The EU rules that would apply at the border between Gibraltar and Spain in the event of a ‘no deal’ Brexit are the same ones that are currently in place today, deputy Chief Minister Dr Joseph Garcia said last Friday, as he emphasised that legal solutions existed to guarantee frontier fluidity after the Rock’s withdrawal from the bloc.
Addressing a session of this year’s summer courses organised by the University of Cadiz, Dr Garcia sketched out a brief history of Gibraltar’s membership of the EU and its relations with Spain, highlighting the importance of border fluidity to the economies of Gibraltar and the neighbouring campo de Gibraltar.
He said thousands of Spanish, British and EU workers crossed it daily in both directions, while millions of tourists made the crossing every year, as did Gibraltarians heading to Spain for leisure.
“Fortunately, the Spanish rhetoric with regard to the border has changed dramatically over the last 24 months,” he said.
“We have gone from Sr Margallo’s threat that post-Brexit it would be ‘perfectly possible’ to close the border, to Sr Dastis’ indications that the border ‘won’t suffer too many changes’, and to Sr Sanchez’s comments in March when he stated that fluidity at the border was ‘fundamental’.”
“The political will therefore seems to be there.”
Dr Garcia explained that Gibraltar was outside both the Customs union and the Schengen agreement, adding that this meant the border with Spain was already subject to controls on goods and people, unlike other EU borders.
“Because in fact the border between Gibraltar and Spain is already an external border for the purposes of the movement of goods and it is already an external border for the purposes of the movement of people to and from the Schengen Area,” he said.
“Therefore the default position at the frontier of no Brexit deal between the UK and the EU is precisely the Schengen Border Code that is in place today.”
And he later added: “There are legal solutions which exist which could secure the smooth passage of persons and goods across the border even in a post-Brexit world.”
Looking back over recent years, Dr Garcia reflected on how Gibraltar had stuck to its side of the Cordoba agreement and built an airport terminal, only to see the PP government in Spain renege on its commitments.
Instead of building the Spanish side of the terminal, Madrid had sought to veto Gibraltar’s inclusion in aviation agreements.
“But imagine the benefits which could have been reaped on either side of the border if the airport were allowed to operate as a fully-fledged European airport serving the business and tourism needs of hundreds of thousands of people,” he said.
“Imagine if, like Malaga Airport, Gibraltar Airport developed new routes to places like Barcelona, Berlin, Rome and Paris.”
“Imagine if, Gibraltar Airport, were able to demand more car hire services, more logistics, catering, ground handling and security services.”
“Imagine the jobs that this would create, the increased shared prosperity that would flow from all this.”
“Imagine if politicians in Madrid were able to put their sovereignty claim to one side in favour of genuine cooperation and economic prosperity.”
“On this side of the border we stand ready to cooperate to turn all this from a dream into a reality.”
Dr Garcia said the Gibraltar Government had faced up to the challenge of Brexit with “ambition, persistence and determination”.
He said the Gibraltar Government had set a defined message and a clear set of objective in the Brexit process, and knew what was needed in order to turn this difficult situation into a success.
And in that respect, it stood ready to engage with Spain while standing firm on red lines.
“We believe in the language of cooperation and dialogue as opposed to the language of confrontation and vetoes,” he said.
“But we will have no hesitation in defending our interests and in defending our sovereignty.”