Gibraltar remains one of the most sensitive issues for Spain in the event of a no-deal Brexit. Spain’s acting foreign minister, Josep Borrell, on Thursday acknowledged that there is concern regarding management of the border separating Spain from the British Overseas Territory, located in the south of the Iberian peninsula, should the United Kingdom crash out of the European Union on October 31.
Acting Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez on Thursday presided an extraordinary meeting of ministers to review the contingency plans that were approved in March to soften the blow of Britain’s potential no-deal exit from the EU.
We have the utmost interest in preventing Brexit from complicating citizens’ lives, but the legal status is going to change, whether we like it or not
Acting Foreign Minister Josep Borrell
The gathering was held at La Moncloa, the seat of government, and focused on the rights of the approximately 300,000 UK nationals who live in Spain and the 180,000 Spaniards residing in Britain.
From the meeting it also emerged that from now on, regional governments will get involved in Brexit contingency plans. In Spain, powers over matters such as healthcare and education are devolved to the regions, and regional officials have been called to an upcoming meeting of the Conference for EU-Related Matters. No date has been set for this meeting.
Foreign Minister Borrell, who did not attend the Thursday gathering due to agenda problems, nevertheless made statements suggesting that the existing contingency plans could soon be modified.
One of the issues under scrutiny is the fence separating Gibraltar from Spanish territory
One of the issues under scrutiny is the fence separating Gibraltar from Spanish territory. At a news conference, Borrell said that any reviews to existing plans will focus particularly “on our border with Gibraltar.”
With Britain out of the EU, this fence will become one of the EU’s external borders. Around 28,000 people currently cross it every day for work purposes without any significant delays.
“We have the utmost interest in preventing Brexit from complicating citizens’ lives, but the legal status is going to change, whether we like it or not. And that border will be managed under different rules,” said Borrell.
Beyond this point, the acting foreign minister said that Spain’s contingency plans for a no-deal Brexit “remain valid.” A working group will meet on a weekly basis to review these measures.
The March plans included the possibility of facilitating the transportation of goods between Spain and Gibraltar in vehicles owned by Gibraltar-based companies. These conditions are reliant on “reciprocal treatment” for Spanish-based businesses going into the British Overseas Territory.
English version by Susana Urra.