The people of Gibraltar will wake up on Saturday morning and find the EU flag no longer flies on the Rock, having been replaced with the Commonwealth flag instead. That, however, should be the only difference they notice, says the Gibraltar government, because during the transition period nothing will change.
In the three and a half years since the EU referendum, in which the people of Gibraltar voted overwhelmingly to Remain, chief minister Fabian Picardo has made no secret that he and his government would have preferred Brexit not to be happening. If it had to happen, however, they said that approval of the Withdrawal Agreement and associated Gibraltar Protocol was essential to ensure an orderly withdrawal. Securing Gibraltar's inclusion in the transition period was also a critically important achievement for the Rock because it will soften the process and effect of the departure from the EU, as Picardo pointed out in his New Year Message.
For the authorities, of course, this is just the beginning of vital negotiations. Last month officials from Gibraltar, UK and Spain met in Madrid to discuss the implementation of the Memoranda of Understanding which were agreed between Gibraltar and Spain, with UK collaboration, under the Withdrawal Agreement and, in particular, to prepare for the first meetings of the Committees established under the MoUs. These meetings will take place in late February in Algeciras.
These MoUs cover matters such as citizens' rights, police and customs cooperation, tobacco and the environment. They will apply from now until the end of the transition period. During this time EU law will continue to apply to Gibraltar in the same way as it has done until now, including in relation to free movement and border fluidity EU regimes.
This week, the UK-Gibraltar Joint Ministerial Council also met in London for the eleventh and last time, to discuss the exit from the European Union as well the negotiations on the future relationship. There was also an update on contingency planning issues.