Albares speaking last Friday. / EFE

Spain proposes axing border in ongoing talks over Gibraltar

The first minister of the Rock said the UK is also hoping for a strong agreement but back-up plans are being made for a no-deal outcome

M.A. ALFONSO / SUR MADRID / GIBRALTAR.

Spain's foreign minister, José Manuel Albares, said last Friday that Madrid and the EU have been bold in proposing the removal of border checks between Gibraltar and Spain and that it was now up to the UK to consider the offer, which comes complete with safeguards to protect the single market.

The minister was meeting with local Spanish mayors from the Campo de Gibraltar, the hinterland of the Rock that will be the most affected if no deal is reached over the future trading relationship between Spain and Gibraltar. Both sides are anxious to avoid trade restrictions and barriers to free movement going up now that Britain has left the EU.

Albares reassured the Spanish communities on the other side of the fence from Gibraltar that Spain was doing all it can towards a deal. He said that the plan includes, "very reasonable ways and means, which are needed to build an area of shared prosperity and which respect our respective legal positions". He added that it was now up to the UK to consider the plan.

Gibraltar first minister, Fabian Picardo, commented on Albares's statement the same day saying that the UK and Gibraltar also have proposals on the table designed to deliver. He explained, "Our proposals provide for the removal of trade barriers and the protection of the integrity of the Single Market in a manner that would not compromise our fiscal or wider sovereignty concerns."

However he added, "This has not been easy and what is left is not easy either. But we remain committed to a positive outcome."

Rehearsals for no deal

While both sides sounded optimistic in their separate statements last week that an agreement could be reached, neither gave an indication of when a deal would be done.

On Wednesday this week, representatives of Gibraltar's ministries and other authorities held the latest in a series of meetings to plan for the fallout of any no deal with Spain which would force a hard border.

Deputy First Minster José Garcia explained, "The government remains firmly committed to signing a treaty but has a duty to prepare for no treaty at the same time."