“The ball is in the United Kingdom’s court. “They have to decide if they want an agreement or if they want European law to apply.” This is the starting point for the Minister of Foreign Affairs, José Manuel Albares, in the negotiations about the status of the rock after Brexit. After saying for a long time that the agreement was “close,” Spain’s diplomatic chief insisted on that message as the governments resumed talks. For Albares, the United Kingdom must make a decision based on the framework outlined by Spain and considering that the option to remain under the European legislation that that country has had since leaving the EU is a matter of “away.”
This is what he said before meeting with his British counterpart, the recently appointed David Cameron, under whose order the referendum to leave the EU took place. “We agreed that, once the government is formed, we will continue the negotiations for that agreement,” Albares said of the phone conversation he had with Cameron on Monday. This Tuesday, the meeting will take place on the sidelines of the meeting of NATO ministers in Brussels.
The Gibraltar chapter was not included in the United Kingdom’s exit agreement with the EU. The goal that remains pending is to give the disputed area a special status that allows the elimination of controls on people and goods at the physical border because the movement is constant—about 15,000 people enter the Stone every day to work—and at the same time ensure the security of the market and the EU area of free movement of people.
“The bases are clear,” said the Spanish minister. “Many months ago, I put a global agreement on the table because the agreement must be global; all aspects must be touched to make that area of shared prosperity between Gibraltar and the countryside of Gibraltar, ” explained Albares, who assured that there are “some margins”: “Spain has put on the table all the elements necessary in a balanced and generous way to reach an agreement.”
And what are those conditions? Spain insists that it is the Security Forces and Corps, under the umbrella of Frontex, that should implement Schengen border control. He also wants an agreement for joint use of Gibraltar airport and equal treatment of cross-border workers in retirement, extending British Community Care benefits to that group.
“We are very close,” Albares said before his meeting with Cameron, which will serve to reactivate the talks. In his opinion, what remains beyond the “presentation of the texts” is the “political will” to promote them.