EU and UK close to a deal on Gibraltar with Frontex as the final stumbling block

It has taken almost two years of dialogue in which 10 negotiating rounds have already been held, in one of the most hermetic and not very transparent processes who are remembered in Brussels. But in the end the light begins to glimpse at the end of the tunnel. The European Union and the United Kingdom of Rishi Sunak they approach an agreement to define the new status of Gibraltar after Brexit.

There are still many fringes pending to close that could shipwreck talks in stoppage time. The most important is to define where exactly will the new border controls be at the port and airport of El Peñón and what will be the distribution of roles between the Spanish security forces and the European border guards of Frontex.

But all parties to the negotiation agree that the agreement on Gibraltar is within reach, unlike what happens with the Northern Ireland protocol. The Secretary of State for the EU, Pascual Navarrorevealed this Friday that there is already a complete draft of the Treaty. A revelation that has created discomfort among the rest of the negotiators, although no one has denied it.

[España confía cerrar ya el acuerdo que regulará la relación de la UE con Gibraltar tras el Brexit]

The negotiators have set end of the year as the deadline to close an agreement or definitively break the dialogue. The next round of negotiations (number 11) is scheduled for the end of November or the beginning of December. The foreign minister, Jose Manuel Albareshas called on the vice-president of the Commission responsible for Brexit, Maros Sefcovic, to “intensify” the dialogue.

For their part, the Gibraltar authorities published on November 1 a notice of the consequences of a non-agreement. A failure that would translate into systematic and in-depth controls at the Gate that would cause “long delays at the border, which will extend to several hours”. “Delays will be worse during peak crossing times,” the notice added.

The Foreign Minister, José Manuel Albares, during his meeting with the vice-president of the Commission responsible for Brexit, Maros Sefcovic, on November 10

European Comission

Precisely, the main objective of the agreement that the EU and the United Kingdom are negotiating is tear down the Gibraltar fence after Brexit is completed. Is about facilitate the transit of the more than 10,000 workers who cross the border every day and create an “area of ​​shared prosperity.” Controls will be transferred to the port and airport of El Peñón.

For the sake of the pact, Madrid and London have decided to park their dispute over the sovereignty of the Rock. “The UK stands firm in its support for Gibraltar and will not accept anything that compromises sovereignty“underline British sources.

Apart from the Treaty between the EU and the United Kingdom on the status of Gibraltar, Spain and the United Kingdom negotiate a parallel bilateral agreement on the airport, the military base and the implementation of a possible pact on the mobility of people, of which all the details are also unknown. Transparency is the great absence in these negotiations. Albares assures that he has presented a “global Spanish proposal” but points out that “To dance a bit, two are needed”.

The negotiators are “far enough apart that we haven’t been able to declare a deal yet, and yet close enough that we all believe we’ll be able to declare a deal“said the Chief Minister of Gibraltar, Fabian Picardoafter the last round of negotiations.

The Chief Minister of Gibraltar, Fabian Picardo, in the Eurochamber

Philippe Buissin/PE

However, after listening to the statements by the Spanish Secretary of State this Friday, Picardo has cooled the prospects of an imminent pact. “Negotiations between the EU and the UK are progressing very well. Gibraltar and the UK are working together smoothly and intensively. I am very optimistic that we can conclude a deal that is safe and reliable, but unfortunately we are not yet at the stage of closing the last fringes“, he wrote on Twitter.

According to the version that Pascual Navarro explained to questions from this newspaper, “The entire text of the agreement between the EU and the United Kingdom has already been presented by the Commission in the last round of negotiations” and “no point is blocked”.

“It is a long and complex text because it affects all aspects of relations with Gibraltar and therefore technically has a lot to discuss yet, but there is no deadlock. Simply, now the negotiation of the commas starts and that will take a little time. But the proposal has already been sufficiently explained and we are confident that the negotiation will move forward quickly,” says the Secretary of State for the EU.

Navarro points out that to apply this agreement between the EU and the United Kingdom “there have to be some practical administrative arrangements, in particular on the involvement of Frontex and we are defining them”. “We hope to have it decided before the end of the year”, he pointed out.

The Secretary of State for the EU, Pascual Navarro, during a meeting with his counterparts this Friday in Brussels


The initial proposal from Brussels established that it was Spain is responsible for border control and surveillance at the port and airport of Gibraltar. The previous government of Boris Johnson denounced that this would amount to undermine British sovereignty over the Rock.

After the protests from the United Kingdom, the EU governments corrected the negotiating mandate and specified that it will be the European Border and Coast Agency (Frontex) that will carry out the controls during the first 4 years, as agreed by Madrid and London in the 2020 New Year’s Eve agreement. But the exact location of the controls is still the subject of dispute.

“The Commission supports bilateral talks which are complementary to our EU-UK negotiations on Gibraltar. At the same time, we are prepared to accelerate the pace of negotiations with a view to find solutions to major problems by the end of this year“, says a spokesman for the Community Executive.

Nor does Brussels give any information about what is being negotiated with the United Kingdom. Other sources explain that the dialogue is not only focused on the movement of people and goods and issues such as frontier workers, social security or customs procedures.

The Community Executive and London are also negotiating on transport, financial issues, fair competition conditions, asylum, the fight against money laundering and the financing of terrorism or the governance of the Treaty itself.

We have reduced outstanding issues to a relatively small number. And we will continue negotiating on them with the desire to obtain an agreed result. Because I think it would be the best thing for the United Kingdom, the Gibraltarians and also for Spain,” the British Foreign Secretary said this week. James Cleverley. The final result will probably be known before the end of the year.