Miguel Ángel Alfonso
Friday, 5 May 2023, 15:48
The British PM Rishi Sunak has telephoned Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez to speed up negotiations on Gibraltar and define the Rock's status "as soon as possible".
Spain and the United Kingdom have been negotiating the agreement that will govern the EU’s relations with Gibraltar following Brexit since a pre-agreement was reached at the end of December 2020.
The telephone call between the two leaders on Thursday, 4 May was first reported by a Downing Street spokesperson, and later confirmed in Spain.
According to Moncloa sources, Sunak and Sánchez agreed on the importance of reaching an agreement that would be beneficial for "shared prosperity in the area", during the conversation.
After the Northern Ireland pact, the issue had already become the major pending issue between the European Union and the United Kingdom after Brexit, and talks have been delayed since 31 December 2020, on the eve of the deadline, when London and Madrid reached a framework agreement 'in principle'. Now both nations were seeking to bring the matter to a close.
Spain insisted "the ball is now in the UK's court" and that the EU has put its "latest proposal" on the table, with Spain's agreement. But the debate mainly revolved around one of the most controversial issues; the problem of border controls at the port and airport of Gibraltar.
This was the issue that kept the population on both sides of the border on the Rock on tenterhooks. Particularly the thousands of Spanish workers who cross the border every day - some 13,000 according to the government. The border issues followed the United Kingdom's exit from the European Union, which put an end to the benefits that the Schengen zone brought to both communities.
During the meeting held in December in Madrid between the Minister of Foreign Affairs, José Manuel Albares, and his British counterpart, James Cleverly, all that remained were signs of good faith, friendship and a commitment to reach an agreement "as soon as possible".
They also acknowledged "progress" such as the elimination of the fence on the Rock and the establishment of a new legal framework in the area. But Albares maintained total discretion over the new developments and referenced, when asked, a classic diplomatic quote: "Nothing is closed until everything is closed".
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