Gibraltar chief jets to London for crisis talks as he hits out at Brexit deal chaos

Gibraltar: Morton discusses priorities in post-Brexit relations

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Fabian Picardo, Chief Minister of Gibraltar, flew to the UK for the first time in 13 months. The British Overseas Territory is at the centre of a row between the UK and EU after Brexit, as access to Gibraltar was not included in the trade agreement. Under an EU proposal, Spain would gain control over the country’s external border.

Mr Picardo announced his first visit to the UK since 2020 on Twitter.

Hon Dr Joseph Garcia CMG MP, Deputy Chief Minster, will be acting for Mr Picardo while he is away.

The Chief Minister said: “Before the pandemic I would be travelling to the UK several times a month and sometimes even more than once a week.

“Although things are not yet back to normal, a glimmer of return to normality is starting to appear.

“I am looking forward to attending the party conferences this year and making Gibraltar’s case with the rank and file of the Labour and Conservative parties as we have traditionally done.”

In his first UK event, Mr Picardo attended the Labour Party’s National Congress in Brighton.

Speaking at the party event, he said he hopes the UK and EU can achieve a post-Brexit agreement that will facilitate “fluidity” on the Spanish border.

He added: “I hope that (a new treaty) will allow us to enjoy the freedom of movement of people.

“Not in terms of the freedom of movement of the European Union, but of the fluid access of people to Gibraltar through the Schengen Area, which begins in Spain.”

Gibraltar’s Chief Minister added he is “very confident” an agreement will be reached which “shows the best of what Gibraltar’s membership of the EU meant” into a “new tailored arrangement”.

Gibraltar is not included in the Brexit agreements that entered into force on January 1.

The Government and the European Commission hope to start negotiating a treaty to regulate the British Overseas Territory soon.

The UK, however, has warned it is preparing to put a “non-negotiated” solution on the table in view of its disagreement with the initial terms for the negotiation made public by the Commission.

In July, former Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab accused the EU of seeking “to undermine the UK’s sovereignty over Gibraltar”.

A draft mandate from the European Commission gives greater responsibility to Spanish officials to manage Gibraltar’s border.

The UK, Gibraltar and Spain agreed in December the EU’s border agency Frontex would take a prominent role in managing comings and goings.

Mr Raab said at the time the draft “directly conflicts” with the December deal, and added: “We have consistently showed pragmatism and flexibility in the search for arrangements that work for all sides, and we are disappointed that this has not been reciprocated.

“We urge the EU to think again.”

The European Commission insisted the draft proposals “put forward solutions to remove physical checks and controls on persons and goods” at the border between Spain and Gibraltar.

It added: “It is without prejudice to the issues of sovereignty and jurisdiction, and focuses on cooperation in the region.”

Maroš Šefčovič, Vice-President of the European Commission, added: “By putting forward this draft mandate, we are honouring the political commitment we made to Spain to start the negotiations of a separate agreement between the EU and the UK on Gibraltar.

“This is a detailed mandate, which aims to have a positive impact for those living and working on either side of the border between Spain and Gibraltar, while protecting the integrity of the Schengen Area and the single market.”

Additional reporting from Maria Ortega

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