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Spain, EU ‘ready for any scenario’ over Gibraltar as talks with UK stall

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
A view of La Verja (The Gate), which marks the border between Spain and Gibraltar, in front of the Rock, in La Linea de la Concepcion, Spain January 4, 2021. (Photo by Reuters)

Spain and the European Union (EU) say they are prepared for all possibilities, including a hard Brexit, regarding their relationship with Gibraltar, as 11 rounds of negotiations have failed to resolve the dispute with the United Kingdom.

Spain’s Foreign Minister José Manuel Albares said on Monday the ball was now in London’s court following 11 rounds of negotiations for a definitive solution over the post-Brexit status of the enclave.

“Spain doesn’t want a ‘no deal’ scenario,” said the  foreign minister. “The government of Spain and the EU, which is ultimately the signatory on the agreement with the UK, are ready for any scenario.”

The Brexit withdrawal agreement, announced in December 2020, did not cover Gibraltar.

Back then, Spain, Britain and the EU agreed that Gibraltar would remain part of EU agreements such as the Schengen Area and Spain would police the port and the airport, pending a definitive solution.

Days later Madrid and London signed off on an agreement in principle that championed the idea of incorporating the British territory into the EU’s Schengen area.

Negotiations aimed at turning the agreement into a formal treaty began in October 2021.

Spain's foreign minister said earlier that Madrid has agreed to put aside the issue of its sovereignty claim over Gibraltar to focus on the opportunity to keep the border open.

Spain and the EU have recently sent London a proposal to keep the Gibraltar land border open as part of a definitive solution settling the post-Brexit status of the enclave.

The proposal includes removing the fence to ensure free flow of people between Spain and the enclave.

About 15,000 people commute daily from Spain to Gibraltar, which has a population of about 32,000. 

Spain, as the sponsoring Schengen member, says the responsibility should fall to the Spanish police. London, however, has pushed for the EU border agency, Frontex, to take on the role.

“Obviously we cannot be in this situation forever,” said Albares.

“The United Kingdom has to say clearly if it wants this agreement, which is global and touches all aspects of what has to be the relationship between Spain and the United Kingdom regarding Gibraltar, or if it does not want it,” he added.

He described the proposal as “reasonable and balanced,” adding that Spain was “ready to sign tomorrow."

The British ambassador in Madrid Hugh Elliott said in November that he was confident a deal can be reached this year.

The territory, located on the southern tip of the Iberian Peninsula, was ceded to Britain in 1713 as part of the Treaty of Utrecht. But Spain over the past decades has made it clear that it wants Gibraltar back.

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