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Gib, UK and Spain to hold ‘exploratory’ talks on Rock’s post-Brexit future

Jon Nazca/REUTERS

Gibraltar’s post-Brexit relations with Spain will be the subject of preliminary talks between the governments of Gibraltar, the UK and Spain at a meeting in Málaga on Tuesday.

The meeting is “exploratory” in nature and will be the first time that officials from the three governments have formally met to discuss Gibraltar’s future outside the EU once the Brexit transition period ends on December 31.

“The discussion will centre on matters related to the post-Brexit relationship between Gibraltar and Spain including aspects such as mobility and citizens rights,” said No.6 Convent Place in a short statement confirming the talks.

The Gibraltar delegation will be led by the by the Chief Minister, Fabian Picardo, who will be accompanied by the Deputy Chief Minister, Dr Joseph Garcia, Attorney General Michael Llamas and Financial Secretary Albert Mena.

The UK delegation will include London’s ambassador to Madrid, Hugh Elliott, as well as officials from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

The Spanish delegation will be led by the Director General for EU Affairs at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, José Pascual Marco, the senior Spanish official who led the negotiations for Spain on the MoUs and the tax treaty.

“These talks start in a constructive, collaborative spirit,” the Spanish Ministry for Foreign Affairs said in a statement, which described the meeting as “bilateral” between Spain and the UK but acknowledged the “Gibraltar representation”.

“On Spain’s part, these negotiations begin with the maximum ambition to build a longterm relationship in line with 21st Century realities.”

On Monday morning at the weekly briefing at No.6 Convent Place, Dr Garcia confirmed the meeting but refused to be drawn on detail.

“There has been plenty going on behind the scenes in relation to Brexit,” Dr Garcia said.

“Now there is engagement that is going to happen this week between the Government of Gibraltar, the Government of Spain and the Government of the United Kingdom on how we see the future, in the sense of having scoping exploratory talks to see how we see that developing.”

“The backdrop is the wider talks between the UK and the EU.”

The Málaga talks are separate to the discussions that have already taken place relating to the four memorandums of understanding [MoUs] agreed as part of the Gibraltar protocol in the the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement.

The four memorandums cover issues including citizens’ rights, tobacco, law enforcement and the environment, and expire at the end of the transition period unless otherwise agreed.

Last February, the three governments met in Algeciras to establish four committees that will oversee implementation of the memorandums through to the end of the year.

The second meeting of the MoU committees is due to take place in Gibraltar, perhaps as early as next week.

Additionally, last month an oversight committee tasked with monitoring the progress of the application of the Brexit withdrawal agreement to Gibraltar also held its first meeting.

This committee, known as the Specialised Committee on Gibraltar, is made up of officials from the UK and the EU, which are the two signatories of the withdrawal treaty.

It is one of six so-called ‘specialised committees’ that were established by the withdrawal agreement. The others are on Northern Ireland, the Sovereign Bases in Cyprus, Citizens’ Rights, Financial Provisions and Other Separation Provisions.

During the meeting, officials from the UK, the EU - including Spanish officials - and Gibraltar assessed the progress of the implementation of the memorandums of understanding [MoUs] contained in the exit deal’s Gibraltar protocol.