Gibraltar 'not willing to negotiate an inch' with Spain says expert

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UK and EU tensions have been tense over the past year as the two continue to thrash out terms for how a post-Brexit world will look for Gibraltar. The EU sparked anger from the UK earlier this year when it threatened to deviate from a deal struck between Spain and the UK. So, what’s the current situation? How far away is a deal from being struck?

When the UK officially departed the EU on December 31 last year, it threw up several questions regarding the UK’s future relationship with the Bloc.

One of these was how the future of Gibraltar would be shaped post-Brexit.

Here, Express.co.uk explains what agreements and discussions have taken place so far and what the likely outcome is.

On New Year’s Eve last year – the final day before the UK left the EU – the UK and Spain reached a deal which would maintain free movement of people to and from Gibraltar.

To avoid a hard border, it was agreed that Gibraltar would join the EU’s Schengen zone and follow other EU rules, whilst remaining a British overseas territory.

The deal also meant that the EU would send Frontex border guards to facilitate free movement to and from Gibraltar.

The European Border and Coast Guard Agency – also known as Frontex – is an agency of the EU tasked with border control of the European Schengen area.

For the UK-Spain deal to become final though, it has to be codified in a UK-EU treaty.

In July the European Commission sparked anger from the UK after it published draft guidelines which deviated from the original UK-Spain agreement.

The changes intimated that Spanish border authorities would be stationed in Gibraltar as opposed to Frontex, something which the UK opposes.

At the time, the then Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said it would “undermine the UK’s sovereignty over Gibraltar”.

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The European Commission was thought to be concerned about what precedents such a deal could set elsewhere; for example, in Northern Ireland.

However, following a meeting of EU ambassadors last month, it was agreed that the Bloc would drop its suggestion and instead propose that Frontex border guards be placed at Gibraltar’s port and airport.

Consequently, this proposal would align itself with the deal previously agreed by Spain and the UK.

It’s hoped the EU will agree to a deal that facilitates movements to and from Spain by incorporating Gibraltar into its Schengen free movement area.

This would effectively make the UK overseas territory part of the EU’s external border.

Gibraltar’s post-Brexit status is of importance because the territory depends on about 15,000 Spanish workers crossing the border it shares with Spain everyday.

The border is also vital to trading services and goods to Gibraltar, such as food.

As a result, Gibraltar is keen to establish closer links with Spain – including Schengen membership – than what it previously enjoyed when the UK was a member of the EU.

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