Brexit news: Spain warned Gibraltar’s sovereignty is non-negotiable | Politics | News

The British overseas territory is the subject of wrangling between Madrid and London as they attempt to hammer out an agreement for its future relationship with the EU. Officials in both countries are hoping to secure a bilateral pact to help facilitate trade between Gibraltar and the rest of the bloc after the transition period expires on December 31. With Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab set to hold further discussions with his counterpart today, Madrid accused Britain of not actively participating in the talks.

Spanish foreign minister Arancha Gonzalez Lays said: “Negotiations between the United Kingdom and Spain also continue regarding Gibraltar where time is also running out.

“We will not stop trying until the last minute and we wait for the active participation of the United Kingdom in this game to be able to reach an agreement before the end of this year.”

Madrid has long sought to use Brexit to bolster its claims over Gibraltar’s sovereignty despite promises not to do so.

Control of the Rock was transferred to Britain as part of the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht, and its people have since held several to confirm their allegiance to the UK.

A Gibraltarian source insisted its sovereignty would continue to be left off the negotiating table despite the time pressure.

A deal between the UK, Spain and Gibraltar was said to be close.

The insider said: “We’re not prepared to discuss that with anyone or anybody else.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has granted permission to Chief Minister Fabian Picardo to explore potential membership of the EU’s Schengen free-travel zone for Gibraltar if he sees fit.

Gibraltar’s negotiating team have argued the move would be beneficial for the Spanish region of Andalusia, which is ravaged by huge unemployment.

It would help smooth the path for 15,000 workers to cross the frontier from Spain to the Rock each day for work.

They argue the arrangement would be of “mutual interest” rather than a chance for Madrid to claw back control of the region.

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Speaking in the Lords, Mr Picardo this week said: “The principle of forming part of a free movement area with the rest of the Schengen acquis is one that Gibraltar finds attractive, and we want to ensure that we have the ability to have that unrestricted and fluid movement at the border.

“What the legal mechanism to do that is – whether it’s full membership of Schengen, associate membership of Schengen, extension of Schengen or simply treating the entry points at Gibraltar, at the port and at the airport, as Schengen entry points – that is the subject now of our final considerations in order to find a way that is agreeable, a legal framework that is agreeable to all the parties, and that doesn’t cross any of the sovereignty, jurisdiction and control red lines that each of us are bringing to the table.”

Under last year’s Brexit Withdrawal Agreement, Spain has a veto over any future relationship deal relating to Gibraltar.

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The Foreign Office insists it is negotiating “constructively” despite Spain’s ongoing claims of sovereignty over the Rock.

A spokesman said: “We remain fully committed to finding a solution that supports Gibraltar, its people and its economy.

“The UK and the Government of Gibraltar have held a number of constructive discussions with Spain on this issue. It is clearly in all parties’ interests to find a solution, to ensure ongoing well-being and prosperity in the region.”

Additional reporting by Maria Ortega