Spanish bid to impose its passport staff on Gibraltar in Brexit row could hammer The Rock’s economy, Britain fears
- Britain and Spain are currently engrossed in post-Brexit talks over the border
- If a deal is not reached, full and lengthy border checks could be installed
Spain has insisted that its police force must be allowed to conduct passport checks for people arriving in Gibraltar, causing fears in the UK that British Overseas Territory’s economy would be hammered by the protocol.
Britain and Spain are currently engrossed in lengthy post-Brexit talks over Gibraltar’s relationship with the European Union and how to allow people to cross the three-quarters-of-a-mile (0.75km) border freely and with minimal controls.
But Spain is insisting that for this to go ahead, its police force must be able to check the passports of the 30,000 people on average who cross the border each day.
The UK is firmly against the proposed measure, with officials citing the move as unnecessary and linked to Spain’s past harsh treatment of the territory.
If a deal is not reached, full and lengthy border checks could be installed which would be detrimental to the outpost’s economy.
But Spain is insisting that for this to go ahead, its police force must be able to check the passports of the 30,000 people on average who cross the border each day
A Spanish official told the FT that for people to cross the border, the country’s police needed to conduct passport checks for people to be able to gain access into Europe’s free travel zone.
‘To have fluidity of movement between Gibraltar and Spain there have to be Schengen controls at the airport,’ the Spanish official said.
‘There is no doubt. It is the only way. The passport checks have to be done by the Policía Nacional.’
But British officials see no reason why this cannot be conducted by the EU’s Frontex border agency instead of Spanish police.
Most people are able to freely cross the border under a current agreement put forward in 2020. They are required to show their passports or IDs to border staff and then they can pass through.
Around half of Gibraltar’s jobs are filled by Spanish workers and if a deal cannot be reached to allow the easy passage of crossers, the outpost’s economy could be in danger. In return many in Gibraltar frequently cross the border to shop and undertake various leisure activities.
After UK government’s Windsor Agreement, the renewed trade agreement with Northern Ireland, British officials are now keen to resolve the current Gibraltar border problem with Spain.
Most people are able to freely cross Gibraltar’s border under a current agreement put forward in 2020
Foreign Secretary James Cleverly and Gibraltar First Minister Fabian Picardo said they would be organising plans for all eventualities, if an agreement was put in place or not.
While UK officials have voiced their frustration, Spain said it was following normal protocol within the Schengen zone.
An Spanish official told the FT: ‘We have asked for nothing. It was the UK that voted for Brexit, which is a legitimate decision.’
To agree an alternative deal, some British officials are interested in exploring the proposal that Spain’s border guards be put in place at UK airports upon departure to the outlet. The same process is carried out by French authorities before embarking on the Eurostar to Paris and Brussels.
The issue is further marred by the memory for many Gibraltans of Spanish dictator Franco closing the border in 1969. It was a further 16 years until it was reopened.
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