After a series of negotiations between Madrid and London, an agreement was reached between the two parties allowing residents of Gibraltar, a British enclave in the extreme south of the Iberian Peninsula, to move freely to and from Spain for the next six months, despite the departure of the United Kingdom from the European Union.
This “preliminary” agreement concluded Thursday provides for the application in Gibraltar of the Schengen agreements, which provide for the free movement of people without passport control between 26 European states, including Norway, Switzerland and Lichtenstein.
Speaking at a press conference at La Moncloa Palace in Madrid, Spain’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation, Arancha González Laya said the Schengen agreements will now apply in Gibraltar.
By virtue of this agreement in principle, “(the agreement of) Schengen applies to Gibraltar with Spain as responsible,” she said. “There is no longer a barrier. Schengen applies to Gibraltar (in its relations) with Spain, which makes it possible to remove the controls between Gibraltar and Spain, this makes it possible to remove the barrier,” said Ms. González Laya.
“We have reached an agreement in principle with the United Kingdom which will serve as the basis for a future treaty between the European Union and the United Kingdom concerning Gibraltar”, she continued.
The agreement was reached just a few hours before the entry into force of Brexit, Thursday at midnight (23:00 GMT), and thus avoids the border between Gibraltar, ceded to the British crown in 1713 as part of the Treaty of Utrecht , and Spain turns from Friday into a “hard” border between the United Kingdom and the EU.
The agreement “will allow us to remove barriers and move forward towards a zone of shared prosperity. Firmness in principles, progress for citizens”, tweeted shortly after the announcement, the head of the Spanish government, Pedro Sánchez.
“The United Kingdom has always been and will remain totally committed to the protection of the interests of Gibraltar and of its British sovereignty”, underlined on this subject the British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson.
According to AFP estimates, some 15,000 Spaniards cross the border every day on their way to Gibraltar, half are workers and the rest are tourists looking for duty-free shops.