The chief minister of Gibraltar, Fabian Picardo, appeared before the House of Commons EU Scrutiny Committee in London on Wednesday for a question and answer session which lasted almost an hour and a half. The chief minister was accompanied by the attorney general, Michael Llamas, and explained that normally they would have been joined by deputy chief minister Dr Joseph Garcia, but on this occasion he had remained in Gibraltar as acting chief minister during their 48-hour absence.
The committee wanted to know more about the ongoing negotiations regarding Gibraltar's future relationship with the EU and what the Gibraltar government hoped the results of the talks would be. They were also interested to know when a treaty between UK and the EU in this respect would be finalised, and they asked for further clarification of some of the proposals in the New Year's Eve agreement in principle of last year, which forms the framework for the negotiations, including plans for the EU agency Frontex to police the Schengen border.
The chief minister explained the problems which could occur at the border between Gibraltar and Spain now that Britain has left the European Union, and the temporary arrangements which are currently in force thanks to the agreement of the Spanish authorities to try to keep the border as free-flowing as possible while the negotiations with the EU take place. He also explained how the proposed Schengen border at Gibraltar airport and port would work, and that if agreement could be reached then Gibraltar would not be joining Schengen but would have a common travel area with Schengen.
He told the committee he believes it is possible toreach an agreement which is satisfactory to all parties by the end of the year, but that it would take longer to finalise the treaty. He declined, however, to disclose further details of the discussions, but stressed very strongly that Gibraltar's sovereignty, jurisdiction and control will never be compromised.