Pics: Johnny Bugeja
by María Jesús Corrales
Spain’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Alfonso Dastis, sought to reassure cross-border workers yesterday during a visit to La Linea, insisting Madrid would work to minimise the impact of Brexit on Spanish citizens, “and very especially those from the Campo and La Linea”.
Sr Dastis signalled that Spain would seek to ensure frontier fluidity after Brexit.
“We are not going to implement any visa and as for fluidity, we are confident that this situation will not be an obstacle,” he said
He nonetheless cautioned that outside the EU, there may be a need for tighter controls as a result of the security situation.
“Our will is for there to be no worsening of circumstances for people living in the Campo, and less so for people who work in Gibraltar and cross every day,” he said.
Sr Dastis was speaking in La Linea’s town hall, where he addressed guests from across the political and business communities in the Campo before speaking at an event organised by the Grupo Joly, which publishes Europa Sur newspaper.
Reacting to concerns about border flow expressed by La Linea mayor Juan Franco, Sr Dastis said: “I can assure you that we are not going to close the [border] fence.”
“I hope that there won’t be a hard Brexit, but we want to maintain the best relations with the United Kingdom and we don’t want to inconvenience or create a prejudicial situation for the citizens of this area.”
Sr Dastis, who is from Jerez and joked about football rivalry with La Linea’s ‘La Balona’, said the purpose of his visit was “very clear”.
“I have come to reaffirm the Spanish Government’s will to ensure that Brexit, if it happens, does not impact negatively on Spanish citizens in general, but very especially those in the Campo de Gibraltar and in La Linea.”
“If we are all faced with uncertainty, I can understand how that would be even greater here,” he said, adding that his ministry was coordinating measures with other departments and the Junta de Andalucia to mitigate any negative impact of Brexit.
Before his address, Sr Dastis formally greeted officials and dignitaries gathered for the event, who included the PSOE MP for Cadiz, Salvador de la Encina, and the Spanish Government’s representative in Andalucia, Antonio Sanz.
Sr Franco has earlier noted how La Linea still recalled “that ominous date in 1969” when the border was closed and stressed that “the problems in La Linea are very different to the rest of the Campo”.
He said La Linea had 32% unemployment and depended “almost entirely” on Gibraltar for its economic activity.
Sr Dastis said the co-sovereignty proposal was “still on the table” and would enable Gibraltarians “to make the most of both worlds.
But, he insisted, Spain did not want to force anyone against their will or put at risk the livelihood of its citizens.
“For that reason, our objective in the framework of the negotiation is to ensure that nothing happens that could prejudice Spanish interests in relation to Gibraltar and the Campo de Gibraltar.
Asked about the Cordoba Agreement Sr Dastis said that in his view this had been an error. But there were, he said, many practical issues which could be discussed.
“On the joint use of the airport we went too far. We would need to try again but for that we would need to reach an agreement on the conditions of use.”
Before visiting La Linea the minister was welcomed in Algeciras at the city hall, where he said the Spanish Government would seek to use Brexit to “substantially improve” the Campo, not just mitigate its negative impact.
“The negotiations is already looking at the fundamental priority of guaranteeing and protecting the rights of Spanish citizens who live in the United Kingdom and British citizens who live in Spain,” he said.
“In particular, we will ensure this protection for citizens who live in this area and constantly with Gibraltar.”
Sr Dastis’ visit comes a year after his predecessor, Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo, visited Algeciras to tout his co-sovereignty proposal, which has been firmly rejected by Gibraltar.
Today Sr Dastis will meet with Campo mayors at the Mancomunidad de Municipios.