Friday, 21 July 2023, 16:06
Gibraltar is quietly holding its breath ahead of the outcome of Spain's general election this weekend, waiting to see if the conservative Partido Popular (PP) will win, as opinion polls are predicting. Perhaps more importantly for the Rock is whether the PP will need to do a coalition-style deal with hard-right Vox in order to govern. Vox takes a much harder line on Spain's claim to Gibraltar.
What happens next could have an impact on the still-unfinished negotiations between the EU, Spain and the UK over keeping the border with Gibraltar free-flowing. The thorny issue had been left to sort out once Brexit was finished. After 13 rounds of talks, an agreement is said to be close.
The PP has historically taken a more black and white stance on Spain's claims to Gibraltar than the Socialist-led government which has been negotiating until now.
However, the Partido Popular has recently seemed more flexible. The regional president of Andalucía, the PP's Juanma Moreno, has called for an area of shared prosperity between Gibraltar and the Spanish towns on the border including La Línea and San Roque. Thousands of Spaniards cross to work in Gibraltar every day.
But Vox is far tougher on Gibraltar, and the PP could need their support after Sunday's general election. Vox's manifesto says the party will reject any deal over Gibraltar that does not respect the sovereignty Spain claims over it.
The deputy chief minister of Gibraltar, Dr Joseph Garcia, said this week, "The UK and Gibraltar governments remain fully committed to concluding an agreement on the future relationship of Gibraltar with the European Union. This will help secure future prosperity for both Gibraltar and the surrounding region. However, in the event that this is not possible, it is important at the same time to prepare for the alternative as much as we can."
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