The European Scrutiny Committee has launched an inquiry into the progress of post-Brexit negotiations between the UK and the European Union (EU) over border and trade arrangements between Spain and Gibraltar – as fears mount after the escalation in Northern Ireland (NI).
The move comes following news that British nationals who have temporary resident status in Gibraltar are being refused entry into Spain without revealing the reason for their visit, details on their accommodation, and proof of funds.
With the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, the EU Treaties ceased to apply to Gibraltar. The UK/EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement does not cover Gibraltar and, since 1 January 2021, informal arrangements have prevented disruption in areas previously governed by EU law.
The Committee has warned 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 Minister for Europe James Cleverly.
The UK Government is negotiating a treaty with the EU in respect of Gibraltar as a result. The inquiry will look at the reasons for the delay in reaching an agreement and the impact this has had on Gibraltarian businesses, as well as discussing contingency plan should talks fail to provide a deal.
Gibraltar Chief Minister Fabian Picardo has commented that the latest issues concerning Northern Ireland should not affect negotiations regarding Gibraltar’s future relationship with the EU.
His response came amid speculation that the UK Government’s draft legislation to make unilateral changes to the Northern Ireland Protocol and the EU’s announcement that it will resume legal proceedings against the British Government would have a negative effect on Gibraltar’s talks.
In an interview with local television, Picardo stressed how important it is not to make assumptions and to bear in mind that the NI talks are separate to that of Gibraltar. The EU Commission and Governments of Spain, UK, Gibraltar and Ireland all agree that the Treaty for Gibraltar is not affected by other issues which arise, he said.
“Let’s not get carried away by the way that news editors might present things; these are tough and difficult negotiations and all parties use all the levers at their disposal to obtain the best possible result,” said Picardo.
Gibraltar is a British Oversea Territory but not a formal member of the Commonwealth. In 2004 it was granted Associate Membership of the Commonwealth Foundation.