The European Union is trying to put Spain in charge of the British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar’s borders in a Brexit side deal, which would include powers over issuing visas to British nationals.
The Boris Johnson administration allowed the EU to cut Gibraltar, a city on the tip of the Iberian peninsula which has been under British control since 1704 and voted against a return to Spanish sovereignty or shared sovereignty by margins of 99.64 per cent and 98.97 per cent in 1967 and 2002, respectively.
Gibraltar has therefore been in limbo since the United Kingdom broke with the European Union governance at the beginning of 2021, with Prime Minister Johnson having accepted that the British territory, which like the depressed Spanish region which surrounds it depends to a great extent on an open border for its economy, would be granted a good faith side deal down the line.
A new draft mandate from the European Commission setting out its negotiation goals for that side deal suggests this is not happening, however, with eurocrats apparently having decided to make it their mission to push Spanish attempts to gain a substantial level of control over Gibraltar by putting the Spanish authorities in charge of its borders.
“External border control and surveillance would take place at Gibraltar port, airport and waters carried out by Spain applying the relevant EU rules,” reads the Commission document, as quoted by El Pais.
“Spanish border guards would have all necessary powers to perform border controls and surveillance,” it adds.
This power would even extend to giving Spain the power to issue visas — or not — to British citizens who are not Gibraltar residents.
“UK nationals other than those resident in Gibraltar at the time of signature of the agreement would be treated as third country nationals for the purposes of entry and stay in Gibraltar,” the draft mandate explains.
The EUCommission's draft mandate is a matter for them, but the mandate published today strays unhelpfully from the New Year's Eve Framework Agreement & cannot form the basis for the negotiation of an agreement of a UK treaty with the EU in relation to #Gibraltar. https://t.co/ufuvpRgUPv pic.twitter.com/bOdURWU78N
— Fabian Picardo (@FabianPicardo) July 20, 2021
The draft mandate appears to bear out Breitbart London reporting from as long ago as January 1st that the Spanish believed Boris Johnson’s last-minute trade deal with the EU — which also agreed to continue giving up swathes of Britain’s fisheries to the bloc for years to come and let it effectively annex Northern Ireland for trade purposes — would lead to the Spanish government having control over Gibraltar’s borders.
The British government — which denied those claims in January — is now complaining that the EU’s negotiation demands cannot form the basis of a side deal.
“The UK, with Gibraltar, and Spain [had] carefully agreed a pragmatic Framework Agreement, in full consultation with the EU Commission,” recalled Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary Dominic Raab in an official government statement on the EU document.
“The Commission’s proposed mandate, published today, directly conflicts with that Framework. It seeks to undermine the UK’s sovereignty over Gibraltar, and cannot form a basis for negotiations,” Raab complained.
“We have consistently showed pragmatism and flexibility in the search for arrangements that work for all sides, and we are disappointed that this has not been reciprocated. We urge the EU to think again.”
Curiously, however, the government’s statement was silent on the EU demands it found unacceptable, specifically.
With the main EU trade deal — including massive “divorce” payments to the EU as well as the aforementioned concessions over fisheries and Northern Ireland — having already been agreed, however, the Johnson administration may find itself with little leverage over Brussels.
Refusal to hand over “divorce” payments and so or agree a trade deal — the EU sells far more in goods to the UK than vice versa — may have been powerful bargaining chips in January, but Prime Minister Johnson has already given them away.
UK Brexit Negotiator: Northern Ireland Deal Hurting Consumers, Businesses, Peace Process https://t.co/Vp7bcmeh3o
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) July 22, 2021
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