An agreement providing for Gibraltar’s orderly withdrawal from the European Union is “almost complete”, the Gibraltar Government said today.
No.6 Convent Place provided the update after an intense round of talks in Brussels last night.
“There are a few issues that remain to be ironed out and the overarching principle of the discussions remains that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed,” No.6 Convent Place said in a statement.
Speaking today, Spain’s Foreign Minister Josep Borrell also signalled that an agreement on Gibraltar was close.
“I don’t think Gibraltar is a problem,” he told reporters.
“There is a protocol in the draft agreement and this protocol was greed with the United Kingdom, so Gibraltar is not a rock on the way.”
Asked if the main stumbling block to a wider UK/EU agreement remained the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland, he added: “This is another question and it’s more difficult to solve than Gibraltar.”
“But in Europe, agreements never come before the end of the [negotiating] time.”
“We don’t have to dramatise. We still have time, we still have one month.”
Discussions about Gibraltar were also raised during a questions and answer session in the House of Commons after Prime Minister Theresa May delivered a statement updating MPs on the latest developments in the wider negotiations on the withdrawal agreement.
Labour MP Liz McInness asked about “…progress being made about the other border between the UK and the EU, the one between Gibraltar and Spain.”
“I’m happy to say that discussions are continuing in relation to the matter because this will be, of course, part of the Withdrawal Agreement that we will look to enter into and there have been positive and constructive negotiations taking place, but they are still in progress,” Mrs May.
The UK, Gibraltar and the EU have spent months negotiating a specific protocol for Gibraltar in the UK/EU Withdrawal Agreement. There will be similar protocols on Northern Ireland and on the UK Sovereign Base Areas in Cyprus.
Although a final agreement has yet to be sealed, all the indications are that consensus on Gibraltar’s inclusion in the wider Brexit withdrawal agreement and transitional arrangements could be secured this week.
The protocol on Gibraltar will be between the UK and the EU because under the 2006 Constitution, the UK remains responsible for entering any international agreements on behalf of Gibraltar.
But the wider UK/EU Withdrawal Agreement – if and when it is finally agreed – will reflect Gibraltar’s constitutional relationship with the UK and, in that context, the definition of the term United Kingdom in the agreement includes Gibraltar, the Gibraltar Government said.
It has also been made clear that the practical implementation of the benefits and obligations of such agreements can only rest with the Gibraltar Government.
According to No.6 Convent Place, the recourse mechanism for the UK-EU agreement will be a joint committee between the UK and the EU overseeing separate specialised committees covering areas like Gibraltar, Northern Ireland and Cyprus.
There will also be practical measures spelt out in separate arrangements with Spain covering tax cooperation, police and customs cooperation, the environment, citizens’ rights and tobacco, according to No.6.
Aspects of these measures will be time-limited to the end of the transition period in December 2020.
The Chief Minister Fabian Picardo and the Deputy Chief Minister Dr Joseph Garcia are returning from Brussels today but are on-call to depart again at short notice.
The Attorney General Michael Llamas has stayed in Brussels and Financial Secretary Albert Mena is in Madrid with the Commissioner of Income Tax, John Lester, discussing fiscal and tax issues.
“It is also relevant to note that the backdrop to these negotiations is the wider UK-EU discussions of which Gibraltar is a part,” No.6 added in the statement.
“The outcome of those negotiations will clearly have a bearing on the Gibraltar aspect of Brexit.”