It’s a BRITISH Rock! Gibraltar row erupts as Boris Johnson issues blunt warning to EU

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Brussels said on Tuesday it is ready to start negotiations with Britain on post-Brexit arrangements regarding Gibraltar, a British territory jutting out from southern Spain. The European Council, representing the EU’s 27 member states, said in a statement that the bloc’s negotiating position had been adopted and the European Commission can now start the talks.

A Commission spokesperson added: “The aim of the negotiations is to establish a broad and balanced agreement between the EU and the UK in respect of Gibraltar in view of the particular geographical situation and specificities of Gibraltar.”

But ahead of the crunch negotiations, the Prime Minister stressed Gibraltarians have “democratically chosen to be British”.

Speaking at an event at the Tory Party conference, Mr Johnson made clear that he believed “in the free and independent spirit of the Rock and in the right of Gibraltarians to choose their destiny”.

Gibraltar was not included in the Trade and Cooperation Agreement the EU and Britain struck late last year that sets out the basis of their relationship and mechanisms for resolving disputes.

 

Gibraltar’s inhabitants voted overwhelmingly against Brexit but they now face big problems as their tiny territory, dependent on Spain economically and for labour, copes with its effects.

Spain, which has long sought to regain control of the territory it lost to Britain in 1713, has a working agreement with London under which it manages the border with Gibraltar, allowing it to continue to be part of the Schengen passport-free zone.

But that arrangement – and the details on how it works – has to be put into a formal treaty, requiring the negotiations between Brussels and London.

Officials in Gibraltar and the UK government are sceptical over the EU’s negotiating mandate, which the Commission presented in July.

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They are especially guarded on the degree of control Spain would have over the border, and the extent of EU law applied to the flow of goods over it.

Fabian Picardo, Gibraltar’s Chief Minister, said: “Without a doubt, the key issue in this negotiation will be the inviolable preservation of our sovereignty, jurisdiction and control in all aspects.

“We will work closely with the United Kingdom on all matters related to this negotiation and we hope that the enormous preparatory work that we have done together over the last ten months will bear fruit.”

Mr Picardo admitted the negotiations would not “be easy” and will “be difficult and complicated.”

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Brexit: UK and Spain agree on draft deal for Gibraltar

However, he made clear: “But the Government is nevertheless confident that, with goodwill and cooperation on the part of all, a treaty can be concluded that protects Gibraltar’s interests, through our relationship with the EU, for years and decades.

“I am optimistic and will continue to work towards a safe and beneficial treaty for Gibraltar, for our people and for the people in the area around us.”

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