Dominic Raab has attacked the European Commission’s proposals on how the UK and Spain should negotiate the future of Gibraltar.
The foreign secretary said the commission’s draft mandate “directly conflicts” with the framework previously agreed between the EU, UK, Spain and Gibraltar earlier this year.
And he claimed it “seeks to undermine the UK’s sovereignty” over the British overseas territory, which is geographically connected to the Spanish mainland.
Earlier on Tuesday, the EU Commission’s draft proposal to launch post-Brexit
negotiations with the UK over Gibraltar – a British oversees territory attached to Spanish mainland – was published through the Spanish press.
The plans include removing checks on people and goods at the land border between Spain and Gibraltar as well as rules for establishing responsibility for asylum, visas, residence permits and police cooperation.
But in a statement released on Tuesday evening, Mr Raab has accused the EU of backtracking on their previous position amid concerns that Spain is trying to extend its influence over the territory.
The UK Government has concerns that the EU want Spanish officials to carry out these border checks, when they would rather that agents from the EU border agency were managing the process.
“The UK, with Gibraltar, and Spain carefully agreed a pragmatic framework agreement, in full consultation with the EU Commission,” the foreign secretary said.
“The Commission’s proposed mandate, published today, directly conflicts with that framework. It seeks to undermine the UK’s sovereignty over Gibraltar, and cannot form a basis for negotiations.
“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.”
Gibraltar was not included in the scope of the EU-UK Brexit trade deal agreed at the end of 2020 and therefore a separate deal must be agreed to.
The issue of the territory is very politically sensitive.
EU Commission Vice-President Maros Sefcovic said the EU’s draft mandate seeks a “positive impact” for those living and working on either side of the border with Spain while protecting the single market.
“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,” he said.
“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.”
And the bloc said their proposals “put forward solutions to remove physical checks and controls on persons and goods” at the border between the two territories.
“It is without prejudice to the issues of sovereignty and jurisdiction, and focuses on cooperation in the region,” the Commission added.
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