Gibraltar crisis: Brexit backlash over battle to keep border open – ‘Clock STILL ticking!’
Meanwhile, Andrew Rosindell, the vice-chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Gibraltar, has urged Prime Minister Boris Johnson not to forget about the British overseas territory after he confirmed the agreement of a UK/EU trade deal yesterday. Gibraltar, located on the southern tip of Spain, is not part of the UK, and so is not covered by the agreement announced yesterday.
Therefore a separate deal will need to be thrashed out to prevent any possibility of the border, which was reopened in 1982 as a precondition for Spain joining the bloc in 1986, being closed once again.
In a statement issued last night, Mr Picardo said: “I congratulate the Prime Minister, Rt Hon Boris Johnson MP, on this historic achievement.
“This is the largest trade deal in history and is a huge relief given the potential difficulties that a no-deal Brexit might have created for the United Kingdom and the European Union.
“A strong United Kingdom is better able to support Gibraltar.”
However, he warned: “This deal does not cover Gibraltar.”
Borrowing EU negotiator Michel Barnier’s catchphrase, he added: “For us, and for the people of the Campo de Gibraltar around us, the clock is still ticking.
“We continue to work, hand in glove with the United Kingdom, to finalise negotiations with Spain of agreement for a proposed treaty between the EU and the UK in relation to Gibraltar.
“I am optimistic that we will be able to finalise that agreement.”
Mr Picardo’s concerns were echoed by Mr Rosindell, Tory MP for Romford in Essex.
He told Express.co.uk: “While all the focus is rightly on the details of the agreement the Prime Minister announced today between the UK and the European Union, we must not forget that a deal between Gibraltar and Spain is yet to be concluded.
“Gibraltar is a proud British Overseas Territory and must not be forgotten.”
In practice, it is unlikely Spain would opt to close the border, given the 15,000 Spaniards who cross it daily to work on The Rock.
However, failure to strike a deal could still mean goods cannot be transported into Gibraltar by land.
Speaking to Express.co.uk last year, Mr Picardo’s deputy Dr Joseph Garcia said Gibraltar, which has been in British hands since the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713, was at the “sharp end” of Brexit.
He added: “Brexit is very real. If somebody lives in the middle of England surrounded by England only then I suppose it means something very different.
“If you live here we have a border next door where there are 15,000 people coming across each day to come and work here, there are people who live in Gibraltar or who live in Spain who cross in and out for services, hotels, shopping, restaurants and also we have 30,000 tourists coming in and out so Brexit is very real and visible to us in a way you could say it is not to somebody living in the middle of England.
“There are three borders which the UK is ultimately responsible for, one is the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, another is the border between the southern bases in Cyprus and the Republic of Cyprus and the other is the Gibraltar/Spain border.
“All of them are very different, all of them have different challenges and all of them want solutions once we leave the European Union.”
He said: “The issue is that there is no border inspection post at the land border between Gibraltar and Spain, but Spain has said that they are not going to provide one either, and the nearest one is across the bay in Algeciras.
“So what it has meant for us in terms of Brexit contingency planning is that for those goods that come from the United Kingdom, about 40 trucks a week, mainly Morrisons supermarket but also Marks and Spencers and others, foods, perishables only I stress.
“Those goods would need to enter France at the border inspection post, transit France and then Spain, arrive at the port of Algeciras, go through the border inspection post requirements, board a ferry and cross the sea to Gibraltar, unload the materials before the cruise liners come in, go off unload, then board the empty trucks and then off they go back to Algeciras.
“So part of the detail of our Brexit contingency planning is the provision of that ferry.”
Express.co.uk has contacted HM Government of Gibraltar to ask for details about the negotiations, as well as to ask what the specific implications were if no deal can be agreed by December 31.