Analysis

Gibraltar Brexit Deal is Victory for Spain

To keep its border with Spain open, Gibraltar accepts a Spanish role in guarding its ports.

Gibraltar
View of the Rock of Gibraltar from the territory’s airport, September 29, 2015 (Shutterstock/Nigel Jarvis)

Gibraltar is joining the Schengen free-travel area and will accept European border guards in its ports.

The agreement, reached shortly before New Year’s between the governments of Britain and Spain, avoids the need for a hard border and pulls the Rock closer into the European Union than it was before.

It is a victory for Spanish nationalists, who have long dreamed of regaining a foothold in Gibraltar after three centuries of British rule.

Accomplished, ironically, by a left-wing government.

Control

The EU’s remaining 27 member states agreed in 2017 that no agreements between the EU and the UK would apply to Gibraltar without a bilateral agreement between London and Madrid.

I argued at the time that Brexit would prove an opportunity to “take back control” for Spain. As soon as Britain voted to leave the EU, its friends on the continent had no incentive to push back against Spanish irredentism anymore.

Gibraltar itself, which voted almost unanimously to remain in the EU in the 2016 referendum, argued for joining Schengen in addition to remaining in the European single market for goods. Some 15,000 residents of La Línea de la Concepción on the Spanish side of the border — including 6,000 Britons and other Europeans — commuted into Gibraltar every day before the coronavirus pandemic. With only one border crossing, passport controls would have suffocated the local economy, which is dependent on finance, online gambling and trade.

Joint sovereignty

Spain’s previous, conservative government tried to force Gibraltar out of the single market. When the Socialists took over, and changed the Spanish position, the right accused them of throwing away a “golden opportunity” to negotiate joint Anglo-Spanish sovereignty over the peninsula.

Conservatives never specified what “joint sovereignty” would look like, but it seems to me the Socialists have achieved it in all but name.

EU nationals can continue to travel freely into Gibraltar from Spain. British travelers will be required to show passports and, if they plan to stay in the EU longer than ninety days, a visa.

Gibraltar’s air- and seaport will become external EU borders, manned for the next four years by Frontex guards who answer to Spain.

It’s undecided if they will remain beyond that period, if Gibraltarian agents will take over, or the Spaniards. Certainly Spain will be in a strong position to argue by then that it should have its own people on the ground, making a mockery of British prime minister Boris Johnson’s promise that “no sliver of Rock” would be traded away.

5 comments

  1. Why are you publishing fake news? The agreement does not impose a requirement for UK nationals to apply for an EU visa if they wish to live in Gibraltar.

  2. Why are you accusing me of writing something I didn’t?

    I don’t know if the rules are changed for UK nationals who wish to relocate permanently to Gibraltar, and there is nothing about that in the article. UK travelers will require a visa if they’re planning to stay in the EU longer than 90 days, even if they enter through Gibraltar.

  3. “EU nationals can continue to travel freely into Gibraltar from Spain. British travelers will be required to show passports and, if they plan to stay longer than ninety days, an EU visa.”

    What this paragraph implies is British travelers going into Gibraltar will be required an EU visa if they plan to stay longer than ninety days. If what you meant to say was British travelers going to the EU, you should have specified that in the second sentence as in the first you were referring to those going to Gibraltar.

  4. It’s not confusing at all. Anyone who follows the news a bit knows what ‘longer than ninety days’ refers to. Anyone who doesn’t know that should first read about brexit in general instead of commenting here.

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