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Some intriguing pull-outs from the EU’s opening gambit in the Brexit talks.
According to a draft nine-page set of guidelines sent out to the EU’s 27 leaders today, any agreement between the bloc and the UK will not automatically apply to Britain’s overseas territory of Gibraltar.
After the United Kingdom leaves the Union, no agreement between the EU and the United Kingdom may apply to the territory of Gibraltar without the agreement between the Kingdom of Spain and the United Kingdom.
The fate of the 300-year old rock is likely to emerge as one in a litany of sticking points in the two-year exit talks. Ninety-six percent of Brits in Gibraltar voted to remain in the EU, leaving the rock in a bit of a hard place.
Today’s draft guidelines, which will be refined and eventually adopted in some form by EU leaders at the end of next month, show the EU thinks all issues relating to the bloc must be sorted bilaterally between London and Madrid – a move that could hand significant sway to Spain in the diplomatic to-ing and fro-ing even after a Brexit deal is concluded.
As the FT has reported, Spain has already hinted it will block any agreement on airline landing rights after Brexit, with one diplomat telling the paper that an aviation deal “cannot apply to the airport of Gibraltar“.
Gibraltar automatically joined the EU when the UK became a member in 1973 and like Britain is not part of the bloc’s Schengen borderless travel area. But today’s guidelines suggest a separate tussle could emerge between the UK and Spain in parallel to the Brexit talks.
Still, Spain’s foreign minister has struck a more conciliatory tone on the fate of the rock, telling the FT in January:
My personal opinion is that we won’t put Gibraltar at the centre of negotiations. The situation is actually very clear and there is nothing for us to ask for.
The UK leaves the EU and Gibraltar leaves the EU. If Gibraltar wants to make a life outside the EU, they are perfectly free to do so.
The Gibraltarian element is one in a series of tough conditions set out in the guidelines, which have stressed that money will come before any trade talks and the European Court of Justice is likely to hold sway over any transitional arrangements.
Should the guidelines stay unchanged, none of the terms of a future UK deal with the EU will apply to Gibraltar without the additional consent of the Spanish government.