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  • Spain will allow free movement for Gibraltar workers after Brexit takes effect.

    Spain will allow free movement for Gibraltar workers after Brexit takes effect. | Photo: Twitter/@AJENews

Published 31 December 2020
Opinion

Within hours of Brexit taking effect, Spain and the United Kingdom agreed that Gibraltar would not become a "hard border."

The Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs, Arancha Gonzalez Laya, announced this Thursday an initial agreement reached, in extremis, with the United Kingdom which allows the application of policies and programs of the European Union (EU) to Gibraltar, as well as the Schengen agreement and a customs regime on the subject of goods traffic and transport.

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At a press conference, the minister said that this initial agreement also incorporates measures of legal competence in the fiscal, environmental and social areas, while celebrating that "we are breaking down barriers to build an area of shared prosperity."

With the principle of agreement, she explained, Schengen (free mobility of people within the area) is applied to Gibraltar with Spain as the ultimate party responsible for its control, and will change the borders to Schengen controls at the port and airport. During a transition period of four years, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) will assist in these controls.

After closing this principle in agreement with the United Kingdom, Spain will have to ask the European Union to consolidate in a treaty that Gonzalez Laya expects to be ready within six months.

Madrid and London had to reach an agreement on Gibraltar before the end of the day in order to avoid a "hard Brexit" at the border, which would have required the control of goods and people, except for cross-border workers who have registered as such and will have a specific document allowing them to move freely.

Some 15,000 workers and 200 trucks cross the border between Spain and Gibraltar every day, and for the Spanish municipalities bordering the British colony, the economic relationship is a quarter of their gross domestic product and provides about $150 million a year.

In reaction to the agreement, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he received "with enthusiasm" the principle of agreement reached with Spain on the future relationship of Gibraltar with the European Union after Brexit.

In a publication on Twitter, the British head of government said that the United Kingdom "will always" be "fully committed to protecting the interests of Gibraltar and its British sovereignty."

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