Fabian Picardo. / ABC

Gibraltar government says it is pleased with EU talks

It is still early days, but the atmosphere so far has been constructive and positive

Debbie Bartlett

In a short statement issued on Tuesday evening, the Gibraltar government said it was pleased at progress in the first round of talks about Gibraltar’s future relationship with the EU.

“Although the parties have been presenting their respective and sometimes contrary views on how best to implement the New Year’s Eve Agreement, the relevant exchanges have been pursued in a mutually constructive and positive spirit. We look forward to this continuing engagement in coming weeks in future rounds of talks,” the statement said.

The negotiations began in Brussels on Monday, and are based around the agreement-in-principle drawn up by Gibraltar, UK and Spain last December. Although the future relationship would include many different aspects, the possibility of Gibraltar having tailor-made access to the Schengen Area, while remaining outside the EU, is one of the most important.

If this were to be granted, the existing land border would disappear and the external Schengen border would be at Gibraltar airport and port. This would involve a second passport check for people arriving on the Rock by air or sea, which the Gibraltar government has proposed should be manned by the EU’s Frontex force.

Normally, as Spain is responsible for the external border in this area, Spanish officers would carry out these controls, but Gibraltar insists that this would not be acceptable.

The chief minister of Gibraltar, Fabian Picardo, tweeted on Monday that he had been very pleased to “kick off” the negotiations. He did so virtually, as he was self-isolating after testing positive for Covid-19.

“Today is an important day as the process of negotiation is underway. I believe it will be possible to find a route to a treaty, although I am also realistic enough to know that we could still fail,” he said.

As it did with Brexit, Gibraltar has prepared contingency plans in case it is not possible to reach an agreement with the EU.

Picardo’s period of self-isolation came to an end yesterday, and he tweeted that he was “back in action”.