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Gib treaty talks to extend into 2022

Pic: Johnny Bugeja

Talks for a UK-EU treaty on Gibraltar’s future relations with the bloc will continue in the New Year, with a target set to reach agreement by Easter, the Gibraltar Government said on Wednesday.

No.6 Convent Place made the announcement at the end of the fourth round of negotiations in London on Tuesday and Wednesday.

“There has been progress in the first four rounds and it is clear that all parties are determined to move forward in a positive and constructive manner to find solutions to the complex political and technical issues under discussion,” No.6 said in a statement.

“Although the political framework was concluded on 31 December 2020, the actual negotiating process did not commence until October 2021, once the EU had completed its own internal procedures.”

“The objective at this time is to conclude an agreement before Easter.”

There was no mention of what will happen in respect of interim arrangements to ensure border fluidity while the talks continue, but on previous occasions the measures have been extended by reciprocal agreement.

That suggests the same is likely to occur on this occasion, although this has yet to be confirmed.

The negotiations are centred on securing the fluid movement of persons and goods between Gibraltar and the EU.

No.6 said a number of other areas were discussed which it said would serve to underpin this and which would also serve to facilitate the creation of an area of greater shared prosperity.

The Chief Minister and the Deputy Chief Minister were in London to attend meetings parallel to the negotiations, while the Attorney General, supported by the Director of Gibraltar House in Brussels, participated throughout the talks alongside the UK team.

The news came as UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss travelled to Madrid to meet her Spanish counterpart, Jose Manuel Albares, for talks on a range of issue relating to their bilateral relationship.

As this edition went to press, neither minister had made public statements following the meeting.

Mr Albares has long expressed the hope that a deal could be reached by the end of the year but the decision to extend the talks into 2022 has scuttled that aspiration.

Mr Albares himself appeared to signal this earlier in the week.

“There’s no deadline by which to reach an agreement,” Mr Albares told reporters, though he said the negotiation could not go on indefinitely.

The meeting in Madrid comes just two weeks after the two ministers met during the NATO Foreign Ministers Summit in Riga at which they both underlined their commitment to a treaty based on the New Years’ Eve political framework agreement to swiftly concluding negotiations.

In a statement, the UK Government said the two ministers were expected to discuss shared priorities, such as “combatting malign actors” and getting more girls into education.

The ministers will also discuss their collaboration through NATO, ahead of Spain hosting the NATO Leaders' Summit in 2022.

During the visit, which comes within her first 100 days in office, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss will also seek to boost the UK's economic ties with Spain by hosting an event with leading Spanish investors and British businesses in Spain.

"I want to work with allies like Spain to create a network of liberty based around closer economic, tech and security ties,” Ms Truss said.

"We're significant trading partners, with the UK as Spain's biggest European investor, and the UK as the top destination for Spanish investment. By boosting our trading ties even further, both Spain and every region and nation of the UK will benefit.”

As part of her visit over two days, the Foreign Secretary will also launch a new report on scientific collaboration between the UK and Spain.

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