The Spanish Government wants to maintain the “status quo” for cross-border workers who live in Spain but work in Gibraltar, Spanish Foreign Minister Alfonso Dastis said yesterday after briefing mayors from the Campo de Gibraltar on Brexit developments.
Mr Dastis also expressed Spain’s hopes for bilateral discussions with the UK on Brexit and Gibraltar, but Madrid’s concern too that these should not impact on wider negotiations between Britain and the EU.
During the meeting with the mayors in Madrid, Mr Dastis highlighted the protections afforded to individual citizens’ rights under the agreement reached between the UK and the EU earlier this month.
“The objective is to maintain the status quo and if we can improve quality of life in any way, then that’s what we’ll do,” he said.
Mr Dastis was asked about reports suggesting the EU was putting pressure on the UK and Spain to “resolve the controversy” over Gibraltar in the short term.
“I wish we could resolve the controversy in the short term,” Mr Dastis replied.
“What we want is something simpler,” he said, adding that the aim was to protect the rights of cross-border workers.
To that end, he said, Spain was ready to talk to the UK “with an absolutely constructive and willing approach to secure beneficial outcomes, both in the transitional period and in the future status.”
But he acknowledged that issues relating to Brexit and Gibraltar were “neither easy nor clear cut”.
The Campo mayors will be briefed again in January after an inter-ministerial meeting of the Spanish Government to determine specific initiatives aimed at mitigating the impact of Brexit on the region.
Jorge Romero, the Partido Andalucista mayor of Los Barrios, said Spain should calculate the economic effect of Brexit on the Campo and “demand” compensation form the UK, something the minister said would be “difficult to quantify” but would nonetheless be analysed.
Luis Angel Fernandez, the president of the Mancomunidad de Municipios del Campo de Gibraltar, was positive after the meeting with the minister.
“The agreement guarantees the current situation for cross-border workers who work in Gibraltar and live in the Campo,” he said.
Juan Franco, the mayor of La Linea, also welcomed the outcome of the meeting.
“I think it’s been positive because we’ve been informed about the progress of negotiations between the EU and the UK in respect of Brexit,” Mr Franco said.
“The document agreed by the EU and the UK will form the basis for the legal agreement and this is important because it covers the situation of cross-border workers and the fact the citizens’ rights will take primacy over other considerations.”
Jose Ignacio Landaluce, the Partido Popular senator and mayor of Algeciras, also focused on the rights of individual citizens.
“The idea is to minimise the impact of Brexit and put the focus on the day-to-day life of citizens,” he said.
“The minister’s objective is a permeable frontier and a more balanced economy on both sides of the [border] fence.”