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Negotiations with EU over Gibraltar border ‘no small issue’: MPs launch inquiry

The European Scrutiny Committee has launched an inquiry into the progress of the negotiations with the European Union over border and trade arrangements between Spain and Gibraltar.

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The move comes following news that ‘blue card’ holders – for British nationals who have temporary resident status in Gibraltar – are being refused entry into Spain without revealing the reason for their visit, where they’ll be staying, and the amount of cash they have.

The Committee had sounded the alarm several times over the last year about the importance of negotiations with the EU in evidence sessions with former Europe Minister Wendy Morton, Chief Minister of Gibraltar Fabian Picardo, and current Europe Minister James Cleverly.

The Committee have also published correspondence from Mr Cleverly specifically on the issue of people being stopped at the border by Spanish authorities. In it, the Minister appears to downplay the scale of the problem.

Chair's comment

Committee Chairman Sir William Cash said, “While we are pleased the issue of Spain’s management of the border is now on the Minister’s radar, this is no small matter. The 3,000 people the problem effects equates to nearly 10% of Gibraltar’s population.

With no sign of an imminent agreement, we have decided to open an inquiry into the UK’s negotiations with the EU over future trade arrangements and checks at the Spain-Gibraltar border.”  

Gibraltar’s trade and border arrangements were not covered in the Trade and Cooperation Agreement – the trade deal signed between the UK and the EU when the UK left the block. Instead, a temporary arrangement was agreed at the 11th hour, a deal that has no formal footing.

It had been hoped that a deal would be brokered by the end of 2021, but negotiations are still ongoing.

Terms of Reference

The Committee’s inquiry will look at the following issues:

  • The progress of UK/EU negotiations on a trade and border deal for Gibraltar;
  • The UK, EU, Spain and Gibraltar’s negotiating objectives and how these have developed since the start of formal negotiations;
  • The reasons for the delay to an agreement being reached and how this is affecting Gibraltarian businesses and citizens;
  • The unique circumstances and arrangements pertaining to Gibraltar, in particular, its border with Spain and the fact that it is not covered by the UK/EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement;
  • Specific local factors that should be taken into account during the negotiations (e.g. the importance of a fluid border for Gibraltar and Campo de Gibraltar, long-standing travel arrangements at the border for British nationals resident in Gibraltar, and Gibraltar’s position as a leading finance centre);
  • The text of any agreement (or agreements); and
  • If a negotiated outcome is unlikely in the short to medium term, the contingencies that will be put in place and the implications of these.

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