The agreement on future relations announced last Christmas Eve by the EU and the United Kingdom restored calm after the serious threat of an abrupt march. However, in that text of more than a thousand pages signed ‘in extremis’ one of its chapters specified that the Rock was “expressly” excluded of the pact. The solution so that Gibraltar does not become a “hard border” at midnight on December 31 – when the transitional period of ‘Brexit’ expires – passes through an urgent agreement between Spain and London. Aware of the seriousness of the situation, the Foreign Minister, Arancha González Laya, issued a 72-hour ultimatum to the British authorities on Tuesday to prevent chaos from taking over this disputed enclave.
The head of Spanish diplomacy urged the United Kingdom to put aside the “excuses” and “resolve the practical issues of citizens”, regardless of the “inalienable claims” that both negotiating parties have on the sovereignty of the Rock. The minister appealed to the British political will and noted that what happened in Dover last week, when hundreds of trucks were trapped by the closure of French borders, is a “reminder” of what can happen. In this case, although on a smaller scale, he stated that there will also be “queues”, especially of people.
For bypass blocking In an enclave where the free movement of the thousands of workers who daily cross the land border from Spain to earn a living in this prosperous British enclave is necessary, the Council of Ministers approved a royal decree on Tuesday that contemplates an alternative route. Specifically, it ensures the “protection” of the more than 8,500 cross-border employees who have already registered in a file. All of them “are guaranteed the fluidity” of movements and only have to prove their national identity document to circulate freely.
Cross-border workers registered in a file are guaranteed free movement.
The authorities of the Peñónven «quite possible» that there is no consensus before the end of 2020
The Government also approved a transitional regime in the workplace for workers affected by Brexit, which guarantees access to unemployment benefit to European citizens who travel daily to the Rock to work until December 31, 2022. As of next January 1, a claim for the reimbursement of benefits paid by Spain to the British authorities is foreseen, when an international instrument is agreed that establishes the collaboration mechanisms in this matter.
For the rest of the people who wish to access, such as the relatives of Gibraltarians and tourists, it will be required to stamp the passport upon entering. This situation would cause long queues and would add to the problems that would occur in relation to the transport of goods, where logistics could get complicated for the entry of perishable products from the United Kingdom, in a territory that imports 100% of the food of its 34,000 inhabitants. Faced with this eventuality, the government of the enclave has hired a daily ferry service from Algeciras for January and has insisted that “it will continue to be able to import food, fuel, medicines and other essential supplies.”
González Laya’s ultimatum was responded to this Monday with some pessimism by the Minister of Economic Development and Telecommunications of the Rock, Joe Bossano, who stated that sees “quite possible” that there is no agreement border with Spain before December 31. In any case, he said that the United Kingdom is willing to continue talks after January 1 to overcome the crisis created by ‘Brexit’ and avoid a ‘negative impact’.
According to sources familiar with the negotiation, one of the most discussed points is security since that border would have to be monitored by a Schengen member state, which would be in charge of carrying out controls at the port and airport of Gibraltar. The idea that Spain can perform such functions does not seem to please the United Kingdom given the sovereign tensions. In this regard, the Spanish Government seems to be betting that the European agency Frontex temporarily assumes that task, although it demands that it be accountable to the Madrid authorities since they are the ones who must answer to the community partners that the Rock complies with the rules.