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Gibraltar, UK and Spain reach agreement on Brexit MoUs

Gibraltar, the UK and Spain have finalised work on the agreements that accompany the Gibraltar Protocol in the draft Brexit divorce deal.

The final details of four memorandums of understanding and a tax agreement were hammered out during intense meetings between the three governments in Madrid on Tuesday.

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

They met with senior officials from the Foreign Office and Spain’s Ministry for Foreign Affairs to iron out the last outstanding issues in the texts, which have yet to be published.

The agreements provide a framework for cooperation with Spain on issues including citizens’ rights, tobacco, the environment, police and customs matters, and taxation.

They stem from the Gibraltar Protocol, which is itself part of the wider Withdrawal Agreement between the UK and the EU and ensures Gibraltar is part of transitional arrangements to cushion departure from the bloc.

Work on the memorandums and the tax agreement continued despite Spain’s threat to vote against the draft Withdrawal Agreement over concerns that the deal will include Gibraltar within the scope of forthcoming talks between the UK and EU on a future relationship after Brexit.

EU leaders are due to ratify the draft divorce deal at a European Council meeting on Sunday but Spain said this week that it cannot support the agreement unless it is given a clear veto on Gibraltar’s inclusion within the negotiations on the future relationship.

The UK and Gibraltar have made clear that the Spanish concerns are a matter for Madrid and its EU partners to resolve and they will not revisit the divorce deal itself.

The Withdrawal Agreement is a legally-binding treaty that has been tough to negotiate and neither London or Brussels are willing to reopen it to address the Spanish objections.

The EU, however, is likely to reflect the Spanish position in a political declaration that will set the framework for the second phase of the Brexit negotiations but will not be legally binding.

The EU’s acceptance of the Withdrawal Agreement will be by a qualified majority vote.

That means Spain alone cannot block the deal, which in any event has yet to be debated and approved the UK Parliament, where Prime Minister Theresa May faces tough opposition to the text.

After Tuesday’s meetings in Madrid, the Gibraltar Government said the memorandums and the tax agreement were now complete “subject only to text stabilisation, legal checks and minor clarifications”.

These are expected to be finalised by the weekend.

The Chief Minister has convened an extraordinary meeting of the Cabinet on Thursday morning to brief ministers on latest developments.

The Deputy Chief Minister has also convened a meeting to brief the Brexit Select Committee of the Parliament.

On Thursday afternoon, the Chief Minister will make a statement to Parliament 3pm in order to update the House and the community on the latest developments.

The Chief Minister also expects to make a ministerial statement next week after the European Council in Brussels on Sunday and the anticipated publication of all the relevant texts.

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