Gibraltar could still be left out of Brexit transition period, says Barnier

EU negotiator Michel Barnier.
EU negotiator Michel Barnier. / SUR
  • Although the UK and Gibraltar consider that the Rock is covered by the latest agreement, Spain is wielding its 'lever' to gain concessions

There is some concern in Gibraltar over remarks made this week by Michel Barnier, the EU's Brexit negotiator, when he is reported to have said during an interview with a Spanish online newspaper that Gibraltar could be left out of transition arrangements for Britain's withdrawal from the European Union if the UK and Spain are unable to reach agreement over matters such as joint control of Gibraltar airport, taxation, contraband and the environment.

As far as the UK and Gibraltar governments are concerned, Gibraltar was included in the provisional withdrawal deal, but Barnier's remarks highlighted the possibility of Spain using the “lever” it insisted upon and having the power to make Gibraltar leave the EU in March next year without the cushioning of an interim transition period.

The British government has insisted that it would never enter into any agreement with the EU which was against the interests and wishes of Gibraltar, but the infamous Clause 24 in the EU's negotiating guidelines came as a shock. The clause says that after Brexit no agreement between Britain and the EU which includes Gibraltar could take place without the express approval of Spain.

In the interview this week, Barnier said this clause, insisted upon by Spain, had received unanimous support within the EU27.

The Gibraltar government believes Clause 24 could well be illegal and has indicated that it would be prepared to take legal action if the EU tries to implement it in a way which is detrimental to Gibraltar. Gibraltar voted strongly in support of Remain in the EU referendum, but is even more determined to remain British and therefore has to leave the EU alongside the UK.