- Talks have been held since Brexit about the status of the overseas territory.
- Now they have stalled over the issue of the airport, which is on an RAF base.
Spain has demanded jurisdiction over Gibraltar airport as part of a post-Brexit border deal, angering locals who say they face a “catastrophe”.
Talks have been ongoing over the status of the overseas territory – which has a land border with Spain – since Britain left the EU, but have stalled over the airport issue.
British diplomats have accused the Spanish government of making unacceptable demands that would threaten the sovereignty of the British overseas territory. Downing Street today dismisses Spain’s lawsuit.
“The Spanish have asked for a regulatory framework for the management of the airport that involves Spanish jurisdiction, which is not something Gibraltar can tolerate,” said Vice Admiral Sir David Steel, governor of Gibraltar. The times.
Steel also said there were tensions over the role of the Spanish police.
“We have come up with a formula that would mean that Frontex (the EU border agency) would manage the border on behalf of the EU, supervised by Spanish officials,” Mr Steel said, asking: “How is it ‘supervised’?
“We must ensure that it does not extend to sovereignty and that it does not exceed what we can accept in terms of jurisdiction and control.”
On the other hand, Spain has accused Britain of “objecting” over small details, saying the UK’s approach has been “stupid and foolish”.
As the dispute drags on, there are fears that talks between Madrid and London could collapse completely after next month’s Spanish general election.
Polls in Spain suggest the country is likely to see the return of a more conservative government that is against striking a deal with Britain.
In theory, Gibraltar – home to more than 32,000 people – is currently outside the EU customs union and not under free movement rules.
However, Madrid has granted a temporary exemption to workers and tourists to avoid disruption on the narrow peninsula leading off Spain’s southern coast, leaving the overseas territory in a state of limbo since Brexit.
Spain could terminate the temporary agreement at any time, so negotiations are aimed at agreeing common travel between Gibraltar and the EU Schengen zone, which would eliminate most border controls.
The airport is located on an RAF base and also on the border between Gibraltar and Spain. Those crossing the Spanish border must travel via Winston Churchill Avenue, a road that runs through the airport’s single runway.
Earlier this year, hopes were growing that a deal was close.
However, in addition to disputes over the police and the airport, negotiations have also been complicated by Spain’s early general elections scheduled for July 23.
Currently, Spain’s conservative Popular Party leads the left-wing governing coalition, although that lead has narrowed.
A survey conducted between June 16 and 23 by the newspaper El Mundo showed that the PP would obtain 140 seats in the 350-member lower house, compared to 141 the previous week.
Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez’s Spanish Socialist Workers Party (PSOE) would win 102 seats and Sumar, the far-left group replacing Podemos, would win 35 seats compared to 30 the previous week, pollster Sigma-Dos said.
The poll, commissioned by newspaper El Mundo, showed that the far-right Vox party, the PP’s most likely post-election ally, would win 35 seats, up from 36 the previous week, Sigma-Dos said. A likely coalition between Vox and the PP would be one seat short of an absolute majority of 176. Previous polls gave the two parties an absolute majority.
Spain’s return to a right-wing government could end any hope of a deal being reached, especially one that includes Vox.
The party had previously called for the land border between Spain and Gibraltar to be closed to ‘suffocate’ the territory and for Madrid to regain control over it.
A Spanish official has said the deal would be “almost dead” if Vox signs a power-sharing deal with the PP.
Speaking to The Times, Steel lamented that Britain and Spain currently have – for the first time since 1713 – the best opportunity to end the “anxiety” between the two countries over the often contentious issue of Gibraltar.
With 90 percent of the deal worked out, he expressed hope that officials could get past the final 10 percent, according to The Times.
Freedom of movement is essential for people living on the peninsula.
The territory depends on the 15,000 Spanish workers who cross the border every day, providing vital services such as healthcare.
Speaking to The Times, John Isola, director of the Gibraltar Chamber of Commerce, said it would be a “catastrophe” for Gibraltar if a deal is not reached.
On Tuesday, the British government dismissed Spain’s demand to take effective control of the airport.
Rishi Sunak’s official spokesman warned the UK would not allow anything that would “compromise sovereignty” amid disputes over post-Brexit deals.
“We remain a strong supporter of Gibraltar and we will not do anything that compromises sovereignty,” they said.