It seems like the Post-Brexit arrangements are marred with friction and conflicts as UK and EU once again face off about UK’s sovereignty in Gibraltar. According to the UK government, the EU has a chameleon character of changing the agreed-upon demands stated in the post-Brexit arrangements. From an outsider’s eye, the EU might be trying to take advantage of UK and push more benefits to its side. This has angered the UK government since it is being undermined, especially after negotiations for an outing from the EU. The recent clash between these parties is related to British territories, specifically Gibraltar.
Gibraltar is a British territory located on the southern side of Spain. Before Brexit, UK and Spain had agreed on 31 December 2020 to keep the Gibraltar land border open. The decision to maintain Gibraltar in the EU’s passport-free Schengen area was made to ensure that Spanish workers who travel daily to the Rock would not be troubled by a hard border. The Rock’s economy, more or less, also relies on these workers who own most businesses and carry out significant operations in Gibraltar [Source].
UK’s foreign minister Dominic Raab despised the EU’s actions of trying “to undermine the UK’s sovereignty over Gibraltar.” The foreign minister did not hide his disappointment with the proposed post-Brexit deal over British’s overseas territories brought forward by the EU. According to him, a draft mandate originated by the European Commission “directly conflicts” with the previous arrangements agreed on by UK, Gibraltar, and Spain in December 2020. The order still needs the EU leaders to sign off to begin on the way forward.
Spain and UK dispute the sovereignty of Gibraltar. During Brexit processes and negotiations, the territory was not included in the trade agreement settled by both UK and EU last year. Hence, a new deal had to draft to shed more light on how British territories were going to be handled, so UK’s objections arise from the contents of the EU mandate concerning Gibraltar’s border arrangements.
The 2020 political agreement by UK, Spain, and Gibraltar assigned EU’s border agency Frontex powers, but the European Commission’s mandate lifts those powers to the Spanish officials. Thus a balance between involved parties is shaken off.
Mr. Raab showed his displeasure in a released statement citing that “We have consistently shown pragmatism and flexibilty 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 Commission, however, argued on how the suggested directives “put forward solutions to remove physical checks and controls on persons and goods” whenever people go through the border between Spain and Gibraltar. It also further explains how “it is without prejudice to the issues of sovereignty and jurisdiction, and focuses on cooperation in the region” [Source].
Contents of the mandate reveal the need to establish rules concerning asylum, police cooperation, visas, information exchange, and residence permits. The Commission is performing a ‘re-do of all underlying principles in Gibraltar and its Spanish ties. Maros Sefcovic, the EU’s post-Brexit negotiator, defended the mandate’s good vision and noted that it had a “positive impact” on the people on both sides of the border with Spain. Contended how the suggestions will help in protecting the single market.
According to the negotiator, this draft mandate seeks to honour a political promise made to Spain which entails that the UK and EU will come up with a separate agreement to deal with the future handling of Gibraltar. Gibraltar’s foreign minister and chief minister Fabian Picardo endorsed a new Gibraltar treaty between the UK and EU.
But all these drafted suggestions, to the UK government, seem more of an oppressive move sought to undermine UK sovereignty in Gibraltar. It is a continuation of the EU’s actions of punishing the British.