to the improbability of any fundamental derailing of the process already begun.
On Saturday, Pedro Sanchez, the PSOE Spanish President, announced the appointment of Jóse Manuel Albares. He replaces Arancha González Laya.
NO NOVICE TO GIBRALTAR ISSUE
Mr. Albares seems, in his prior appointments, to have already been involved in matters engaging Gibraltar. Accordingly, he does not come in as a novice to where Spain and the UK find themselves over Gibraltar today.
He seems rather to stand in a strong position to be able to continue the process started before his appointment. Indeed, it was started by Alfonso Dastis, the PP Spanish foreign secretary, who preceded even Ms. González Laya, which itself is a sign of institutional commitments on the part of the ministry of foreign affairs.
SPAIN’S POSITION DEFINED
More importantly, the Spanish position concerning Gibraltar’s future relationship with the EU is already broadly agreed. That agreement is public. It is contained in the framework agreement arrived at midnight on the 31st December 2020.
It is that process which is to be continued.
FRAMEWORK LEADS TO EU WIDE TREATY
In his speech to Parliament, in mid-January this year, the Chief Minister, Fabian Picardo opened saying, “… we have reached an in principle framework agreement with the United Kingdom and Spain for a potential treaty between the United Kingdom and the European Union to govern the future relationship between the EU and Gibraltar.”
Importantly, this statement confirms that Spain has agreed with the UK over Gibraltar where the EU is concerned. It puts Spain and the UK on the same side, within the parameters of that framework agreement, to go forward together for the EU and the UK to reach a treaty on how the EU and Gibraltar will interact in the future.
What is to come, as Mr. Picardo says, is a negotiation between the EU and the UK for a treaty involving how and what will be Gibraltar’s relationship with the EU. That being so, the participation of Mr. Albares will be in a capacity of one of 27 member states of the EU, but him working, in that capacity, within a framework already agreed by his PSOE Government.
EU WILL NOT LET SPAIN DOWN
Certainly, we still wait patiently for the EU negotiating mandate. There is undoubtedly huge potential for the EU to raise complex issues within that negotiating mandate, which will need to be worked through before arriving at a treaty.
It would be unusual, however, and a slap in the face to Spain, if those issues, raised by Spain’s club, the EU, were incompatible with the framework agreement. That is not how the EU works. The EU will plough a course for itself, but that course will be carefully worked out within the furrows permitted by what its member/members, in this case, Spain, have publicly agreed.
SPAIN WILL NOT EMBARRASS EU
Reciprocally, it would be wrong for Spain, an EU member state, to place the EU in an embarrassing place by changing that which it has done in the framework agreement, simply because there has been a change in the identity of the foreign minister. That is not how international relations and diplomacy works.
In international relations, there is a momentum towards conformity to that which has been progressed by predecessors; absent the ability to change these without consequences on others in one’s own club, in this case, the EU.
ALBARES’ HISTORY POINTS TO NO CHANGE
The likelihood of continuation without change, on the Gibraltar Brexit front, is magnified by the history of Mr. Albares’ public career, and the reason for the change in the Ministry. `
That change was not propelled by Gibraltar. It was driven by the acts of Ms. González Laya concerning Morocco.
Mr. Albares is an experienced diplomat, although he put that career to one side in 2015 to join Mr. Sanchez’s team. He went back to a career as a diplomat following the PSOE lack of success at the polls, but with a strong desire to return to Mr. Sanchez’s side on being summonsed, which he did on being called, in 2018.
In 2018, Mr. Albares became PSOE Government Secretary General for International Affairs. A post which would have involved him in the ongoing matters relating to Gibraltar. Following a spell in this position he returned to Paris, as Spanish ambassador to France.
All that is evidence that, politically, he is an avid supporter and strongly loyal to Mr. Sanchez. Mr. Sanchez is publicly committed to the policy towards Gibraltar as is envisaged by the framework agreement.
PRESIDENT AND FOREIGN MINISTER STAND TOGETHER
He is now the Spanish Foreign Minister. In that capacity he has the full support and confidence of Mr. Sanchez to see matters over Gibraltar through, and to resolve/dissolve the row with Morocco. He stands alone in that position, but together with, and as the lone advisor to, Mr. Sanchez on foreign and international matters.
As foreign minister, he has the responsibility to support Mr. Sanchez in seeing the forthcoming negotiations between the EU and the UK on Gibraltar through. All points to him participating in these within the terms of the framework agreement. So, all change at the Spanish foreign ministry points to no or little change over Gibraltar in the next months.
No referendum on a treaty with the EU over Gibraltar, as some are demanding, is called for. Gibraltar’s elected representatives, the GSLP Government, are fully involved in all discussions with Spain and the EU about Gibraltar.
In that process, the Chief Minister, Fabian Picardo, and his GSLP Government, have agreed a framework agreement. They must take responsibility at the next general election for and the consequences of their acts.
Now, Hugh Elliott, British Ambassador to Spain, has repeated, what all parties, including the Government, have said, namely, that this framework should be converted “… into a treaty, faithfully following what was agreed…”.
MATTERS ARE ALREADY AGREED
The UK position, as outlined by Mr. Elliott, reflects that of the Government, who, the Ambassador says “… is totally involved in these conversations…,” leading to the framework agreement with Spain.
Further, he admits that they have all “… had many preparatory conversations…” to turn that framework into a treaty.
The Government agreed the framework agreement, it is participating in ongoing discussions, the commitment is to faithfully follow the agreed framework. That being so, the call for a referendum is dispensed with, as matters are already agreed by the GSLP, and so precluded by that agreement.
Matters surrounding Gibraltar’s ongoing relations with the EU are conditional, only, on the requirement that any treaty faithfully follows the framework agreement. That is despite so much being left open still, with only parameters and objectives identified.
The responsibility for the framework agreement, and any treaty that will come out of it, rests, already, fully, and squarely, on the shoulders of Mr. Picardo, and our other elected GSLP MPs.
A MULTI-DIMENSIONAL AGREEMENT
Any treaty, like the framework agreement, is not, in any event, a two-dimensional decision process or document. It is multi-dimensional. It will deal with a variety of complex issues at several levels, with consensus reached following detailed negotiation.
To decide acceptance or rejection in a referendum would do no justice to the negotiation. Any treaty reached is not suitable for such a binary “yes” or “no” route.
GOVERNMENTS ARE ELECTED TO GOVERN
The reason we elect a government every four years is precisely to empower it to decide matters, especially complex ones, on our behalf, and in accordance with the manifesto on which it was elected.
If a government steps out of line, the sanction available to the electorate is not to vote for it at a subsequent general election.
Two current open questions are:
Does the EU Commission (“EC”) agree with those parts of the framework agreement that are clear? And,
Is the framework agreement so definite that it can be so faithfully followed, as suggested by the UK and Gibraltar?
It seems that “no” answers both those questions right now.
That being so what precisely does Mr. Elliott mean when he alludes to “faithfully” following the framework agreement?
MANY OPEN ISSUES
The framework agreement leaves many an issue open.
It is clear mainly on the position that both the UK and Spain take on sovereignty and jurisdiction; they each reserve their respective positions.
However, according to the framework, the part that Spain will play is large. A reality that both our Chief Minister and the GSLP play down.
It has been agreed that, due to Spain being a member of Schengen, Spain, and not the UK or Gibraltar, will be responsible to the EU in Gibraltar to apply the requirements of any acquis reached, the Schengen Borders Code, and the protection of external limits.
Spain, however, will for four years seek operational assistance from Frontex. Exactly what this means and how it will work is left open and unsaid. But, if any side is unhappy, any treaty will be ended, following unspecified consultations.
Ending any treaty will bring consequences to Gibraltar. Should or can Gibraltar redirect its economy in those four years to meet that eventuality? The difficulties engaged in doing that, and the market forces against it, are apparent today. It is these, and others, that are now driving Gibraltar’s impetus for a treaty.
On mobility of persons, there is an intention expressed that those relevant parts of the “Schengen acquis” will be applied.
Gibraltar will first decide on immigration eligibility to enter; then Spain will decide on entry into Schengen, with both decisions being “cumulative”. The intention is clear, but other detail is left fully open. The relevant checks will be carried out by both at all entry points to Gibraltar.
On goods, the framework agreement leaves open agreement, on a “bespoke” basis. It does, however, require that the way forward must include an adaptation conforming to the EU’s custom’s union and the application of “substantially” the same customs and excise duties and VAT. Agreement at treaty level, on this front, is necessary, however, if the border fence is to be brought down, as Spain keeps boasting it will.
Other issues that are subject to final agreement are, tobacco, alcohol, and fuel, which will require there to be established a “level playing field”.
Equivalence on the environment and cooperation on enforcement is sought also.
The establishment of an undefined ‘cohesions’ fund covering training skills and employment in Gibraltar and the Campo is mentioned.
Undefined equality of treatment of cross-border workers on the same basis as nationals is referred to.
Undefined coordination of social security on a basis ‘similar’ to that included in the EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement is another unspecified aim.
EU’S STANCE REMAINS UNKNOWN
We will not know the EC’s position on the proposed treaty with the UK over Gibraltar until it publishes its negotiating mandate, seemingly next week.
The very need for a negotiating mandate from and a negotiation with the EU shows that there is still much unsaid and needing to be agreed, despite the framework. That being so, what does the intention to “faithfully” follow the framework agreement mean? Very little it would seem.
“FRAMEWORK” DESCRIBES WHERE WE ARE NOW
All in all, it is fine for Gibraltar and the UK to insist on faithfully following the framework agreement, but there is an undeniable reality, which is that the use of the word ‘framework’. That is the main and most accurate description of where we are today.
It is very much an ‘in principle’ agreement. One that outlines what still needs to be agreed in its full complexities and details for a treaty to be signed. What exactly following it faithfully means is difficult to understand right now.
The framework agreement simply goes to summarise, as between Gibraltar the UK and Spain, not the EU, the complexities that need to be overcome to reach any treaty with the EU. It goes to show the number of complex layers that cross-reference each other, which need yet to be negotiated and agreed, including those brought into play by the involvement of the EU, and its “interest”.
CONSEQUENCES TO GIBRALTAR AND THE GSLP
The above serve to demonstrate issues that render a referendum incompatible with the reality of the destination that the GSLP, as our government, need to arrive at and take responsibility for. The consequences, to Gibraltar, of failure to arrive at a treaty do not bear thinking about. Spain and the EU must be alert to that.
The success or failure of the GSLP, coming from its agreement to any treaty, will be for the electorate to decide at a general election. It should always be remembered, however, that once signed, a treaty is a one-way street. No new government will be constitutionally permitted to reverse or break such a treaty.
A treaty, governing Gibraltar, will be entered into by the UK. Once entered, compliance with it will constitutionally fall within the Governor’s responsibility, it being an external affair.
The State Secretary for the European Union in the Spanish Foreign Ministry has met with Campo Mayors today to assure them the region remains a priority for the Spanish Government.
Juan Gonzalez Barba has made the visit ahead of the European Commission publishing a draft mandate for the negotiation of the EU / UK Treaty next week . The journey so far, he said, has not been easy and it has taken some convincing for the EU to get to this position.
Two of the mayors briefly took to social media to announce that pending a treaty, the Spanish Foreign Office aims to remove frontier controls between Gibraltar and Spain early next year.
A Spanish Socialist MEP has expressed confidence that agreement can be reached on Gibraltar’s post-Brexit relations with the bloc despite “seemingly irreconcilable positions”.
Writing in The Parliament magazine, a respected Brussels publication that is widely read by EU lawmakers and officials, Nacho Sanchez Amor said that despite deep differences on the issue of sovereignty, the UK and Spain had always sought pragmatic solutions to practical problems affecting communities on either side of the border.
But he cautioned too that the UK and Gibraltar should “re-read” the European Commission’s proposed mandate published in July, just as they had called on the EU to “re-think” its position.
“With a common objective, of avoiding the harshest effects of a simple conversion of this area into an external border of the Union, it is now time to shape Gibraltar's future border relationship with the EU, expressly conditioned by Spain's recognition of a logical right of veto over Brussels' decisions and by the previous agreement reached in December with a British delegation that included representatives of the colony,” he wrote.
The European border and coastguard agency Frontex, together with the Spanish police, have been running a pilot project at the frontier.
The biometric system would be required in the event of a Brexit ‘no-deal’ for Gibraltar.
According to the newspaper Diario Area, the new system offers double border controls through the use of facial recognition and finger prints as well as travel documentation.
This is being used for pedestrians. For those driving into Gibraltar a tablet is being tested that can also scan passports and finger prints and recognise faces.
The system is being tested on an ad hoc basis and if no treaty is signed, will be required to be introduced next year.
The Spanish Ministry of the Interior has made no official announcement on this pilot project but had previously confirmed to GBC the infrastructure at the frontier had been upgraded to include many of these security features.
Measures to allow free movement at the frontier are in place until October.
Spain’s Prime Minister, Pedro Sanchez, told the United Nations General Assembly in New York on Wednesday that his government was committed to creating “an area of social and economic prosperity” between Gibraltar and the Campo de Gibraltar based on the New Year’s Eve agreement.
In a wide-ranging address, he updated the international community on the progress of talks toward a treaty between the UK and the EU on the Rock’s future relationship with the bloc.
But he said too that any final agreement must respect UN doctrine and Spain’s legal position on Gibraltar.
“On December 31st, 2020, in the context of the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union, Spain and the United Kingdom came to a bilateral understanding regarding Gibraltar,” Mr Sanchez told the UN.
“This understanding must serve to lay the foundations for the future relationship of this territory with the European Union and we trust that an agreement will soon be reached between the European Union and the United Kingdom regarding Gibraltar.”
“This agreement must fully respect United Nations doctrine regarding said territory, with which Spain is fully aligned.”
“It must also respect the legal position of my country as regards sovereignty and jurisdiction concerning Gibraltar.”
“Our goal is to work towards creating an area of social and economic prosperity that encompasses the entire area of Gibraltar and the Campo de Gibraltar.”
The reference to “jurisdiction” is unusual – Spain usually talks just of sovereignty when it refers to Gibraltar at the UN – but may reflect the complexity of a proposed treaty under which Spain would be responsible to its EU partners for the application of the Schengen rules in Gibraltar should an agreement be reached.
But Mr Sanchez’ commitment to the New Year’s Eve agreement will be welcomed by the UK and Gibraltar and comes at a critical time in the Rock’s post-Brexit relations with Spain and the wider EU.
The “bilateral understanding” referred to by Mr Sanchez is the New Year’s Eve framework agreement that the UK and Spain, together with Gibraltar, negotiated as the basis for talks on a UK/EU treaty for Gibraltar.
The EU has yet to formally adopt its negotiating position for those talks and a draft mandate presented by the European Commission in July is currently under discussion in Brussels.
The UK and Gibraltar have both rejected that draft as the basis for talks, arguing that it goes further than the framework agreement in many aspects and is “unacceptable”.
5th October 2021
The European Council on Tuesday adopted the bloc's negotiating position for a UK/EU treaty on Gibraltar, clearing the way for talks to commence.
The mandate, which was the subject of weeks of technical talks between the European Commission and the Council, was approved last week by EU ambassadors and adopted today during a Council meeting of EU economic and financial affairs ministers.
The negotiating mandate itself has not been published, but all the indications are that a number of changes have been made to a draft position published by the European Commission in July.
The Chronicle understands they include a specific reference to the role of Frontex in the application of any Schengen checks inside Gibraltar.
The Commission’s draft mandate received a cold response from the UK and Gibraltar in July, both of which raised numerous concerns including the absence of any reference to Frontex.
“The Council today adopted a decision authorising the opening of negotiations for an EU-UK agreement in respect of Gibraltar, as well as the negotiating directives,” the Council said in a statement confirming the adoption of the mandate.
“On this basis, the European Commission can now begin formal negotiations with the United Kingdom in respect of Gibraltar.”
“The aim of the negotiations is to establish a broad and balanced agreement between the EU and the UK in respect of Gibraltar in view of the particular geographical situation and specificity of Gibraltar.”
“The envisaged agreement between the EU and the UK in respect of Gibraltar should be without prejudice to the issues of sovereignty and jurisdiction.”
Gibraltar’s Attorney General, Michael Llamas, said negotiations could commence as soon as this month, although a timetable has yet to be published.
The EU Gibexit negotiating mandate, just published, requires that Spain monitors entry and exit through Gibraltar airport and port, but makes clear that this does not mean Gibraltar accedes to the Schengen Acquis. Although, for the first four years, Spain will seek the assistance of Frontex to physically apply those controls.
Additionally, the mandate requires that Spain takes over border vigilance of the waters adjoining Gibraltar, and the elimination of unfair competition, including on bunkering.
We await the reaction of the Gibraltar and UK Governments to the mandate, but the absence of fundamental changes from the draft EU Commission mandate does not augur well for talks, were Gibraltar to have a real choice anyway.
The EU Ministers have given the go ahead to a negotiating mandate, which is strangely being kept secret.
That secrecy could be due to fear of criticism, as now agreeing to negotiate, following the initial abject rejection by the UK and Gibraltar of the EC European Commission (EC) draft mandate, points to a climbdown by our GSLP Chief Minister, Fabian Picardo.
What we get now is platitudes from Mr. Picardo, to the effect that the negotiations will be ‘hard and tricky’, but that no concession on ‘sovereignty, jurisdiction and control’ will be made.
That last phrase continues, however, to be undefined by any of our politicians. It needs definition in manner suggested below, especially considering the current secrecy of the EU’s position yet the agreement by Gibraltar to sit at the table to negotiate.
SECRECY INDICATIVE OF CLIMBDOWN?
The secrecy raises the question whether it is motivated because the initial rejection by the UK and Gibraltar of the EC draft mandate has weakened their negotiating position.
That draft mandate, published last July, was immediately criticised by the UK and Gibraltar as conflicting with the 31st December 2020 Framework Agreement with Spain, and so it not being capable of forming a basis for negotiation.
Accordingly, if the finalised EU mandate does not greatly change that position, the UK and Gibraltar now agreeing to negotiate puts them both on the back foot, and a weaker position, in the negotiation that will follow, than it would have been had they not rejected the draft EC mandate outright so immediately.
What has changed to allow now for negotiations to start cannot be known whilst the EU mandate is kept secret.
7th October 2021
Any UK/EU treaty on Gibraltar must “honour the principles” of the New Year’s Eve agreement reached by the UK, Spain and Gibraltar, the chairman of a House of Commons select committee said this week, adding that “loss of sovereignty and perpetual alignment with EU rules” cannot be the “price of the deal”.
Conservative MP Bill Cash was reacting after the EU approved the negotiating guidelines for treaty talks earlier this week, clearing the way for negotiations to commence.
The mandate, which was the subject of weeks of technical talks between the European Commission and the Council, was approved last week by EU ambassadors and formally adopted during a Council meeting of EU economic and financial affairs ministers.
The final negotiating mandate has not been published, even though a draft of the document had been released earlier this year.
But all the indications are that a number of changes have been made to the draft position published by the European Commission in July, include adding a specific reference to the role of Frontex in the application of any Schengen checks inside Gibraltar.
The UK and Gibraltar had rejected the Commission’s draft mandate in July, saying it went further than the framework agreed on New Year’s Eve.
“A deal with the EU on Gibraltar must honour the principles agreed by the UK, Spain and Gibraltar in December – securing resources and the livelihoods of workers crossing the border every day,” said Sir Bill Cash, the Chairman of the European Scrutiny Committee in the Commons.
“This is the best and quickest route to a deal before the end of the year.”
“We’re happy to see the EU has reconsidered the entirely unacceptable notion that Spanish border agents would carry out checks on Gibraltan [sic] soil.”
“For the sake of everyone in Gibraltar and Spanish citizens working there, we hope for a speedy conclusion of talks, but loss of sovereignty and perpetual alignment with EU rules cannot be the price of the deal.”
“I strongly support the position of the UK Government and the Government of Gibraltar and my Committee will continue to enquire into this matter over the coming weeks and months.”
In a report last month, the European Scrutiny Committee expressed fears Gibraltar’s burgeoning bunkering industry could stall if proposed EU changes to energy tax rules were adopted and applied to the Rock.
The Gibraltar Government said the committee’s report had been prepared without its input, despite the explicit references to Gibraltar, and was “unrealistic”.
It said the committee’s concerns were “unfounded”.