Gibraltar minister appeals to EU and UK to find solution to border issue with Spain
Joseph Garcia said the aim of the talks between the EU and UK, set to start next month, should be to find “frictionless border processes.”
Gibraltar’s Deputy Chief Minister said that as a small territory of 32,000 people, Gibraltar is often overlooked, but pointed out, "it is Brexit’s other land border.”
Addressing a briefing at the European Policy Centre in Brussels on Monday, he said, “Technically there are three Brexit land borders with the EU which the UK is ultimately responsible for.”
These are the borders between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, the border between the Republic of Cyprus and the UK sovereign bases on the Island, and the border between Gibraltar and Spain.
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Speaking on the issue of “Brexit’s other land border,” Garcia, also Minister for Europe in Gibraltar, said, “After 47 years of EU membership, and despite our emphatic support for the preservation of our relationship with the EU we have accompanied the UK as it left political Europe.”
“I would suggest that in the discussions to come Gibraltar should not be the victim of Brexit. The people of Gibraltar do not deserve that. A pragmatic, well-balanced, and a sensible solution to the border issue is as much in the interest of the neighbouring Spanish region as it is in the interest of Gibraltar.”
When considering solutions to the border issue, he said, “First of all, I think it is important to state that a solution for the border between Spain and Gibraltar would have zero impact on the UK itself. There are already customs and immigration controls between Gibraltar and the UK."
"A pragmatic, well-balanced, and a sensible solution to the border issue is as much in the interest of the neighbouring Spanish region as it is in the interest of Gibraltar" Joseph Garcia
"This means that the land border between Gibraltar and Spain would not become a soft underbelly for those wanting to illegally enter the Schengen Area from the UK or vice versa.”
Garcia, first elected in 1999, noted that the UK Government has “always supported arrangements at the border with Spain which promote fluidity and shared prosperity in the region.”
With talks about to start between the UK and EU on a future relationship, Garcia added, “If the political will is there on the EU side, legal solutions will follow. It is politics that drives the law and not the other way around.”
Garcia told the audience, “One possibility is that of a common travel area between Gibraltar and the EU. Indeed, for those listening carefully five years ago, I mentioned this as a possibility. Being outside the EU is not a bar to fluid travel across EU borders.”
"If frictionless border processes are what we all want, there is no need to reinvent the wheel – the solution already exists and there are other potential solutions too in EU law already” Joseph Garcia
He cited Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Iceland as examples of non-EU Schengen states, while Monaco, San Marino and Andorra also benefit from facilitated border arrangements with the EU.
“If frictionless border processes are what we all want, there is no need to reinvent the wheel – the solution already exists and there are other potential solutions too in EU law already.”
He went on, “We need to genuinely seize this moment to obliterate the politics of the past. But the mind-set must move from the negative to the positive and away from talk of vetoes and of exclusions. This is because citizens want to hear solutions and not threats and because 1 January 2021 is just round the corner."
"This is important for the person who relies on the border to feed their family; for the company whose business in Spain is sustained by customers from Gibraltar; for the many entities that now earn millions of euros exporting to Gibraltar; for residents on both sides of the border; for those with friends and family on the other side and for those genuinely concerned about their future.”
“It is only with a future agreement that is good for Gibraltar that those concerns will be allayed.”
He concluded, “What is good for Gibraltar is good for the surrounding region. We are at a historic moment, and whilst the challenges are great so too are the opportunities.”
“Let me repeat: Border fluidity for all equals shared prosperity for all.”