The Spanish Government is being “extremely flexible and constructive” in its approach to Gibraltar in the context of Brexit, Spain’s Foreign Minister Alfonso Dastis said yesterday, adding that Madrid wanted the Rock to be included in any transition deal.
Mr Dastis was speaking to reporters shortly after the UK and the EU made public a draft legal text covering the terms of the UK’s withdrawal from the bloc and the transition period after March 2019.
The agreement explicitly states that Gibraltar is covered by its terms, but also includes a reference to the controversial Clause 24 veto set out in the EU’s negotiating guidelines.
But yesterday Mr Dastis played down talk of a veto and insisted that Spain was working to ensure that Gibraltar was included in agreement.
“It’s not about a right of veto, it’s about applying the negotiating guidelines…which state that the application to Gibraltar of the agreement depends on a bilateral agreement between the UK and Spain,” Mr Dastis said.
“We are working towards that, but in the absence of an agreement, I’ll revert to the guidelines.”
Mr Dastis said Spain’s main focus was protecting the livelihoods of people who crossed the border daily for work.
And he repeated earlier statements that even though Spain would not renounce its sovereignty aspirations over the Rock, it would not make them a central issue in the Brexit negotiations.
“We are being extremely flexible and constructive with one principal objective in mind, and that is protecting the livelihoods and jobs – at the very least – of those workers who cross the fence daily to work..,” he said.
“Our concern is the citizens and that is why we’re trying to reach an agreement that at least maintains their current circumstances and the general economic situation in Gibraltar and the Campo and, if possible, improves it.”
On Spain’s sovereignty aspiration, he added: “That is an objective that we are not renouncing, but it is not something that we are going to table in this specific circumstance or within the framework of this negotiation.”
“That in itself demonstrates the extremely constructive focus that we are taking.”
Mr Dastis was asked by journalists on the progress of the discussions on Gibraltar and said he was hopeful of reaching agreement before October, when the Brexit deal is due to be signed.
“How close are we to that agreement?” he said.
“We’re working on it. We’re working on it.”